EDMUND B. LAMBETH established and directed several of the Missouri School of Journalism’s stalwart programs. Working from an office in the National Press Building, he founded the Washington Reporting Program in 1968, in which he supervised students’ reporting projects for newspapers, radio and magazines for 10 years. Lambeth left the School in 1978 to serve as a professor of journalism at Indiana University and subsequently the director of the University of Kentucky School of Journalism.
In 1987, Lambeth returned to Missouri as associate dean for graduate studies and research. While in this post, he oversaw the growing work of the Stephenson Research Center and Media Research Bureau. During the two and one-half years Lambeth served as director of the Center on Religion & the Professions (CORP), the Center was awarded a $1.4 million renewal grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts to advance religious literacy in the professions and to conduct research to enhance the news media’s coverage of religion and public life. The Center is one of the Pew Trusts’ 10 Centers of Excellence. CORP also is an affiliate of the Reynolds Journalism Institute.
His books, Committed Journalism: An Ethic for the Profession and Assessing Public Journalism (edited with Phil Meyer and Esther Thorson), reflect his career interests in public affairs reporting, ethics, media criticism and the history of journalism.
Early in Lambeth’s career, in 1961, he was was named a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association, and later, in 1967-78, a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard. At MU in 1995, he was presented the Thomas Jefferson Award, often considered the highest recognition granted by the four-campus University of Missouri System. Three years later Lambeth received the Scholarly Excellence Award by the UM Board of Curators for the best faculty book produced by the University of Missouri Press in 1998. His book, Assessing Public Journalism, combined methods of social science and the humanities to explore the new and heatedly debated movement in American journalism.
The faculty of the school adopted courses Lambeth authored that emphasized off-campus origination of local, regional and national news from Washington; a capstone course on Journalism and Democracy; plus optional courses in religion reporting and international issues reporting. Journalism courses such as these can be designed to complement Arts and Science offerings and have been doing so for many years.
In 1984, to emphasize the growing need for an emphasis on ethics in journalism, Lambeth originated a National Workshop on the Teaching of Ethics in Journalism. Funded generously by the Gannett Foundation’s First Amendment Center, a week-long series of seminars featured the acquisition of ethical and philosophical knowledge, its practical application, and candid sharing of alternative ways to build and a critical assessment of the state of the art of ethics instruction. Lambeth led the workshop for almost 20 years, with the assistance of a distinguished professor, Clifford Christians, PhD, University of Illinois; Louis Hodges, a Knight professor of journalism at Washington & Lee University; and Deni Elliott, a professor of ethics at the University of Montana.
Soon thereafter, the members of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication approved the creation of a standing committee to promote instruction in the specialty; a Journal of Mass Media Ethics was created soon after the start of the workshop. It was launched by Professor Jay Black, University of South Florida, and the late Ralph Barney, Brigham Young University.
The Journalist’s Creed by Walter Williams, the founder of the Missouri School of Journalism, exerted a strong and major influence on the practice of journalism for decades and, not least, by his creation of the world’s first journalism school in 1908. Others, such as the late John C. Merrill, PhD, and long-time professor emeritus at MU, lighted a long-lived candle with his classic book on ethics, The Imperative of Freedom.