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James N. Crutchfield, a top editor who became one of the nation’s only African American publishers of a major metropolitan newspaper, will join the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication for the spring semester as the first Edith Kinney Gaylord Visiting Professor in Journalism Ethics.
Crutchfield, 58, served as publisher and president of the Akron Beacon Journal from April 2001 until July, when he stepped down following the sale of Knight Ridder newspapers.
Crutchfield, a four-time Pulitzer Prize juror, will spend the semester at Arizona State University teaching “Journalism Ethics and Diversity,” a new Cronkite School required undergraduate course, as well as working with students and faculty in individual and group settings.
The visiting professorship was created in honor of the late Edith Kinney Gaylord, a pioneering newswoman who served as a Washington correspondent more than 60 years ago when the capital’s press corps was dominated by men.
The professorship was made possible through a generous grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. Ms. Gaylord, the daughter of Daily Oklahoman Publisher E.K. Gaylord, founded the Oklahoma City-based philanthropy in 1982 to improve the quality and ethical standards of journalism.
“Edith Kinney Gaylord was a pioneering journalist with a life-long passion for covering the news,” said Robert J. Ross, president and chief executive officer of the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. “It is fitting that Mr. Crutchfield, a pioneer in his own right, has been selected to fill the first visiting professorship that bears Edith’s name. In keeping with Edith’s passion, we partnered with ASU to develop a platform to deliver critical training to future journalists in ethics and diversity, two core components to the future of media.”
Crutchfield, a graduate of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, started his career as a reporter for the Pittsburgh Press in 1968. He went on to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and in 1976 left for the Detroit Free Press.
Following a two-year stint in Washington as press secretary to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Crutchfield returned to the Free Press as the state capital bureau chief. He went on to serve as assistant city editor, deputy city editor, city editor, metropolitan editor and deputy managing editor for the Free Press.
In 1989, he left Detroit to become managing editor of the Beacon Journal. Four years later, he was named executive editor of the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, Calif. Following the sale of the Press-Telegram in 1997, he joined Philadelphia Newspapers, which publishes The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, as assistant to the publisher and then director of single-copy sales and distribution. He returned to Akron in 2000 as the Beacon Journal’s general manager and was appointed publisher the following year.
The Beacon Journal, one of the nation’s 100 largest daily newspapers, has long been recognized for its superior local and community coverage. The newspaper has won four Pulitzer Prizes, including the 1994 Pulitzer for Public Service for a sweeping examination of local racial attitudes. Crutchfield was the newspaper’s managing editor at the genesis of the race relations project.
Crutchfield is a founder of his local United Way’s Dorothy O. Jackson Society, a group of minority donors, and serves on the boards of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Duquesne University.
“The ethics of journalism are key to the future of journalism,” Crutchfield said. “Journalism’s ethics are what separate us from the clutter and the clatter, and it’s important that we distill our ethics from our traditions.”
"There may or may not be place for journalism’s traditions in the 21st century, but there always must be a place for our ethics. For our customers to want us, they have to believe that we are not only in the business of making money but also in the business of doing good,” he said. “I also believe - and I think I represent it - that diversity in journalism is a key to serving our increasingly diverse society.”
Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan said the school was honored to have Crutchfield on the faculty.
“Jim’s rich experiences throughout his journalism career - both as a top editor and a leading publisher - will benefit our students enormously,” Callahan said. “Through Jim’s teaching and mentorship, our students will gain a deeper understanding of the critical ethical issues facing journalism today in an increasingly complex and multicultural world.”
Crutchfield is one of two nationally recognized journalists who will spend the spring semester in residence at the Cronkite School. Former CNN news anchor Aaron Brown also will join the school for the semester as the Barrett Honors College’s John J. Rhodes Chair in Public Policy and American Institutions. Brown will teach a seminar on modern TV news history.
The Cronkite School is a nationally recognized program that focuses on professional journalism education at the undergraduate and master’s levels. The school regularly finishes in the Top 10 of the Hearst intercollegiate journalism competitions, and is the home of the Knight Chair in Computer-Assisted Reporting, the Frank Russell Chair in the Business of Journalism and the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism.