Schwarzlose, Richard Allen
Richard Allen Schwarzlose was born March 18, 1937, in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Paul and Muriel Beth Schwarzlose. He began his academic career as an assistant professor of at Purdue University before coming to Northwestern to join the faculty of Medill. Schwarzlose's research interests centered on the history of the American wire service, though he also researched ethical and legal issues in journalism. Schwarzlose remained at Medill until his death in 2003. He was often regarded as the best teacher at Medill.
Schwarzlose grew up in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and remained there for his college education. Schwarzlose earned his bachelor of science in journalism from the University of Illinois in 1959. He then went on to earn a master's degree in political science in 1960 and a doctorate in communications in 1965 from the same school. Schwarzlose wrote his master's thesis on the topic of “Minnesota Electoral Behavior as Analyzed by ‘Significant’ Party Configurations,” while his doctoral dissertation, “The American Wire Services: A Study of Their Development as a Social Institution,” was published by Arno Press in 1979. Schwarzlose served as president of the Gamma chapter of his fraternity, Alpha Kappa Lambda, in 1959 and 1960.
While attending school, Schwarzlose worked for a local newspaper, the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, part-time during the academic year and full-time in the summers from 1955 to 1962. He spent his first year at the paper as a sports reporter and moved on to other beats and design positions in the following years. In his final year he worked as a telegraph editor. Schwarzlose took one year off from the News-Gazette in 1960-1961 to work in public relations for the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois. During 1962-1964, he supplemented his graduate education with work as a teaching assistant and instructor in basic news writing and public affairs reporting. Schwarzlose also worked in the University of Illinois' Office of Community Development during 1964-1965 as a research assistant.
Schwarzlose's academic career began with his appointment as an assistant professor in the English Department at Purdue University. He taught basic writing and reporting, mass communication history and magazine writing. He developed a print journalism program within the department and chaired the program until he left Purdue at the end of the 1967-1968 academic year.
Schwarzlose accepted appointment as an assistant professor at the Medill School of Journalism of Northwestern University in 1968. He remained at Medill until his death in 2003. In his first few years at Northwestern Schwarzlose taught reporting and editing, mass communication history, news media and society, and government and the press. Although the names would change, these were essentially the courses that he taught for the rest of his career. Schwarzlose became legendary at Northwestern for the history and issues of journalism course he taught to Medill freshmen and for the history, law and ethics of journalism (formerly government and news media) course mandated for upperclassmen. He was promoted to associate professor in 1974 and attained the rank of full professor in 1986.
Schwarzlose held many research interests but he dedicated several decades of his life to studying the history of the American wire services. He published numerous scholarly articles and research papers on the topic. His research culminated in a two-volume work published by the Northwestern University Press in 1989 and 1990 entitled The Nation's Newsbrokers. Schwarzlose also wrote a book-length bibliographic essay on the literature of newspapers, published in 1987 by Greenwood Press as Newspapers: A Reference Guide. Other research interests included the history of mass communications, press-government relations, media technology and foreign press systems. Schwarzlose applied for many fellowships and grants over the course of his career and received several, including multiple Northwestern University grants and a Haven Fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society to study the origins of the newspaper press.
In the 1980s and 1990s, as his wire service research drew to a close, Schwarzlose turned his attention to another of his passions, ethical and legal issues in journalism. He published many articles and papers on the topic and was widely considered an expert in the field. He spoke on the issue at numerous appearances throughout the country, offering advice to everyone from high- schoolers to Northwestern alumni to the local Woman's Club. Audiences especially appreciated his expertise during election years, when he analyzed topics such as “Who's Picking the Next President - You or Dan Rather?” Schwarzlose also spoke about journalism ethics at many campus events and offered ethics tutorials to members of Northwestern's Public Affairs Residential College in 1994 and Communications Residential College in 1995. At the time of his death, Schwarzlose was in the process of writing a book about media hype called Sensational News: Journalism at the Crossroads.
Schwarzlose took a special interest in the journalistic profession around the world. He traveled to Bulgaria and Yugoslavia in 1990 as part of a group examining journalism education in eastern Europe. Schwarzlose returned to Bulgaria in 1991 to conduct seminars on American journalism. He conducted similar seminars in India in 1993. Schwarzlose also worked with Northwestern and other organizations to host foreign journalists eager to learn about the American press. In recognition of these efforts he received the Doe Thornburg Volunteer of the Year Award in 1994 from the International Visitors Center of Chicago.
Schwarzlose was an active member of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), serving as chairman of its history division in 1971-1972. He frequently contributed presentations and chaired discussions at AEJMC's annual convention. Schwarzlose also published many articles in scholarly journals such as Journalism Quarterly, Journalism History and Mass Communication Review. He wrote encyclopedia articles and anthology essays on journalists and the history of journalism. Journalism Quarterly and Journalism History often asked him to judge manuscripts for publication, and Schwarzlose occasionally reviewed manuscripts and book proposals for publishers including Oxford University Press and Prentice-Hall. Book reviews with his byline appeared in Journalism Quarterly, Journalism History, American Historical Review and the San Diego Union.
As he gained experience at Medill, Schwarzlose found himself drawn more and more to administrative duties. He served on many Northwestern University and Medill committees during his career, focusing on promotions and tenure and the development of the Teaching Newspaper Program. He chaired the Medill dean's search committee in 1989 and participated in the search for another dean in 1996-1997. In 1989 he became associate dean of Medill but he preferred teaching and research and gladly gave up the post in 1993.
While he sometimes clashed with colleagues, Schwarzlose was respected by his fellow faculty and was extremely popular with students. He consistently received some of the highest course evaluation rankings in the Medill School and was recognized as a authority of the profession by both students and faculty. The Northwestern Alumni Association awarded him with its Excellence in Teaching Award in 1991; Northwestern named him a McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence in 2002.
On July 27, 1963, Schwarzlose married Sally Frye. The couple had two children: Daniel, born March 19, 1973, and Rebecca, born May 29, 1980. Schwarzlose died on June 14, 2003, at the age of 66 after suffering a massive heart attack while riding his bicycle along the Green Bay Trail in Evanston. The university held a memorial for Schwarzlose in Alice Millar Chapel in September, 2003, after students returned to campus from their summer vacations. Several hundred friends, faculty students and alumni attended the service. At the time of his death, Schwarzlose was the longest-tenured professor at Medill. The Chicago Tribune called him the “heart and soul” of Medill while the Chicago Sun-Times said he was widely regarded as the best teacher in the school. Northwestern established the Richard Schwarzlose Professorship of Media Ethics as a memorial tribute.