Philip Edward Meyer died Saturday, November 4 at home in Carrboro, NC at the age of 93 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. He will be remembered for his gentle humor and sage advice, his love of journalism, and his deep love and pride for his family.
Phil was born in Deshler, Nebraska, on October 27, 1930, and grew up in Washington and Clay Counties, Kansas. Inspired by Clark Kent, the alter-ego of Superman, he began his journalism career in 1943 as a carrier for the Clay Center Dispatch. As a teenager, he was a reporter and photographer for Clay Center Community High School’s newspaper and yearbook. At Kansas State University, Phil fine-tuned his identity as a mild-mannered reporter. He worked for the Collegian, and served as editor his final semester. He received his BS in Technical Journalism in 1952. He then served in the Navy in the Radio Section of the Public Information Office of the Atlantic Fleet Amphibious Force.
In 1954, he returned to Kansas as Assistant State Editor for the Topeka Daily Capital. There he met Sue Quail, a wedding announcement writer, who had the pleasure of penning their announcement for the Capital in 1956. Hours after their wedding, Sue and Phil drove to Chapel Hill, NC, where Phil received his MA in Political Science and where they had their first daughter, Caroline. In 1958, the family moved to Miami where Phil worked as an education reporter for the Miami Herald and their second daughter, Kathy, was born. 1962 brought another move, this time to Washington, DC, where Phil was posted to Knight Newspapers’ Washington Bureau as a correspondent for the Herald’s sister paper, the Akron Beacon Journal. Phil and Sue’s two youngest daughters, Melissa and Sarah, were born in Washington.
Phil won a Nieman fellowship to Harvard and joined the 1966-67 class where he studied quantitative social science methods, looking for a way for journalists to measure social phenomena. On special assignment with the Detroit Free Press the next summer, he was able to test those research methods while covering the 1967 Detroit Riots. In recognition of the coverage, the Free Press staff was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for local general reporting. In 1973, Phil drew on his experience using data analysis for investigative reporting to publish Precision Journalism. Precision Journalism has been used across the world and has been translated into many languages. Ethical Journalism, The Newspaper Survival Book, and The Vanishing Newspaper later followed.
Starting in 1978, Phil ran market research studies for Knight Ridder Newspapers until UNC-Chapel Hill lured him back to North Carolina with a Kenan professorship in 1981. A few years later, he became the school’s first Knight Chair in Journalism. As a member and former president of both the World and the American Associations of Public Opinion Research, Phil lectured at colleges and universities throughout six continents, accompanied by his wife Sue. Phil retired from teaching Journalism in 2008 and published his memoir, Paper Route, in 2012.
Seldom seen in photographs, Phil documented over sixty years of his family on film. He dedicated his research skills to learning and sharing as much as he could about his and Sue’s roots in Switzerland and Ireland. They were able to spend time in each of their ancestral homes. He loved old cameras, classic movies, chocolate, walks in the woods, and good jokes. His wit served him well until the very end. He was beloved by his students, advising 72 of them through their theses and dissertations. Phil and his work are honored by Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. through the Philip Meyer Award, which recognizes the best uses of empirical methods in journalism. While he is known and respected by journalists the world over, he will forever be remembered as our sweet and thoughtful father and grandfather.
Phil is survived by his brother John Meyer of Camden, Rhode Island; daughters Kathy Lucente (Steve) of Carrboro, Melissa Meyer (Thal Massey Jr.) of Miami, and Sarah Meyer (Teddy Salazar) of Durham; nieces Kimberli and Keli Meyer; grandchildren Rachel Nelms (Noah Matthews), Amanda Niederauer Lukof, Thallieus Jordan Massey and Olivia Meyer-Massey, Sophia and Chloe Lucente, and Izzy and Theo Salazar; and great-grandchildren Max, Molly, and Micah Matthews.
Phil was preceded in death by his parents, Elmer “Bige” Meyer and Hilda Morrison Meyer, his daughter, Caroline Meyer, his wife, Sue Quail Meyer, son-in-law Thal Massey Jr., grandson-in-law Noah Matthews, and a lifetime of cats, both naughty and nice.
The funeral service will be held at Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, NC on December 2nd at 10:30 am, followed by a reception and celebration of Phil’s wonderful life.
Donations in Phil’s name can be made to any of these organizations:
- The Fund for PhD Education and Enhancement in memory of Phil Meyer
Gifts to the fund may be sent to:
UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media
Attention: Danita Morgan
CB# 3365, UNC Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-3365
Memo: (Phil Meyer)
- Investigative Reporters and Editors
- Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
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