J-School: Educating Independent Journalists

“If tools could make anyone who picked them up an expert, they’d be valuable indeed.” Plato, The Republic

James W. Carey Passes

Posted by chanders on May 23, 2006

Renowned journalism educator, media scholar, institution builder, and cultural historian and critic James W. Carey passed away last night at his family home in Rhode Island. According to the announcement of his death, posted to Romenesko by Columbia University J-School Dean Nicholas Lemann, Carey was with his family and not in any pain. I knew Prof. Carey personally: he was the founder of my PhD program in Communications at Columbia, and I was honored to call him a mentor and an intellectual inspiration. I am also happy to report that he was a truly wonderful and kind man. Brilliant and a wonderful person– those of us familiar with the world of academia know how rarely those two adjectives are conjoined.

Leonard Witt has a great post detailing Prof. Carey’s impact on the public journalism movement, and, by extension, his impact on many of the debates currently swirling with regard to blogging, democracy, and journalism professionalism. Many of the big guns of the blogging world have probably never heard of James W. Carey, but they speak his language, whether they know it or not. For myself, I have been continually surprised to find an old essay of Carey’s, usually from the late 70’s or so, which anticipates much of my own thinking, often without me knowing it.

Personally, James Carey taught me that it is OK to study journalism in an "academic" way; one only need to have witnessed the biting hostility often expressed by academics with regard to journalism ("you’re getting a PhD in journalism?? What does that mean??") and vice-versa to know what a valuable contribution that really is. Prof. Carey also reminds me that media is nothing without democracy: it might exist, but its existence is hollow. In these dark times, that’s a lesson worth keeping in mind.

2 Responses to “James W. Carey Passes”

  1. Rich said

    You say, “Leonard Witt has a great post detailing Prof. Carey’s impact on the public journalism movement.” But the link leads to something entirely besides the point and can’t be understood as “great.” Was that a puff for friend Witt?

  2. Chris said


    Fair enough. I don’t know Leonard, though I do subscribe to his blog feed. Perhaps “interesting” would have been a better adjectival choice than “great.” Could you say a little more about what you mean by “entirely beside the point,” though? Not sure I agree.

    Finally, since I wrote this post up there have been a number of truly *great* online posts about James Carey, including this one from Poynter:


    I meant to go back and update this post with a link collection, but never got to it. Perhaps its still worth doing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: