American Communication Research: The Remembered History

American Communication Research: The Remembered History

American Communication Research: The Remembered History

American Communication Research: The Remembered History

Synopsis

This book captures the essence of a never-to-be-repeated glimpse at the history of media research. It offers a unique examination of the origins, meaning, and impact of media and communication research in America, with links to European antecedents. Based on a high-level seminar series at Columbia University's Freedom Forum Media Studies Center, the book features work by leading scholars, researchers, and media executives. Participants in the series have called the program "heroic and unprecedented." The book encompasses essays, commentaries, and reports by such leading figures as William McGuire, Elihu Katz, and Leo Bogart, plus posthumous reports by Wilbur Schramm, Malcolm Beville, and Hilde Himmelweit. It also contains original insights on the collaboration of Frank Stanton, Paul Lazarfeld, and Robert K. Merton.

Excerpt

Everette E. Dennis

The importance of the media, both as instruments of communication and as a social force, is well established. Commentators and critics speak of the "centrality" of the media as influential players in society that have an impact on individuals, institutions, and the public at large. Although the precise nature of the media's impact and influence is rarely agreed on, it is clear that most knowledgeable observers in the 1990s readily recognize "media power" in politics, consumer behavior, and other arenas. In fact, to the present generation of scholars, critics, and consumers, the idea that media and media messages have something to do with people's perceptions, attitudes, and opinions seems almost axiomatic.

This was not always so. Although the concept of a "powerful" press stretches back decades, even centuries, this was by no means universally accepted or acknowledged. Media power and influence was not a settled issue; in fact, it was the subject of considerable debate. Of course, this debate began and ensued over many decades during a time when mass communication was actually inventing itself. From the first stirrings of mass magazines with circulations of more than 1 million in the 19th century, through the invention of radio and television, to the modern emergence of computers and satellites, communication has changed utterly, and so has its relationship with the larger society.

From the late 19th century on, scholars--especially historians--acknowledged the role and presence of the press and, later, other media; but they almost always saw them as a peripheral influence--a sentinel sometimes . . .

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