Books -- the American Magazine: Research Perspectives and Prospects Edited by David Abrahamson

Article excerpt

* Abrahamson, David, ed. (1995). The American Magazine: Research Perspectives and Prospects. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press. Paperback, $24.95.

This volume answers a long-standing need, and offers a shot in the arm to a neglected area of journalism research. At the mid-year meeting of the Magazine Division of AEJMC at Northwestern University in 1992 an informal discussion arose among the 40 or so assembled scholars about the disheveled state of magazine research. The decision reached there to do something about assembling some corpus of scholarship dealing with magazine journalism resulted in this work.

A recurrent theme of almost all these authors is that research into magazine journalism in general has been unsatisfactory. It is interesting that even though magazines make up an important part of the information triad along with newspapers and television, over a recent 20-year period these publications accounted for only 6 percent of the articles which appeared in journalism Quarterly.

In addition, most of the authors are critical of the research that has been published. As Mark Popovitch of Ball State University concludes in a chapter on quantitative magazine studies: "... magazine researchers rely too heavily on content analysis techniques, remain fragmented in focus, and lack theoretical foundations from which to pose their research questions."

For instance, Jolliffee suggests that the biographical emphasis that for so long has marked magazine studies has led to an unfortunate focus on the lives of a few editors--the Great Man or Woman approach--with a resultant lack of attention to editors in general at work, with few insights into editorial interaction in the magazine process.

Some chapters are topic-specific, such as "An Overview of Political Content Analyses of Magazines." In this section, Mullen notes that fascinating similarities exist between the electronic media and the print, particularly magazines, as conduits for political information. …