Cover image for A creed for my profession : Walter Williams, journalist to the world
A creed for my profession : Walter Williams, journalist to the world
Farrar, Ronald T.
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Publication Information:
Columbia [Mo.] : University of Missouri Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
xii, 246 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.
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PN4874.W634 F67 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This superb biography provides for the first time a candid look at the remarkable life of Walter Williams, the man who founded the world's first school of journalism and perhaps contributed more toward the promotion of professional journalism than any other person of his time.

Williams, the youngest of six children, was born in Boonville, Missouri, in 1864. Never an athletic child, he always had a love of books and of learning; yet, he scarcely had a high school education. He began his journalistic career as a printer's devil at seventy cents per week and eventually became editor and part- owner of a weekly in Columbia, Missouri. During his time as an editor, Williams became convinced that journalism would never reach its potential until its practitioners had the opportunity for university training in their field. After years of crusading, he established the first journalism school, on the University of Missouri campus. Later, he was chosen president of the University of Missouri, which he led with distinction during the Great Depression.

Williams was an unwavering advocate of high professional standards. His Journalist's Creed became one of the most widely circulated codes of professional ethics. Williams inspired the confidence of his fellow journalists, and he carried his message to nearly every country in which newspapers were published. Not only did he invent journalism education, he also created global organizations of journalists and spread the gospel of professionalism throughout the world. His death, in 1935, was mourned throughout the United States, and editorial tributes came from around the world. As one British editor succinctly put it, "Williams was not born to greatness. Neither was it thrust upon him. Literally, he achieved greatness."

Author Notes

Ronald T. Farrar , a former newspaperman, is Reynolds-Faunt Memorial Professor of Journalism and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. He is the author of numerous books, including most recently The Law of Advertising and Public Relations.

The Missouri Biography Series , edited by William E. Foley

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Williams was the founder of the first journalism school in the U.S.--the University of Missouri at Columbia--and creator of a code of ethics for journalists. This biography focuses on his contribution to moving journalism from a trade to a profession by recognizing the need for standards that could be applied internationally to the delivery of news. He was also an advocate of world peace and saw a free press as essential to assuring free societies. He started his career as a printer's apprentice and later became editor and part owner of a newspaper in Columbia. Williams was born during the Civil War, when the overdramatized and uneven quality of reporting was glaringly evident. As Williams came of age as a journalist, he spoke against personal attacks on editors that routinely filled newspapers in competitive markets and advocated a focus on the news. This book is probably more detailed than the average reader might care for, but those with a particular interest in journalism and journalism education will enjoy it. --Vanessa Bush

Choice Review

Journalism and mass communications education has been one of the great 20th-century success stories in US higher education. More than a thousand colleges and universities now teach some form of journalism. Much of the credit goes to Walter Williams, an idealistic yet pragmatic small-town Missouri newspaper editor, who established the first journalism school in the US in 1908. As founding dean of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and later as president of the university, Williams fought to establish professional and academic standards in what had been considered a somewhat dubious, rough-and-tumble craft. He also tried to promote international cooperation among journalists and to establish an awareness of professional values throughout the world. Farrar (Univ. of South Carolina) shows the sometimes-outrageous tactics Williams used to publicize his school, often in the face of significant opposition from the press itself. Although the book sometimes threatens to sink under the weight of quoted encomia, it will be of considerable interest to journalism educators and those whom they have trained. P. G. Ashdown University of Tennessee, Knoxville