Distinguished journalism scholar, Dr. John C. Merrill, lectured on “The 7 Myths of Journalism” Monday, March 23 at the Delta State University Alumni Foundation.
An expert on media issues, Dr. Merrill began his academic career at Delta State – and went on to international prominence as a journalism educator, philosopher, and author of 29 books. He is Professor Emeritus of Journalism at the University of Missouri, and has lectured extensively throughout the world.
Merrill assured the large crowd in attendance that, although print journalism is experiencing changes, “this is not the funeral for print journalism.” He acknowledged the impact of electronic media but noted, “I see a future for print journalism in more rural areas. That’s where I believe traditional print journalism will remain.”
An entertaining and thought-provoking lecturer, Dr. Merrill discussed his seven myths: journalism as a profession, journalism providing democratic stimulus, the people’s “right to know,” free press in the U.S., the people’s “right of access” to the media, journalism is unbiased and objective, and newspapers are newspapers.
Throughout the lecture, Merrill stressed the need for ethics in journalism. “Journalism needs to be a true profession, an occupation requiring education, specific ethics and skills,” he said. “We need a method to separate the valid from the invalid, perhaps a testing method similar to the bar exam for the law profession.” He also added, “We can disbar a lawyer, we could de-press a journalist.”
Merrill questioned whether journalism provides democratic stimulus. “What do we read that inspires us to become more active in government decisions? We need actual instruction on getting our voices heard in the halls of government.” he said.
Addressing the “people’s right to know,” Merrill stated, “I say people don’t have the right to know. They have the right to try to know. It’s our responsibility to go out and find the information we want.”
Merrill stated the myths were not negative, but thought provoking. “These myths make us think about the type of press we’ll have in the future,” he said.
Merrill earned his Ph.D. in Mass Communications from the University of Iowa, an M.A. in Journalism from LSU, and an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Missouri. His long list of national and international distinctions includes Outstanding Alumnus of Delta State (1971) and membership in the DSU Alumni Hall of Fame.
The Delta native maintains a keen interest in Delta State’s journalism program. Through a generous donation, he established the Merrill Lecture Series, designed to bring working journalists to speak on the Delta State campus. Each year, the top DSU journalism graduate is recognized with the John Merrill Award, named in his honor.