[eDebate] Former UNC debater dies in car accident

William Newnam wnewnam
Mon Jan 8 09:18:22 CST 2007

Some of you may remember him and most will not. Cole Campbell, former debater for UNC Chapel Hill, was an excellent debater who also went on to become editor of several major newspapers.

He was perhaps most famous in debate for debating in his familial kilt, which even for the sixties and early 70s, was considered a bit eccentric.  

bill n

The following obituary was in the New York Times:


January 8, 2007
Cole Campbell, 53, Editor and Journalism Educator, Dies 
Cole Campbell, one of the first newspaper editors to embrace the idea that journalism should help readers be engaged citizens, died Friday in Reno, Nev., when his vehicle flipped on an icy road.

Mr. Campbell, 53, was on his way to the Reno campus of the University of Nevada, where he was dean of the Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism, his father-in-law, Charles Werner, said.

Mr. Campbell was an enthusiastic supporter of what is sometimes called civic or public journalism. A friend, Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at New York University, said, "Cole believed journalism should be not just what is going on in civic life, but what you need to know to be engaged - because if you don't think you can participate in public life, why would you want to read about it in the newspaper?"

As editor of The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk, Va., from 1993 to 1996 and then as editor of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch until 2000, Mr. Campbell encountered resistance to his ideas.

"Cole was a towering intellectual among newspaper editors, astonishingly well read, and curious about all ideas," said Roy Peter Clark, the writing coach who is a vice president of the Poynter Institute, the journalism school where Mr. Campbell found work after being forced out in St. Louis. "Cole never met an innovative idea that he didn't want to try out."

W. Davis Merritt, the retired longtime editor of The Wichita Eagle and another early proponent of civic journalism, said the idea that news could include information to help people exercise their duties as citizens was rejected out of hand by many traditionalists.

Mr. Merritt, who is known as Buzz, described Mr. Campbell as "a very deep philosophical thinker, but also a man who was extremely interested in whether the community he newspapered in was a successful, vigorous polity."

Warren Lerude, a former publisher of what is now The Reno Gazette-Journal and now a professor of media law at the Reynolds School, was on the search team that chose Mr. Campbell as dean in the summer of 2004.

Mr. Campbell had "such an eye on the future, but was still grounded in solid journalism," Mr. Lerude said. "He understood that people are hungry for writing that is so good they are willing to pay for it," whether the words are delivered on newsprint, a computer screen or another medium.

Annie Flanzraich, editor of The Nevada Sagebrush, an independent student newspaper at the University of Nevada, said Mr. Campbell had emphasized to students that while the technologies people used to get news had changed, the principles of how to gather and present facts should not.

Mr. Campbell is survived by his wife, Catherine, their son, Clarke, and a daughter, Claire, of Brooklyn, from one of his two earlier marriages.
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