Eight books.


Faculty positions at five universities…on three continents.


Three endowed professorships.


Guest lectures in Dubai, Finland, Lebanon and Mexico.


Few scholars can point to this many substantial achievements in a lifetime.


But for John C. Merrill, these accomplishments came after he retired in 2000 from the University of Missouri—at the age of 76. Much of this work was done in his 80s.


"He didn't slow down," said Dorothy Merrill, his wife of 64 years. "He loved writing, teaching and traveling. It’s what kept him going."


Merrill, 88, died September 20, 2012. He leaves behind a legacy of wisdom—more  than 30 books, scores of articles, lectures in more than 50 countries, and 55 years of teaching—that remains a provocative and definitive voice in the minds of his students, colleagues and friends.


Throughout his lifetime, Merrill's philosophizing implored us to think about journalism's moral dimensions, its ethics, and its complex roles in U. S. society and in cultures around the world. Best known for his advocacy of libertarian freedom for the individual journalist and the institution of journalism, Merrill's writings drew from philosophers spanning three millennia, as Clifford Christians details in the adjoining article in this section of Media Ethics. His philosophy wove strands from Aristotle, Enlightenment rationalism, Kantian duty, and existentialism into a coherent framework of personal ethics and a rationale for maximum individual freedom. But Merrill was not easily pigeon-holed; in the last decade of his life, his ideas about journalism in a postmodern world tempered his views, and he advocated a responsible use of freedom (a respect for self and respect for others). His interests and scholarship were constantly evolving.


"No man steps in the same river twice," Merrill liked to say, paraphrasing Heraclitus, the fifth century B.C. Greek philosopher. "He's not the same man, and it's not the same river."


This article explores that abundant river of Merrill's scholarship, focusing on the last decade or so of his life—his so-called retirement years, when he remained a prolific philosopher and teacher, arguably doing some of his finest writing. It updates A. David Gordon's "On the Shoulders of Giants" piece first published in 2000 in this magazine and reprinted below. Also included are insights from a few of Merrill's colleagues and former students; it concludes with some thoughts about the legacy of his work. Throughout, it is the story of an existential philosopher who, toward the end of life, continued to seek authenticity in his writing…and in journalism.


Merrill's Philosophy (since 2000)


Merrill wrote close to two dozen books in the 20th century, more than half of them on journalism philosophy and ethics. His voice had been prominent for four decades, but one could begin reading Merrill's books published in the 21st century and know his philosophy well.  A close reader of his later books sees an evolution of thought, one that moves from the mountaintop of freedom to a moderate view balancing freedom and responsibility. But his core faith in the individual remained. This section explores his 21st century philosophy, and its evolution from earlier writings, in regard to four key ideas that are common threads in several works.


A people's press. Merrill's well-known embrace of a libertarian-style press freedom—a negative type of freedom, a press system free from outside restraint—was developed during the Cold War, when media outlets were relatively few and journalists largely controlled news-making processes. Normative journalism theories (libertarian and social responsibility) assumed that an essential characteristic of any free press was independence from government; too much government interference was the primary enemy of press freedom. 


However, Merrill was also wary of how social responsibility, as a press norm, cut into press autonomy. This concern came to the forefront in the 1990s with the growth of civic journalism. With its emphasis on community and social harmony, civic journalism extended social responsibility into an active platform for media reform. Its communitarian ethic called for a journalism focused on the aspirations of  "real people" (non-officials and average citizens). To civic journalists, telling the truth was not enough. Journalism should be used as a tool for social transformation, and judged by the extent to which it contributes to positive social outcomes. Merrill feared this focus eroded journalists' autonomy and editorial control, and in doing so reduced the social influence and power of the press.


Where civic journalism fell short of enabling a "people's press," the Internet succeeded by providing citizens the ability to publish their own views. Merrill thought this Internet-based people's press, championed by many as a democratic tool for participatory democracy, created chaos in the public sphere and greater market-orientation in what now are called the legacy news media. Neither development improved journalism.


In Twilight of Press Freedom  (2001), written prior to Sept. 11, 2001, and when the impact of the Internet was just beginning to be realized, Merrill asserted:



This is the age of insecurity. It is the age of fitful, gossip-mongering, sensational journalism that shamelessly and arrogantly throws the filth of society in the public's face… It is little wonder that a kind of neoauthoritarianism based on increased public authority, order, and a monoistic concept of responsibility seems to be developing at this time of history… The press as an institution is diminishing in importance (pp. xix-xxii).


And Merrill came to see journalists as complicit in their institution's demise. The lure of a "people's press" is powerful, he thought, because journalists and their work are constantly subjected to public scrutiny. The burden of press freedom (and accountability for journalistic abuses of it) is too heavy for most journalists to bear. Embracing a people's press provides journalists (and the institution of journalism) an attractive—although Merrill would argue superficial—democratic mission, a sanctuary that makes journalistic missteps appear well-intended.


As was often the case with Merrill, his usually prescient ideas ran counter to the popular current of thought. He believed that journalists should determine the news, and doubted a more inclusive "people's press" would improve journalism or democracy. 


Postmodernism, Democracy and Journalism. The Internet and associated media technologies unleashed nascent elements of postmoderism (e.g., subjectivity, relativity, less reverence for hierarchy and authority, and a more central place for media in everyday life) into the mainstream of 21st century public discourse. The people's press moved past a normative ideal and became a reality.  Journalism—that work created by journalists—became just one of many voices in a fragmented, increasingly partisan media ecosystem. 


In numerous writings, Merrill pondered the implications of this reality on journalism and democracy. 


"What journalists seem to prize is a kind of pluralistic disorder—a kind of situational ethics," Merrill wrote in a chapter in Changing the News  in 2011. "What about the people? What do they want? The people are diverse and seem to want everything [Merrill's emphasis]. The truth when they can get it, yes, but also plenty of gossip, sensation, and mythology.  And, of course, they are getting increasing doses of it via the Internet... There is little doubt but that the Internet will expand information triviality and superficiality—and also decrease media credibility—while providing kernels of truth hidden somewhere in its vast pluralism" (p. 47).


Merrill acknowledged that a more participatory media system is—on its face—more democratic, but he was concerned that a media system that creates a "give-the-public-what-it-wants" brand of discourse was more likely to result in a shallow and superficial democracy.  He questioned how public knowledge would be enhanced in such an environment.


"Essential to a democratically oriented system is the 'debate' concept that media can extend to the public. However, it seems increasingly that like-minded individuals and public segments talk to one another and castigate those in opposing camps. And the media are complicit in this,” he wrote (p. 50).


Journalism Mission. Amid these fast-shifting journalistic waters, Merrill, too, shifted, and began to question the purpose of journalism in a postmodern democracy. Perhaps the ideals of negative freedom—freedom from obligation—had an unforeseen pernicious impact on journalism.


A journalism left completely free to determine its own course is a journalism that has no clear social or democratic mission. In the absence of a clear raison d'etre, journalism is left with no moral compass—precisely at the time when other social institutions face similar great uncertainty.


Merrill provides this context in Media, Mission and Morality  (2006), where he rethinks the value of defining a mission for journalism, and—after acknowledging several drawbacks—calls for its professionalization. "Making journalism a profession would, I think, result in higher and more consistent quality, in minimum entrance requirements, common expectations, meritocratic advancement, increased loyalty, acceptance of a professional ethical code, and peer-policing, and some kind of licensing" (p. 109). 


It's worth noting that his point of view is an about-face from the 1974 and 1990 (2nd ed.) Imperative of Freedom John Merrill who declared that professionalization was stultifying to press freedom. But the 21st century Merrill saw the elements of a modern society, with relatively stable social institutions (journalism among them), as giving way in the postmodern world. He liked to quote modern poet W. B. Yeats, "Things fall apart, the center cannot hold…The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."


Merrill trusted the modern world, and he appreciated journalism more—and  thought it more relevant—when journalists abided by a commonality of values. Near the end of his life, he thought there needed to be some order among the online chaos. "Traditionally the people have submitted to ostensible experts—the professionals… Freedom of the general run of people to perform specialized, professional duties is problematic (even irrational) in a complex society" (Changing the News, 2011, p. 56).


The Ethical Journalist. Merrill thought the fragmentation and relativity of the 21st century makes ethics more relevant to journalists. He believed journalists should be both inner- and outer-directed in their search for ethics (i.e., have respect for self and respect for others). His libertarian emphasis on self and freedom was tempered in his later writings by a respect for others.


However, for a half century, Merrill urged journalists (and students) to think about questions of morality, and see the value of a well-developed sense of individual ethics. In this perspective, Merrill remained steadfast: ethics are about individual choices. He concludes Media, Mission and Morality (2006) by defining the ethical person this way:


Let me say that after years of reading, listening to, and thinking about morality and ethics, I have come to a definition for—or conclusion about—morality. And it is a simple one: that morality stems from "good-willing," to paraphrase Kant again.  A strong motivation, a deep inclination to do the right thing, a spirit of humanistic concern—that is what morality is. Journalists can have it. Media can have it. Caring for others, yes, but caring also for self.  When one respects self and others, he or she is moral. And the actions that come about due to this attitude of concern for the welfare of self and others are ethical actions (pp. 112-113).


In sum, Merrill's advocacy of press freedom was a constant throughout his life; however, he believed that press freedom belonged to journalists, not to the public or  publishers. For the press to remain a vital and influential institution in the 21st century, journalists should maintain their autonomy yet operate by a shared sense of professional values. Essential to these values is a well-developed sense of ethics that balances a concern for freedom and responsibility.


 Achievements, Personality and Reminisces


After "retiring" (again) from the University of Missouri in 2000, Merrill set out to do what he enjoyed—write, teach and travel. Teaching allowed him to travel. He accepted faculty positions in Asia (Nanyang University, Singapore, 2000-2001) and Africa (American University, Cairo, Eygpt, 2004-2005), as well as two endowed professorships in the U. S. (Roy H. Park Distinguished Visiting Professorship at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 2004; Erbon Wise Professorship at Northwestern State University, Louisiana, 2005-2007).


He was also recognized for his lifetime of work. He was inducted into the School of Journalism Hall of Fame at the University of Iowa (2005), followed by induction into the Ethics Hall of Fame at Texas Christian University (2006). And after Merrill returned to Northwestern State, where he first taught (1951-62), the university honored him in 2007 with a festschrift, a book celebrating his life's scholarship and teaching. Freedom Fighter, edited by Northwestern State professors Donald W. Hatley and Paula F. Furr, contains tributes to Merrill from a wide range of people, articles researched and written in his honor, a photo display of Merrill through the decades, and what turned out to be an unfinished listing of his career accomplishments.       


Republished in this festschrift was Merrill's "Dedication to Language: A Journalist's Creed," a testament written in 1971 that tells much about his inner-driven existentialism and the printed word as his medium of choice. "I seek the precise words, the firm words, words that pierce to the inner core of consciousness with meaning and knowledge.  I relish those words that alternately growl and purr as they rush to do my bidding," he wrote.  And later in this statement—more accurately, in this poem—he added:


I dedicate myself to verbal precision

that cuts cleanly through the thickened  

thought and seeks the crystal core of

credibility. . .


I seek words that grab the truth

and cast it courageously before the crowd,

intent always on directness and light,

avoiding the dank darkness of delusion.

                            (Freedom Fighter, 2007, pp. 11-12; Existential Journalism, 1977, p. 106)


Merrill's precision with words was not lost on his students, including thousands who, over a half-century, read his books but never met him. Jessica Sharpee, a media ethics undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, reflected recently on her first encounter with Merrill's writing (an overview of the philosophical foundations for media ethics published in   Controversies in Media Ethics, 2011):  "His overview was the first thing that I have read in the topic of ethics. At first, I was very lost and confused by the subject matter... However, once I settled into it, I found it to be a great chapter. John Merrill in his writing was short, sweet, and to the point with details… I learned a great deal, and while reading, it made me wonder about how I view ethical dilemmas. The text made me question the process in which I come to the decision that I do, and why I choose to act in the way that I do."  


Chelsea Emory, also a UW-Eau Claire student, said she "was interested and engaged" by that same piece of writing, and "amazed at how interesting his words really were … My favorite line was the last one:  'But remember:  there are always higher levels to strive for.  The ethical journey is never over.'"


"John had the ability to force students to think originally," said Ralph Lowensteinthe retired long-time dean of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida and one of Merrill's first Ph.D. students. "He did it by dipping into his vast range of knowledge to question beliefs that we all thought axiomatic. We were forced to review the substance of the belief and learn so much more about it."


Make no mistake, Merrill thought the study of philosophy and ethics to be serious matters, and he treated these subjects with reverence. What is less remembered, however, is Merrill's sense of humor, and how it contributed to his zest for life. He loved puns and "bad" jokes created by word games. To his friends, he was self-effacing, and he thought too many professors took their narrow slivers of expertise and scholarship far too seriously.


This sense of humor showed up in many ways over the years, including in a parody published in Journalism Educator in July 1979 ("Message Energits: Propellants and Stimulants of Communication," pp. 55-57).  In it, he purported to argue that "energits (pronounced in-ER-jits) constitute the atomic framework of a message, the fissionable protoplasm of the corpus communicatis, the bridge of message energy which spans the chasm of misunderstanding and disinterest."  A footnote added:  "Journalists, a 'sub-species' of communicator, should be aware of the murky sludge resulting from energit-less stories; … (In other words, this study is not simply an 'ivory tower' exercise without practical ramifications for the person engaged in journalism.)"  And John’s handwritten note on a copy of the article that he sent to a colleague said, simply: "For course in 'Spoofology 301'—ha!"


A quarter century later, at a 2003 gathering at the University of South Florida to celebrate his scholarship, Merrill walked onstage and found a life-sized dummy of 15th century Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli, about whom Merrill had written extensively. (A xerographed face of Machiavelli on the dummy was immediately recognized by Merrill.)  Merrill promptly seated himself and engaged Machiavelli in a conversation about ethics (with Merrill taking both sides).


Merrill's wit was sharp, and it could have a cutting effect, although malice was not his intent.  "If you really understood, what was most charming was his sense of humor, and it got him in real trouble some times," Don Ranly, Missouri journalism professor and colleague, told the Columbia Missourian. "He had a hearty laugh, and he enjoyed laughing. Deep down, he was a really good man."


Finally, no tribute to Merrill is complete without a few words about how his approaches to scholarship, teaching—and life—impacted his graduate students who themselves pursued careers as scholars and educators. 


Fred Blevens, a professor at Florida International University and a student of Merrill's as well as a co-author, remembers:

John Merrill was a master teacher who could walk into a room, throw a rhetorical incendiary device into  each corner, then smile as the room burned down.

There was simply no easier way to describe the impact John could have on a classroom. But behind that brief description was a lengthy discussion about his developed—and my developing—philosophy of teaching.


I asked him why he always came into each class armed with a different question for four specific students. Each day, we had no idea who would be the targets of his inquisition, but when thesemester was finished, there always seemed to be an equal distribution among us.



John pondered the question for a few seconds, then boomed an answer that has guided my graduate and undergraduate honors advising ever since.



"The mistake most teachers make is to assume that you ask a question to get an answer," John said with his usual matter-of-fact cadence and tone. 'What you really should be doing is asking a question that requires a response. There’s no better way to findout whether a student has read and actually thought about what they’ve read."



I don't know what that tells us in a world of online assessment, punishing class sizes, and assembly-line education, but it most certainly should remind us that the best methods of teaching arethose that are simple, elegant, rich, and textured.


Writing as a co-author with Merrill was also an educational experience, although not one that always made his colleagues comfortable. Lowenstein, a friend of Merrill's for 47 years, reflects:


Obviously, John was a prolific author with some 30 books authored or co-authored to his credit.  How he found the time to write them bewildered me.  He did not have a briefcase, to my knowledge, and I never saw him carry work home at night or on weekends. 


John not only had endless ideas for articles and books, but could inject inveterate procrastinators with some of his own unseen energy. 


If I were on the second chapter of a book we had agreed to write together, I would get a note from John that he was on his sixth. If I were still pondering how to organize my section of a co-authored article, I would receive in my faculty box a draft of John’s entire portion.  My experience with him was not unique. 


We had a club of Merrill co-authors with similar stories.


The body of work and the speed that he produced it were impressive, but Merrill's libertarian views, as expressed in his books were often misunderstood as advocating irresponsibility, both in personal and journalism ethics. Merrill didn’t always appreciate how others applied this label to him, and he tried in several books in the last decade of his life to set the record straight. Merrill strove to synthesize complex strains of philosophical thinking in inherently logical and well-grounded ways. He was not the radical many perceived him to be. 


Jane B. Singera professor at the University of Iowa and former Merrill student, asserts that Merrill's philosophy—and how he lived it—was his greatest gift to himself and others, a gift that will live on in his books. She writes:                  


Existential Journalism, John Merrill wrote, is dedicated to "the small coterie of journalists who break ranks with the conformists, pursue excellence, prize independence of thought and action, and push themselves into the invigorating complex of events and ideas where unexpected surprises and even dangers rise up on all sides."

            He was, of course, describing himself.


Dr. Merrill relished, championed and demanded—of himself and others—and the incessant challenging of received wisdom in all its forms. The authentic self instead spends a lifetime chasing its own questions and its own answers; to abandon the chase is to abdicate one's responsibility to live precious life to the fullest.


Dr. Merrill's gift to himself was that he never abdicated. His gift to us is that he so generously shared his original, always provocative and sometimes dazzling insights as he earned them throughout a lifetime rich in intellectual rewards—and that he always insisted we seize every opportunity to do the same.


The Legacy


To say that John Merrill was solely a libertarian—or a Kantian, or that he fit neatly into existentialism or any other single philosophical flavor—would be far too simplistic. His mind had command of far too many topics for any narrow definition to be accurate.  There was, certainly, a love of freedom and self-determination in his thinking about media ethics, and more generally.  He embraced the institutional ethic of freedom and insisted on leaving individual ethics to the individual.


Merrill enjoyed an abundant intellectual capacity, and he had the will to put it to work. He liked to wrestle with the paradoxes inherent in any complex or abstract idea. He encouraged fresh thinking and creativity. He often played devil's advocate with himself, and enjoyed arguing perspectives he disagreed with. He thought this approach helped him to hone his own thoughts, because it required him to remain open to new ideas and possibilities. He urged his students to do the same.


This open-mindedness explains the role of  "flux" in Merrill's views, and his evolution as a scholar.  He liked to say that something never is, it is always becoming. He believed in the capability of the rational individual, and thought people could choose to be ethical, although many would not. He loved freedom, and thought it the prerequisite for all ethics. But, in the last decade of his life, Merrill's writing echoed a recurring theme absent in his early works: freedom is more than the absence of obligation. The path to an ethical life includes a concern for self and others, as well as the self-discipline to act on your moral convictions. Freedom is essential to ethics, but it does not guarantee them. Freedom carries risks and is fragile. "Freedom opens the door to ethical frustration, and ethical certainty closes the door to freedom," he wrote (Controversies in Media Ethics, 2011, p. 534).


Over the course of a half-century, Merrill was a catalytic and seminal scholar, not in one area of study—but two: media ethics and global journalism. He researched and wrote about enduring questions: morality, truth, freedom and responsibility. One can expect that his work will retain its relevance well into the future.


Merrill leaves an abundant river of wisdom that can be entered and appreciated at nearly any point. He showed readers and students the value of thinking about ethics, and he implored them to have the will to be ethical, acknowledging that no one ethical road is best.


As Jane Singer noted, Merrill believed that the best one can do is to be yourself—your self, which is to embark on a quest for self-awareness, truth and human dignity. This quest can involve ethical reasoning. And when it does, it provides optimism by offering the possibilities of a better (more ethical) life. John Merrill lived this quest, and through his writing he showed the essence of such a journey. It is his gift to us all.


  •  Peter J. Gade is a Gaylord Family Endowed Professor and Journalism Area Head at the University of Oklahoma, and A. David Gordon is currently professor and chair emeritus of the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Prof. Gade may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Prof. Gordon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



1. Gordon, A. David; Kittross, John Michael; Merrill; John C.; Babcock, William; & Dorsher, Michael (2011). Controversies in Media Ethics (3rd ed.). New York: Routledge.

2. Hatley, Donald W. & Furr, Paula F. (eds.) (2007). Freedom Fighter: A festschrift honoring John C. Merrill on his six decades of service to journalism education. Natchitoches, LA: Northwestern State University Press.

3. Merrill, John C. (1974). The Imperative of Freedom: A philosophy of journalistic autonomy.  New York: Freedom House.

4. Merrill, John C. (1977). Existential Journalism. New York: Hastings House.

5. Merrill, John C. (2006). Media, Mission & Morality. Spokane, WA: Marquette Books.

6. Merrill, John C., Gade, Peter, & Blevens, Fred (2001). Twilight of Press Freedom: The rise of people’s journalism. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum..

7. Merrill, John C. (2011). “Journalism and Democracy.” In Lowrey, Wilson, & Gade, Peter J. (eds.), Changing the News: The forces shaping journalism in uncertain times. New York: Routledge.




John Merrill never stopped writing, as is obvious from the accompanying list.  He kept saying that one work or another would be his "last book" but then he’d write another.  Even after what really turned out to be the last ones were published in 2011, his love for ideas, for words and for challenging his audience kept him writing.


What (probably) was his last published article—"Realistic Ethics: A Brief Look," which revisited Machiavelli—appeared in the Fall, 2011 issue of Media Ethics.  That was one of more than a dozen articles that Merrill wrote for this publication  in the 21st century, following his second formal "retirement" from Missouri in 2000.  Some of those 14 articles are listed here, and the others can be found by searching for "John Merrill" online at  www.mediaethicsmagazine.com.


 Merrill's post-2000 body of work also included articles in several other journals, book reviews, his regular column for the Columbia Missourian, at least two book chapters and a lengthy preface to a new edition of a book he had earlier co-authored.  In a way, the numerous articles commenting on his work, in scholarly journals and in publications such as the St. Louis Journalism Review, should also be considered part of the written legacy that Merrill has left for us. 


John was a regular attendee at AEJMC conventions, where in recent decades he frequently could be found either in the vicinity of his latest book publisher(s) or holding court in the hotel lobby with colleagues—many of them his former students and/or co-authors.  His last AEJMC convention was in St. Louis in 2011—he  spent several days there, before going on with Dorothy and one of his daughters to Columbia, Missouri for what he certainly knew would be a last visit to the city that had been home during his two separate stints on the Missouri faculty. 


In St. Louis, John was obviously dealing with physical difficulties, but his mind remained sharp and his wit every bit as good as it had always been.  And, as always, people were clamoring to say "hello" and talk with him about one (or several) of the countless topics that he enjoyed discussing.    


 Merrill also remained active in such other organizations as the International Communication Association. One of his last ICA conventions was in 2009, when he made presentations as an invited participant on two panels. 


Merrill missed few chances to hone his earlier thinking and expand on his earlier writing.  A short essay, written in 2009 and eventually published in 2011, reflected (yet again) on the concept of objectivity and expanded on material he had written 20 years earlier ("Deontelic ethics: A synthesis," in The Dialectic in Journalism, 1989, Chapter 9, especially pp. 199-201.)  In this recent  update, he wrote that "the reporter can test whether actions are ethical by holding them up to predetermined rational maxims, or by considering the consequences.  Either way, he or she is ethical."  ("Objectivity?," in Controversies in Media Ethics, 3rd ed., p. 492.)


 Merrill went on to link Kant and Mill by suggesting a "utility or consequence theory as an absolute or duty-bound theory of ethics." Rather than being contradictory, he argued, this simply specified that duty "means following maxims that have had, and will likely have, the best consequences" and that "Kant's theory of rational maxims was based originally on something akin to the theory of good consequences that Mill developed later on." [Id.]


A mind capable of combining Kant and Mill so eloquently, yet so simply, is one to be   treasured . . . and one that will be greatly missed.



1. John C. Merrill (1989). The Dialectic in Journalism.  Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press.

2. A. David Gordon, John Michael Kittross, John C. Merrill, William Babcock and Michael Dorsher (2011).  Controversies in Media Ethics, 3rd ed., pp. 491-493.  New York:  Routledge.



21st Century Books by John C. Merrill 

Twilight of Press Freedom (2001) with Peter J. Gade and Fred Blevens.  (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.)

  Media, Mission and Morality (2006).  (Spokane, WA: Marquette Books.) 

 Media Musings:  Interviews with Great Thinkers (2006) with Ralph D. Berenger and Charles J. Merrill (Spokane, WA: Marquette Books.)

 Call to Order: Plato's legacy of social control (2009).  (Spokane, WA: Marquette Books.)

 Ethical Communication: Moral Stances in Human Dialogue (2009), co-edited with Clifford G. Christians (four of the 28 chapters were written by Merrill). (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press.) 

 Farewell to Freedom (2010).  (Spokane, WA: Marquette Books.) 

 Viva Journalism!:  The Triumph of Print in the Media Revolution (2010) with Ralph Lowenstein  (2010).  (Bloomington, IN: Author House.)   

 Controversies in Media Ethics (2011) (3rd ed.) with A. David Gordon, John Michael Kittross, William Babcock and Michael Dorsher. (New York: Routledge.)




"(I) have always said, mostly in jest, that when I want to read a good book, I just sit down and write one."                                                                     


—John C. Merrill, in Viva Journalism!, p. 97



21st Century Book Chapters and Journal Articles by John C. Merrill (selected)

"The Press as Terrorist: The Ethics of Depressing the National Psyche," Media Ethics, 14:1:5, 22 (Fall 2002)

"The Four Theories of the Press Four and a Half Decades Later:  A Retrospective" Journalism Studies (2002)

"The Dangerous Skies of Political Advertising," Media Ethics, 14:2:15, 33 (Spring 2003)

"Will the Internet Help Make Democracy a Reality? Traditional Media Have Failed," IPI Global Journalist (2003)

"Professionalization: Fusion of Media Freedom and Responsibility," Global Media Journal (4:6, Spring, 2005, invited paper) (two related views on communitarianism, with Clifford G. Christians), "Ethical Problems: No Exit" (Merrill) and "Communitarianism: A Third Way" (Christians).  Media Ethics, 17:2:4, 15-16 and 5, 16 (Spring 2006)

 "Utilitarian vs. Communitarian Ethics," in Mitchell Land and William Hornaday, Contemporary Media Ethics.  Spokane, WA: Marquette Books (2006)

"East Asian Communalism and Western Media Ethics," Media Ethics, 18:1:5, 27-30 (Fall, 2006)

"Preface," in Global Journalism: Topical Issues and Media Systems, 5th ed., Arnold S. de Beer (2008)

"Description and Prediction: Understanding Global Communication," Conference Papers – International Communication Association (2009) 

"Some Antics with Semantics,"  Media Ethics, 22:2:4,16-17 (Spring 2011)

"Realistic Ethics: A Brief Look," Media Ethics, 23:1 (Fall 2011) 

"Journalism and Democracy," (2011), in Wilson Lowrey and Peter J. Gade  (eds.), Changing the News: The forces shaping journalism in uncertain times.


Endowed chairs occupied by John C. Merrill (21st century) 


Wee Kim Wee Professorship, Nanyang University, Singapore (2000-2001)

Roy H. Park Distinguished Visiting Professorship, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (2004)

Erbon Wise Professorship, Northwestern State University, Louisiana (2005-2007).

Also international teaching as Visiting Professor, American University, Cairo, Egypt (2004-2005)



Awards since 2000 (partial list)

School of Journalism Hall of Fame, University of Iowa (2005)

Ethics Hall of Fame, Texas Christian University (2006)

Festschrift honoring John C. Merrill on his six decades of service to journalism education,  published as  Donald W. Hatley & Paula F. Furr (eds.), Freedom Fighter (Natchitoches, LA: Northwestern State University Press) (2007).




Shortly after his death, a number of journalists at a dinner in Seattle agreed that to refer to John's "last writing" might run afoul of him coming back from the beyond and publishing a new idea (or book) or two.