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Former St. Louis Editor Named Edith Gaylord Professor at Cronkite School

October 17, 2007

Ellen Soeteber

Ellen Soeteber, an award-winning journalist and former top editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, will join Arizona State University as the Edith Kinney Gaylord Visiting Professor in Journalism Ethics at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Soeteber will teach “Journalism Ethics and Diversity” – a new Cronkite School requirement – starting in January, and work with students and faculty individually and in small groups.

Soeteber, 57, who served as the Post-Dispatch editor for five years after holding a wide variety of editing positions at the Chicago Tribune and South Florida Sun-Sentinel, was the perfect candidate for the Gaylord Professorship, said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan.

“Ellen has been a superb editor at the highest levels for many years, and she has made important advances in the fields of both journalism ethics and newsroom diversity,” Callahan said. “Our students will benefit enormously from her journalism expertise and her passion for the news.”

At the Post-Dispatch, Soeteber installed the newspaper’s first newsroom ethics policy, new strict corrections policies that require public acknowledgement and internal reviews of all errors, and a diversity campaign that resulted in a 30 percent increase in the representation of journalists of color in the newsroom.

The Edith Kinney Gaylord Visiting Professorship in Journalism Ethics, named in honor of the late pioneering newswoman, was created with a generous gift from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation of Oklahoma City. Edith Gaylord created the foundation in 1982 to improve the quality and ethical standards of journalism.

Robert J. Ross, president and chief executive officer of the foundation, applauded the appointment.

“Edith Kinney Gaylord was a pioneering journalist with a life-long passion for covering the news,” Ross said. “Ellen Soeteber is a modern-day journalism pioneer, helping to blaze a path for women in newsrooms in much the same way that Edith did in an earlier time.”

“The foundation board is pleased to continue Edith’s legacy by funding the visiting professorship in journalism ethics at the Cronkite School, a journalism program dedicated to high quality and ethical standards throughout its curriculum.”

The daughter of Daily Oklahoman Publisher E.K. Gaylord, Edith Gaylord launched her journalism career at her father’s newspaper in 1937 after graduating from college. In 1942, she joined The Associated Press in New York and the following year went to the AP’s Washington bureau, where she covered the Roosevelt administration and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II.

Like Gaylord, Soeteber helped break gender barriers in the newsroom. Soeteber is the only woman to hold the top editing position at the Post-Dispatch in its 129-year history and one of a small number of women ever to lead a Top 30 major metropolitan newspaper.

A native of East St. Louis, Ill., Soeteber graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 1972.

She started her career as what was then called a “copy boy” at the Chicago Daily News, and then as a copy editor and reporter at Chicago Today before moving to the Chicago Tribune in 1974. At the Tribune, she served as a reporter, copy editor, weekend city editor, night city editor, associate metro editor, TV/media editor, metro editor, associate managing editor and deputy editor of the editorial board.

Soeteber was named managing editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale in 1994, serving as the paper’s No. 2 editor before taking over as the top editor in St. Louis in January 2001.

Under her leadership, journalists at the Tribune, Sun-Sentinel and Post-Dispatch won the Pulitzer Prize, the Heywood Broun Award, Livingston Award, National Headliner Public Service Award, World Press and Pictures of the Year photo honors and the Education Writers Association’s Grand Prize. She was inducted into Medill’s Hall of Achievement in 2003.

She serves on the Medill Board of Advisers, the Alfred Friendly Press Fellowships Advisory Committee and the Knight-Wallace Fellowships Selection Committee at the University of Michigan. She is a former Knight-Wallace Fellow, a graduate of Northwestern University’s Advanced Executive Program and a four-time Pulitzer juror.

“There is no journalism school in the U.S. doing more interesting and progressive work than the Cronkite School,” Soeteber said. “I am excited to be able to play a part.”

Soeteber is the second Gaylord Professor at the Cronkite School. The first, former Akron Beacon Journal Publisher James Crutchfield, was named to the full-time faculty earlier this year as the Weil Family Professor of Journalism and the director of Student Media at ASU.

Crutchfield is one of 12 new full-time professors to join the Cronkite School in the past two years. Others include former CNN anchor Aaron Brown, former Minneapolis Star Tribune Editor Tim McGuire and BET Vice President Retha Hill.

The Cronkite School, a nationally recognized professional journalism program with 1,500 students, is home to the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, the New Media Innovation Lab, the Knight Chair in Journalism and the Frank Russell Chair in the Business of Journalism.

Cronkite students this year took first place nationally in both the Hearst Awards and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence awards.

The school, located on ASU’s Tempe campus, will move into a new six-story journalism education complex in downtown Phoenix in August 2008.