Historical Dictionary of Political Communication in the United States

Article excerpt

Stempel III, Guido H., and Jacqueline Nash Gifford. Historical Dictionary of Political Communication in the United States. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press,1999.171 pp. $69.50.

This is a handbook of persons, phrases, terms, events, places, and organizations, but it is more an encyclopedia than a dictionary. Entries range from 25 to 250 words each.

Forty-three scholars contributed, but Stempel, Gifford, and Marc Edge wrote two-thirds of the 250 definitions with Gifford accounting for a third herself. The latter two are doctoral students at Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, where Stempel is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus. The quality of the work speaks well of their stamina and research talents as well as Stempel's mentoring.

While the information in each entry is limited, the prose is clear and straight-forward. Particularly useful are the explanations of behavioralist concepts. There is a bibliographical essay at the end of the dictionary and a brief listing of the authors' choices for most valuable books and articles on political communication. Each definition is accompanied by a source that offers a ready location for additional research and information. About a dozen tries are biographies of pioneering political science and communication scholars, including Daniel Boorstin, Jack McLeod, Maxwell McCombs, and David Weaver.

U.S. political communications history is a voluminous area of study, and 300 years of people, places, and events would require a multi-volume encyclopedic collection. This is a more select catalog than the title suggests, offering a somewhat uneven view of politics and communications history because of space constraints. …