The History of Media and Communication Research: Contested Memories/A Journalism of Humanity: A Candid History of the World's First Journalism School

By Dennis, Everette E. | Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Autumn 2008 | Go to article overview

The History of Media and Communication Research: Contested Memories/A Journalism of Humanity: A Candid History of the World's First Journalism School


Dennis, Everette E., Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


* Park, David and Jefferson Pooley, eds. (2008). The History of Media and Communication Research: Contested Memories. New York: Peter Lang. pp. 390.

* Weinberg, Steve. (2008). A Journalism of Humanity: A Candid History of the World's First Journalism School. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press. pp. 238.

In a foreword to the first of these important and useful studies, media theorist Hanno Hardt declares that "the field of communication studies has come of age, and with this new maturity comes the need to construct a genealogy of practices in a manner that explains and connects the various strands of fact and fiction, validates memory, and confirms intellectual identities to secure its place among the social sciences." This statement could serve as coda for both volumes.

Although these two studies are markedly different, both offer an explanatory framework and fill in field, institutional, and conceptual gaps heretofore ignored or treated in a less substantial manner. They tell the story of people and institutions engaged in the pursuit of learning and the advancement of knowledge about the history of research on media, communication, and journalism.

In mostly chronological form, Steve Weinberg, author, reporter, and professor, offers a comprehensive treatment of the origins, development, and current state of the iconic Missouri School of Journalism, the world's first. No hagiography this, Weinberg's A Journalism of Humanity is an insider's view of a journalism school and the people who built it as well as their products-the students and a particular style of serious public affairs journalism. Like other journalism school histories, he moves from the founding dean (Walter Williams) to the current dean (R. Dean Mills), explaining the work and achievements of each regime. There is a critical and explanatory tone here that does not ignore the conflicts and controversies that influenced the shape and direction of the world's first journalism school. The school's signature programs, especially the unique Columbia Missourian, the faculty-led daily, are all here, as is an examination of their impact on journalism education and the practice of journalism, both in the United States and internationally.

As is often the case in studies of this kind-James Boylan's Pulitzer's School and George Turnbull's Journalists in the Making come to mind-the comings and departures are charted of faculty members within the administration of particular deans whose leadership sets the agenda for a period as the school accepts, assimilates, or rejects their leadership and ideas. Happily some of the key faculty personalities are showcased along with their individual interests and contributions to the school and its program. This can be a tedious endeavor, but Weinberg presents such information painlessly on the way to the next stage of institutional development.

While capturing much about the curriculum and the teaching of journalistic skills, he gives less attention to what has been a remarkable corpus of research at the school, especially in recent years. Similarly, the author, in attempting to cover in detail the activity on the ground at the school over 100 years, he says less about the institutional context such as other models of journalism education. The book's independent mindedness makes it stand out among histories of higher education and especially professional schools.

By contrast, The History of Media and Communication Research is the latest in a modest flow of books charting the origins and development of mass communication research and covers the whole field quite broadly, but with a critical eye. …

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