Academic journal article Journalism History

The Beginnings of Communication Study in America

Academic journal article Journalism History

The Beginnings of Communication Study in America

Article excerpt

Schramm, Wilbur. The Beginnings of Communication Study in America, Steven H. Chaffee and Everett M. Rogers, eds. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 1997. 206 pp. $19.95.

Wilbur Schramm died in 1987, leaving in his computer six chapters of this memoir and an outline of a seventh. Steven Chaffee and Everett Rogers have lightly edited the chapters, written the one that was outlined, and added a chapter of their own on the career of Schramm. The result is an illuminating history of American communication scholarship as seen primarily through the eyes of one of its originators.

The book begins with a nod towards the earliest communication researchers-sociologists Charles Horton Cooley and Robert Park, journalist Walter Lippmann, and anthropologist Edward Sapir-but it focuses on Harold Lasswell, Paul Lazarsfeld, Kurt Lewin, and Carl Hovland, "the forefathers of communication study in America."

Each stands out as an individual. Lasswell, a political scientist interested in content analysis of the media, was a private and erudite man, prone to giving long monologues that were likely to baffle those around him, yet capable of designing a model of the process of communication with five clear elements.

Lazarsfeld was in many ways Lasswell's opposite. A sociologist, he was more interested in media consumption than media production, and he was an energetic, entrepreneurial, and personable man who was married three times. Lewin, a social psychologist interested in group process, was tireless, relentlessly making his research more complex by asking "Vot haf ve vergotten?" and by captivating students at Iowa with his field theory in all-day discussions known as "the Hot Air Club."

Hovland was not a character like Lasswell, Lazarsfeld, or Lewin. …

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