Al Cross Pays Tribute to Cole Campbell

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By: E&P Staff

Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, today posted the following tribute to Cole Campbell, the longtime editor and journalism educator who died at the age of 53 in a car accident in Navada on Friday. It’s at www.ruraljournalism.org.

“We knew Cole Campbell and will miss him. Our last conversations were during a Journalism and Democracy Workshop held by the Kettering Foundation in Dayton in 2005. A discussion leader, he said media outlets should sponsor public forums as a method of inquiry, aimed not just at letting citizens vent, but to come up with solutions — to help generate knowledge, not just distribute it.

“That level of journalistic engagement in public deliberation was controversial, but for us civic journalism is just one way of institutionalizing the interaction that journalists should have with their readers, viewers and listeners, and helping communities address issues in a democratic manner.

“That process can be easy and informal in rural communities and smaller cities, but often needs more structure in metropolitan areas. But it can work anywhere, as The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, W.Va., showed in its civic-journalism project on how to reverse the city’s declining economy. After it succeeded, people in Huntington asked the paper to do the same for the local educational system, Cole noted at the Kettering workshop. His most inspirational quote for me at that session was this rhyme: ‘There’s no gridlock on the high road; no traffic jams, no backups, no delays. If you choose to drive upon the high road, you can drive without distraction — for days!’

“That’s good advice for all, urban or rural.”

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