All in the Family

From the Fall 2012 Quill & Scroll magazine

From the Fall 2012 Quill & Scroll magazine


For the Carrolls, journalism is the family practice. Beginning with Charles Carroll and continuing on with his sons, Paul and Tim, Charles’ granddaughter, Shannon, is now carrying on the tradition.

It began with Charles Carroll, who started his time in the newsroom by taking high school sports scores at The Des Moines Register. After enlisting for World War II shortly after his 18th birthday in 1945, the war ended. Charles then ended up at the University of Iowa after a year at Drake University.

He wrote for the campus newspaper, The Daily Iowan, where he eventually became the editor-in-chief while earning his master’s degree.

“He (Charles) liked stirring up trouble,” Paul said of his dad’s many stories about the newspaper. As editor, Charles managed to get a visit from an upset mayor, sued for defamation after printing a controversial story, and was even threatened with expulsion by the president of the school. Charles also convinced Paul Conrad to draw editorial cartoons for The Daily Iowan. Conrad went on to work at The Denver Post and the Los Angeles Times, winning three Pulitzer Prizes for his editorial cartoons.

“Dad caused a little bit of a ruckus around campus,” Paul said. “He was now well and thoroughly hooked on journalism.”

Charles went on to work at The Des Moines RegisterWall Street Journal, and the New York Herald Tribune. He then took a job in Pittsburgh at Westinghouse in public relations, so he could support his family, which included eight children — three boys and five girls. 

Of the three boys, two went on to pursue journalism and both worked at the Wall Street Journal. Tim, the youngest of the boys, still works there as the news editor on the foreign desk while Paul, the second eldest, is now involved with various projects including writing a follow-up to his best seller, Billion-Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn From the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years. Both attribute their passion for journalism to their father and his stories about his time in the field.

“He (Charles) just went on and on about how each word added something to the sentence, something to the story,” Tim said of his father. “There were no extraneous words. Each thought was clear, precise and it was like a wine connoisseur talking about how wonderful a wine is but he was talking about a four paragraph story in a newspaper.”

Between the three of them, 48 years have been spent at the Wall Street Journal.

“Being at a place like the Wall Street Journal is great training because it forces you to think about stories and it forces you to understand how to use numbers in a supportive way,” Paul said.

When Tim received a Pulitzer certificate after the Journal won the Pulitzer for breaking news coverage for its reporting of Sept. 11, 2001, he framed it and gave it to his father, who has since died. Paul was also a Pulitzer finalist in 1996.

Paul and Tim’s illustrious careers in journalism and passion for words extend to their siblings, who each have had success in various fields and appreciate good writing.

“We all know and appreciate words,” Tim said. “To this day, we take a perverse pleasure when someone writes something they don’t mean in an email.”

This delight in writing has passed on to the third generation. Paul’s daughter, Shannon, is now pursuing journalism at The Daily Californian as a freshman at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is majoring in political science and hopes to one day be an international reporter at a major metropolitan newspaper. As a student at Granite Bay High School in California, Shannon won two first-place awards in the 2012 Quill and Scroll Writing Contest — one in General Columns and the other in the In-Depth Individual reporting category.

Like her father, Shannon grew up listening to stories about how interesting journalism was.

“It never seemed like a boring job,” Shannon said. “He wasn’t just sitting behind a desk. He got to go out and meet these really cool people and travel to all these cool locations. As a kid and even now, that idea has always appealed to me.


Originally appeared in the Quill and Scroll Fall 2012 magazine on Page 6.


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