Merrill touched lives as journalism professor

Thursday, November 15, 2007 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:07 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

COLUMBIA — John Merrill is probably one of the best journalism professors ever to have taught, advised and mentored students at the J-School. Edward Lambert, Earl English (no better Dean since), Bill Taft and Ralph Lowenstein are others, besides Dr. Merrill, who made a quantitative and qualitative difference in my life at the school during BJ, MA and PhD programs. Walter Williams, who signed my own father’s diploma, began the tradition.

I believe I have been a more humanitarian (I hope) and more student-oriented journalist and teacher because of these great and good men.

But for the sheer pleasure of a no-holds barred intellectual defense of objectivity and the charge to all of us to be honor-bound reporters, nobody held a candle to John Merrill.

For crying out loud, John Merrill stumbled. He’s a raconteur, a storyteller, an observer of life around him. He gathers together thousands of bits of information, filters it through 60 years of experience and helps us understand and appreciate life through his writing. Sometimes, like songwriters, those whose words flow like rivers forget from where the melody originated. Too bad. Dr. Merrill was off his game.

John Merrill stumbled. And he’s 83 years old. Who cares? He’s provided guidance, love, friendship, loyalty, inspiration and direction to thousands upon thousands of now working journalists all over the world.

John Merrill stumbled. Bloody shame on Tom Warhover (a nice guy), executive editor of the Missourian, who had a chance to rise above the current journalism school’s lack of humanitarian and professional resolve and hold out a helping hand.

Thanks, John Merrill, for a dedicated life. There’s lots more for you to do, you know — for all of us. But, there are legions of us who are more than sufficiently blessed by what you’ve given to our own personal and professional lives.

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