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St. Louis Journalism Review History

SJR Finds A New Home

(Edited article by Charles Klotzer, published 7/2010)

            It has been, and still is, exciting, often frantic, but always deeply satisfying for Rose, my wife, and me living with the St. Louis Journalism Review over these many years. In a way, it kept us sane, not going off the deep end in the pursuit of unobtainable goals. We were just too busy.

            SJR has had its ups and downs. To give it a more solid base we moved SJR, then under the editorship of Ed Bishop, to Webster University in 1995. When this association was dissolved, the rumor mill wondered how long SJR would survive.

            Our readers and supporters refused to give in. For the first time in the history of SJR, a fundraising appeal was launched, to which hundreds of readers responded. They kept SJR alive.

            This issue [July/August 2010] introduces a new chapter in the 40-history of the St. Louis Journalism Review (SJR). Thanks to the labors of Gary Kolb, dean of the college of Mass Communications and Media Arts, William Freivogel, professor and director of the School of Journalism, and William Babcock, professor of media ethics, all of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, SJR has found a new home at the university, which promises to add significantly to the services that SJR provides.

            Babcock has assumed the editorship of SJR. Roy Malone will continue as editor covering the St. Louis region, which will remain at the core of SJR’s coverage.

            We could not have achieved this point assuring not only the survival, but also the expansion of SJR without the dedication for many years of the editor, cartoonists and designers, the labors of writers, columnists, the board of editorial advisors and the board of directors as well as the contributions of its readers.

            The idea for forming SJR was an outgrowth of the turmoil of the 1960s and what happened at the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention. When the Chicago media described the unrest as a student riot, Chicago journalists knew by their own observations that it was a police riot.

            They decided to publish the Chicago Journalism Review (CJR) to report on what they observed. In 1970, upon learning of CJR, a group of journalists from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch agreed that the St. Louis community deserved a similar watchdog.

            The concept of journalism reviews spread throughout the country. In the early ‘70s, close to 30 local reviews were founded, usually by journalists. These volunteer efforts gradually folded within a few years, so that today SJR is the only local journalism review being published.

            Both print and broadcast journalists have been instrumental in editing and writing for SJR from the very first issue. During its entire history, SJR has hosted once-a-month meetings of interested journalists, academics and others involved in the media to critique the past issue and plan for the next issue. For a few hours, these editorial advisors shed their professional identities and become SJR addicts. Aside from those listed in the masthead, SJR benefited from the advice of many others who prefer not to be listed.

            Over the years, SJR has been edited by a number of distinguished journalists and hundreds of writers have appeared on its pages. Since its founding, SJR has been honored with 28 major national and local awards.

            The direction of SJR was established in the first issue. For the first time the public (and editors) learned about the Joint Operating Agreement under which the Globe and Post had joined their business operations.

            Other ground-breaking stories revealed that a Post reporter spied for the police; years later a student reporter at the University of Missouri-Columbia committed the same ethical breach; a St. Louis African-American publisher planted stories supplied by the FBI; the lack of minority hiring by the St. Louis Media was a frequent topic; media icon George Seldes, 94 years of age, revealed that Gen. Pershing once sentenced him to death for interviewing Hindenberg; coverage of the demise of the Globe, when its circulation was greater than that of the weekday Post, caused a national stir in the media; Tobacco and its collaboration with the media since the 1940s; TV backpack journalism and its mixed review; the late economist Hyman Minsky, now internationally hailed as a prophet, was a regular columnist; the growing, destructive influence on the media by conglomerates; features on those in the news business; the list goes on and on.

            While the month-by-month coverage was solid, SJR’s shortcomings were always obvious. Editors never had the resources to assign one of our contributing writers to follow a lead months on end. With some exceptions, SJR could not plan for more than one or two issues ahead. Lack of resources made SJR’s coverage of the television industry, alternative media and the virtual world spotty with little follow-up.