As the editor of the Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, and the Lexington Herald-Leader, John Carroll directed coverage that won Pulitzer Prizes at all three newspapers (13 at the Los Angeles Times alone). Carroll resigned as editor rather than accede to corporate demands for newsroom cutbacks.
After graduating from Haverford College, Carroll accepts a job as a reporter for the Providence Journal in Rhode Island.
Less than a year later, Carroll is drafted into the U.S. Army for a two-year stint, assigned to Yukon, Alaska.
After being discharged, Carroll is hired as a reporter for The Sun in Baltimore. He starts as an obituary writer, and after a short time is assigned to the crime beat.
The Sun sends Carroll to Vietnam, where he accompanies troops to 39 provinces in 13 months.
While in Vietnam, Carroll covers the Tet Offensive, including the battle of Khe Sanh in Quang Tri province. During the summer, Carroll hears that the military is abandoning Khe Sanh; he returns to find the runway being hauled away in full visibility of the enemy. Speaking with the Marine in charge, Carroll is told that the enemy knows of the withdrawal and that there should be no problem with his reporting it. After Carroll breaks the story, however, the Pentagon takes away his press credentials. Carroll seeks the advice of Gene Roberts, who rounded up a group of bureau chiefs; eventually the military gives back his credentials.
Assigned to the Middle East, Carroll covers the War of Attrition (a limited engagement in the Arab-Israeli conflict, between 1967 and 1970) for six months before returning to Washington to cover President Richard Nixon’s first term for The Sun.
Carroll is awarded a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University.
In a period of revival for what had been a corrupt and low-level paper, Carroll joins The Philadelphia Inquirer. Working under the esteemed Gene Roberts, who was determined to turn the paper around, Carroll makes the transition from reporter to editor, starting as the night city editor. He later becomes city editor and eventually metropolitan editor.
Carroll moves to Kentucky to become editor of the morning edition of the Lexington Herald. He is the first editor who is not approved for the job by the Democratic Party.
The Herald merges with the Lexington Leader, the evening edition, and Carroll becomes the editor.
Herald-Leader reporters Jeffrey A. Marx and Michael M. York uncover scandals at the University of Kentucky’s basketball program. Despite death threats, a bomb scare and a gunshot fired into the pressroom, the Herald-Leader reports the story in a series that exposes cash payoffs to University of Kentucky basketball players in violation of NCAA regulations. “Playing Above the Rules” prompts an NCAA investigation, and the Kentucky basketball program is placed on probation. The Herald-Leader wins the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting in 1986, and university reforms are put in place as a result of the story.
Carroll accepts a fellowship at Oxford University in England.
Carroll returns to The Sun as its editor. The Baltimore newspaper wins two Pulitzer Prizes under his leadership. One was for a series, “The Shipbreakers,” by Gary Cohn and Will Englund, that exposed the perils to international shipbreaking industry employees and the environment “when discarded ships are dismantled.”
The Times Mirror Company, corporate parent of The Sun at the time, appoints Carroll to be vice president.
Carroll accepts an offer from Harvard to run the Nieman Fellowship program. Before he formally commits to Harvard, however, he is persuaded by the Tribune Company to run the Los Angeles Times, which Tribune had just purchased.
Under Carroll’s editorship, the Los Angeles Times is nominated for Pulitzer Prizes more than 30 times and wins 13. But orders from the Chicago-based Tribune Company to continually cut staff to keep annual profits high become untenable for Carroll, who resigns from the paper in 2005.
Carroll is named the first Knight Visiting Lecturer at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University.
In April, Carroll gives a dramatic speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, entitled “Last Call at the ASNE Saloon.” In it, Carroll said that profit-driven public corporations, answering mainly to fund managers, “are shrinking the social purpose of newspapers … are shrinking the newspaper journalist.”
Carroll moves with his wife back to Lexington, Ky., and he begins work on a nonfiction book.
Carroll joins and continues to serves on the board for the News Literacy Project, a national education program that pairs veteran journalists with middle and high school students to increase awareness about media literacy. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University and the Journalism Advisory Board of ProPublica.