WILBUR SCHRAMM AND THE FOUNDING OF COMMUNICATION STUDY
The difficulty in summing up a field like human communication is that it has no land that is exclusively its own. Communication is the fundamental social process.
On April 14, 1981, Wilbur Schramm returned from Honolulu, where he was living in retirement, to Iowa City, to give the Les Moeller Lecture at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa. It was a nostalgic visit. Schramm had first come to Iowa in 1930 to pursue his Ph.D. degree. In 1943 he had organized the first Ph.D. program in mass communication in the world while he was director of the Iowa journalism school. When he moved to Illinois in 1947, Les Moeller took over Schramm's position at Iowa. Schramm (1981) began the 1981 Moeller lecture in this way:
Miss Betty [his wife] and I want to thank you for letting us come back to spend a few days with you on this campus for which we have so much affection and have not seen for so long....It was about 48 years ago that I became aware of a slender, pretty girl in the front row of one of the first classes that I taught at Iowa....About 18 months later she and I were married....Iowa was a remarkable place in the 1930s and '40s, and chiefly because of the spirit of creativity that pervaded it....Remember this was Iowa in the middle of the Depression, with a budget about one-eighth what I found when I went to Illinois in 1947....In a place where one might not expect to find him, the Iowa Child Welfare Research Station, was one of the most creative psychologists in the world, Kurt Lewin. I want to talk about what has happened to academic journalism and communication since the decade of the '30s when Ted [George] Gallup was a brand-new Ph.D., Frank Mott was a brand-new Director [of the School of Journalism] at Iowa, and the country was in its worst depression.
Thirty-eight years before this speech, in 1943, Schramm had returned to the University of Iowa from his wartime duties in Washington, D.C., with a vision of communication study, to found the first Ph.D. program in mass communication and the first communication research institute. At that time Schramm was influenced by Paul F. Lazarsfeld, Carl I. Hovland, and other social scientists who were conducting communication research connected with World War II, which brought together scholars from psychology, sociology, and political science to form the new field of communication. Wilbur Schramm was the founder of communication study and is the central figure in its history.
Wilbur Schramm (1907-1987) was born in Marietta, Ohio, on August 5, 1907 (Figure 1.1). This pastoral setting, located on the southern boundary of Ohio, was named by French explorers after their queen, Marie Antoinette. Schramm's ancestors came from Schrammsburg, Germany, and their Teutonic name caused difficulties for the family during World War I, when Schramm was a boy. His father was a lawyer in Marietta, whose legal practice suffered (Cartier 1988, p. 58).
Wilbur Schramm developed a severe stutter at age five due to "an amateurishly performed tonsillectomy" (Cartier 1988, p. 59). His speech difficulty was embarrassing to him and his family. As the stutter persisted, Schramm's father withdrew his interest in his only son, for whom he had dreamed of a career in law and politics (Coberly 1992). The boy's stutter was traumatic for him, such as when he had to recite a section of Martin Luther's catechism before the Lutheran Church congregation (Cartier 1988, p. 59). He avoided speaking in public. Instead of giving the valedictory address at his high school graduation, Schramm played "The Londonderry Air" on his flute. But when he graduated summa cum laude from Marietta College in history and political science in 1928, he did give a valedictory speech. Gradually Schramm learned to live with his stutter, which eventually became less pronounced. Nevertheless, his speech difficulty had an effect later in his life, eventually leading him into the field of communication for a second career (Table 1.1).
Even as a boy, Schramm displayed the can-do spirit that was to characterize a career in which his zest, creativeness, and intellectual abilities allowed him to master new fields. His only sister, Helen, a few years younger, once was struggling with a difficult piano piece. He finally said, "I don't see how you can possibly have so much trouble with that," and sat down and played it perfectly. On recalling this incident years later, Schramm's sister cried indignantly: "And he hadn't even studied the piano!" (Coberly 1992).
Schramm's mentors at the University of Iowa in the early 1930s did not feel that the brilliant young scholar could teach due to his stutter. But eventually, with speech therapy and perhaps with growing confidence about his verbal ability, Schramm overcame his stuttering problem bit by bit (Cartier 1988, p. 111). He made teaching his lifetime career, and in later life his stammer was a problem only occasionally.
Schramm spoke with difficulty but wrote easily, and he earned his college expenses as a part-time sports reporter for the Marietta Register and as a stringer for the Associated Press. He continued his part-time newspaper work at the Boston Herald during graduate work at Harvard University, completing his M.A. degree in American Civilization in 1930. Later, looking back to his Harvard studies, Schramm said that he was most influenced by Alfred North Whitehead, the famous philosopher (and, like Schramm, a stutterer), from whom he took a graduate-level course, illustrating Schramm's desire to seek out great minds.
Why did Schramm leave Harvard, after earning his master's degree, for the tree-lined banks of the Iowa River? Tuition at Harvard was $500 per semester, and Schramm had to struggle financially. At one time during his Harvard sojourn, he worked at six part-time jobs simultaneously (Schramm 1942-1943, p. 3). Later he was awarded a graduate fellow-ship, and the financial pressure eased somewhat, but then the stock market crashed, bringing on the Great Depression. Another reason Schramm moved to the University of Iowa for his doctorate was connected to his stuttering. One of the top experts in stuttering in the United States, Professor Lee Edward Travis, conducted research on, and treatment of, stuttering at Iowa. He theorized that wrong-handedness might be a factor in stuttering, so he strapped Schramm's right hand to his side with a leather contraption. It did not help.
Travis's work on stuttering was carried forward at Iowa by Wendell Johnson, and it was he who helped Schramm by means of counseling and therapeutic exercises. Johnson had been five years old when he began stuttering (a common age among the approximately percent of the U.S. population afflicted with stuttering). Stuttering is often diagnosed by perfectionist parents whose child may actually have only the hesitations and repetitions characteristic of the normal speech of most young children. In that sense, stuttering is a socially defined malady. Further, most individuals seldom stutter when alone but only when talking face-to-face with others (Schramm did not stutter when talking on the telephone), especially in a stressful situation (such as giving a speech). While he was the director of the Iowa Speech Clinic in the 1930s, Wendell Johnson investigated these social aspects of stuttering. He discovered a tribe of Indians that had no stuttering -- not a single member of the tribe stuttered, and the tribe had no word for stuttering or other speech defects in their language. "The Indian children were not criticized or evaluated on the basis of their speech" (Johnson, quoted by McElwain 1991, p. 112). Johnson was much more than just a speech therapist. He related his treatment and study of stuttering to linguistic theory and to general semantics. He saw stuttering as what would today be called a communication problem. Certainly Johnson passed this viewpoint along to Schramm. His stuttering problem was thus one reason for Schramm's early interest in communication.
A Post-Doc in Experimental Psychology
Schramm's treatment for his stuttering made him keenly aware of the emerging field of communication study and led him eventually into experimental research on speech behavior. But Schramm majored in the humanities at Iowa, earning a Ph.D. in English literature in 1932. His dissertation was an analysis of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem Hiawatha. Schramm then received a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies (Schramm 1935, p. 5) and stayed on at Iowa for two years of postdoctoral study with Professor Carl E. Seashore in the Psychology Department. Schramm conducted laboratory experiments on audiology problems and learned quantitative research approaches. He was acquiring the tools of a social scientist. The depression meant that faculty positions in English departments were scarce, and Schramm's postdoctoral fellowship at Iowa was a means of survival.
Also, Schramm felt that his scientific training needed strengthening. Throughout his lifetime, Schramm was attracted to individuals of excellence, and Seashore was an important academic figure at Iowa: professor of psychology, a pioneer experimental researcher, and long-time dean of the graduate school. A respected historian of the University of Iowa considers Seashore to be one of the most important shapers of the university's directions -- even more important than several of the university's presidents (Persons 1990).
Born Carl Emil Sjöstrand in Sweden in 1866, Seashore migrated with his family at age three to an Iowa farm. Shortly, Seashore's parents changed the family name. Carl Seashore earned his Ph.D. degree in experimental psychology at Yale University, getting in "on the ground floor" of this new field, as he liked to say (Persons 1990, p. 107). While on a European trip, he visited the experimental laboratory of Wilhelm Wundt at the University of Leipzig, considered the birthplace of psychology. In 1897, Seashore joined the University of Iowa as an assistant professor of psychology and combined his personal interest in music with his scientific expertise, conducting experiments on a variety of acoustical and speech problems. Seashore thus represented a scientific approach to Schramm's personal problem of stuttering. He learned experimental design, the use of laboratory equipment, and how to think like a psychologist.
The fact that Schramm would conduct postdoctoral research in a field that he had not previously studied was a statement of his can-do spirit. Such a seemingly risky move signaled Schramm's later mid-career shift from English literature to journalism education and then to the new field of communication study that he created. This spirit characterized Schramm's entire life and was one of his most important qualities. He excelled in widely different fields. For example, he was an athlete, good enough to be offered a tryout at third base with the Columbus Red Birds, a Triple-A professional baseball farm club. While he was a graduate student at Harvard University, he played the flute with the Boston Civic Symphonic Orchestra. He was a licensed airplane pilot. He once surprised David Berlo, his doctoral advisee at Illinois in the 1950s, by breaking off from a morning office conference in Urbana for travel to a luncheon meeting with the Kellogg Foundation trustees in Battle Creek, Michigan, and then resuming his office discussion with Berlo in the afternoon.' In the 1960s, while a senior faculty member at Stanford, Schramm bought a self-instruct, ion manual and taught himself FORTRAN computer programming. Schramm wrote so profusely during his eighteen years at Stanford that he wore out several electric type-writers (Nelson 1977, p. 17). As his daughter noted, "He could no more stop writing then breathing....In fact, he did stop the two together" (Coberly 1992). Schramm's life is "a gold mine of human interest material" (Starck 1991). Wilbur Schramm was good at almost everything he put his mind to. Everyone who knew him well begins by describing Schramm as a Renaissance man. The self-confidence thus displayed is an important quality for the founder of a new academic field.
THE IOWA WRITERS' WORKSHOP
From 1935 to 1942, Schramm was an assistant professor in the English Department at the University of Iowa, where he attained early fame as director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, an intimate group of graduate students working closely with Schramm and several other faculty members in order to gain skills in fiction writing through an apprenticeship experience. The workshop grew out of a graduate seminar in fiction writing that had been taught by Professor Edwin Ford Piper for several years at the University of Iowa. Piper gave his course a regional focus, stressing Iowa culture, in order to balance the eastern seaboard bias of much American literature. The University of Iowa pioneered in granting M.F.A. and Ph.D. degrees for theses and dissertations that represented exemplary fiction writing.
In 1939, when Piper died, Schramm was named director of the workshop. His appointment came as a surprise to him: "When he [Piper] died suddenly of a heart attack, I had to take over. They should probably have gotten someone else at that time, and I rather expected them to, but I had a little while when no one else was there, and so had a lot of fun doing what I thought needed doing" (Schramm to Paul Engel, August 10, 1976, University of Iowa Libraries, Department of Special Collections). Piper's graduate seminar on fiction writing, widely called the "writers' workshop," thus grew into a program officially identified in the university catalog as the Iowa Writers' Workshop. The workshop consisted of ten to fifteen graduate students who were admitted each fall and five professors, most of whom taught part-time in the workshop. Schramm placed less emphasis on Iowa culture than had Piper. Students came from all over the United States, and the program became nationwide in focus. It rapidly achieved fame for its excellence.
In its teaching/learning style, the workshop was participatory and intimate. Schramm held an individual conference with each student once each week in his office (Wilbers 1980, p. 64). When a student had written something that Schramm considered ready, it was presented in a weekly seminar, which often met at Schramm's home. In its methods, although not in its content, the Iowa Writers' Workshop was a pilot for the doctoral programs in communication that Schramm was to launch subsequently at Iowa, Illinois, and Stanford.
The workshop, which remains one of the best graduate programs in creative writing in the United States, was small in size, elite, and of excellent quality. It taught students how to write fiction by having them write, with Schramm and other faculty acting as coaches. Such literary luminaries as James Michener, Robert Penn Warren, and John Cheever came to the workshop to teach and to write. Philip Roth wrote Letting Go and John Irving wrote The World According to Garp at the workshop, and Kurt Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse Five while he was teaching there. During the five years that Schramm directed the Iowa Writer's Workshop, ten books written by workshop students were published commercially.
In order to supplement his professorial salary, Wilbur Schramm did fiction writing on the side. He published fantasy short stories about such characters as a farmer with a flying tractor, a horse that played third base for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the boatlike prairie schooner of a frontiersman named Windwagon Smith, and other free-spirited fictional personalities; most were published in the Saturday Evening Post, then a large-circulation magazine. Schramm gained a considerable reputation as a fiction writer; his magazine articles were republished in anthologies, he won the third-place award of the O. Henry Prize for fiction writing in 1942, and he published a fiction book, Windwagon Smith and Other Yarns (Schramm 1947b). He might have continued his career as an author and a professor of fiction writing, but this future was to be interrupted by World War II.
It was somewhat by chance that Schramm was at the University of Iowa. It was another accident that Kurt Lewin, an émigré psychologist from the University of Berlin, was there too. Schramm was drawn to Lewin and participated in Lewin's "Hot Air Club," which met weekly in an Iowa City café, the Round-Window Restaurant, to discuss Lewin's field theory. Schramm (1981) recalled: "I don't know why journalism at Iowa made no more use of Lewin than it did, for so far as I know, I was the only one from our field here to have much contact with him or to know his students like Leon Festinger and Alex Bavelas. But I remember him well: Pacing back and forth in front of a class, with his round pink cheeks shining, drawing diagrams on the board to illustrate field theory, and saying over and over again, 'Vat haf ve vergassen?' or 'Vas haf ve vergotten?'" Although trained as a humanist in English literature, Schramm was gaining expertise in social science theory and research. His postdoctoral fellowship in psychology with Seashore and his informal association with Lewin at Iowa provided the background for his later founding of the scientific field of communication.
THE WORLD WAR II YEARS IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
World War II had a tremendous impact on the field of communication; it brought to the United States such immigrant scholars from Europe as Kurt Lewin, Paul F. Lazarsfeld, and Theodor Adorno; it attracted U.S. scholars like Carl I. Hovland and Harold D. Lasswell to communication research; and it connected these scholars who were to launch the field of communication study into a dense network. Thus an invisible college of communication scholars came together in Washington, D.C. They met in formal conferences and informally in carpools, on military bases, and in federal government offices. Communication was considered crucial in informing the American public about the nation's wartime goals, and the details of food and gas rationing and other consumer sacrifices and in motivating the public to purchase war bonds, to avoid buying silk stockings and other scarce products on the black market, to grow victory gardens, and to support the war effort in other ways. Accordingly, communication research initially focused on studying the effects of communication. This consensus about the role of communication happened during World War II, and it happened mainly in Washington, D.C.
pardA Network of Social Scientists
The war caused the federal civil service to balloon at the rate of 97,000 new employees per month in 1941-1942, including substantial numbers of social scientists. Washington was actually a very small world for social scientists, consisting of three main research agencies linked by a set of common consultants: (1) the Research Branch of the Division of Information and Education, U.S. Army, directed by Samuel A. Stouffer, (2) the Surveys Division of the Office of War Information (OWl), directed by Elmo C. ("Budd") Wilson, and (3) the Division of Program Surveys of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) directed by Rensis Likert. Each research group consisted of fewer than a hundred social scientists, interconnected by consultants like Paul F. Lazarsfeld, for example, who advised both the Research Branch and the OWl (Converse 1987, p. 163).
During World War II, Washington was the place to be for a social scientist. America's enemies represented such an unmitigated evil that very few social scientists opposed the war, especially after the fall of France in June 1940, when it became apparent that Hitler would dominate Europe.' America's war aims united these scholars in a common cause and brought them together into a network of relationships that would last throughout their careers. The war effort demanded an interdisciplinary approach, often centered on communication problems. World War II thus created the conditions for the founding of communication study.
As a wartime employee of the Office of Facts and Figures (OFF) and the OWl, Schramm participated in an informal group that met regularly in a Washington hotel for dinner and discussions about interdisciplinarity in the social sciences. The other participants included Margaret Mead; Lyman Bryson, on leave from Columbia University's Teachers College for wartime duties as Schramm's boss at the OWI; Rensis Likert, director of the USDA's Division of Program Surveys; Goodwin Watson, a Columbia University psychologist; Ernest R. ("Jack") Hilgard, a Stanford psychologist who was working for Likert's Program Surveys, carrying out opinion research for the OWI; and Lawrence Frank, on leave from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial to do wartime work in Washington. The group met monthly during 1942 (Hilgard 1992).
None of the social scientists who collaborated in conducting wartime communication research had been trained in communication study; no doctoral programs in communication existed at that time. As one of the wartime Washington people, Nathan Maccoby, who conducted experiments on the effects of military training films in Sam Stouffer's Army Research Branch, said, "I tell my students that all I learned about communication, I learned on-the-job while doing experimental studies of U.S. military servicemen" (Maccoby 1987).
Lasswell's (1948) communication model -- "Who says what, to whom via what channels, with what effect?" -- was first published in a report of the Rockefeller Foundation Communication Seminars (November 1, 1940), which had met monthly in New York City during 1939 and 1940. The Rockefeller Foundation report argued that the federal government should utilize communication research in the emergency situation of approaching war and detailed various types of research needed on communication, such as content analysis, surveys, and panel studies. This memorandum became a founding document for the emerging field of communication study. Lasswell's communication model provided the framework for the Rockefeller report, and thus for the wartime research in Washington, focusing on communication effects.
The federal government was engaged in several types of communication research during World War II, each of which had important long-term consequences for the field of communication. In the U.S. Army, Carl I. Hovland and others were conducting evaluations of military training films, out of which the tradition of persuasion research was to develop (see Chapter 9). At the Library of Congress, Harold D. Lasswell was conducting content analyses of Allied and Axis propaganda messages (see Chapter 6). At MIT in Cambridge, Professor Norbert Wiener was writing his "yellow peril" report on the mathematics of how to improve antiaircraft gunfire accuracy, sponsored by the Pentagon. This work led to cybernetic theory, dealing with systems that regulate themselves through feedback (see Chapter 10). And at Bell Labs in New York, Claude E. Shannon was carrying out cryptographic analysis, which would help form the basis of information theory (see Chapter 11). At the OFF, Wilbur Schramm helped draft speeches for President Roosevelt's radio broadcasts to the nation, including his famous fireside chats. OFF and the OWl, its successor agency, were responsible for domestic and foreign propaganda. They informed the public about the progress of the war and of the sacrifices that the public was being asked to make. Schramm met regularly in planning meetings with other OFF and OWl staff and their consultants to design public communication campaigns and to study their effects. Thus, during 1942, he developed his vision of communication study.
Office of Facts and Figures/Office of War Information
The OFF was created in October 1941 to boost public morale. Although the United States would not enter World War II until six weeks later, on December 7, 1941, it had been obvious for more than a year that America would join the Allies. However, there was considerable public opposition to U.S. participation in the war in Europe, and the mass media were suspicious of OFF. Further, OFF sounded like a propaganda agency to U.S. newspeople (actually, it was, despite its name), so many newspapers launched vicious attacks on it. Poet Archibald MacLeish, the U.S. Librarian of Congress, was also appointed the Director of OFF, which got underway on October 24, 1941 (Bishop and MacKay 1971, p. 10).
Schramm knew MacLeish from his having lectured at the University of Iowa. Eight days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Schramm wrote to MacLeish, volunteering for wartime service. He observed: "Perhaps more than any previous war this is likely to be a war of communication." Within two weeks, MacLeish had appointed Schramm as OFF's educational director. Schramm's fifteen months with OFF and OWl "would drastically change his life -- change the direction of his intellectual pursuits, thrust him into a circle of national decision-making elites, and prompt him to refer to himself as a social scientist rather than a literary humanist" (Gladner 1990, p. 269).
Eight months later, on June 13, 1942, when OFF was reorganized as the OWl, it had 400 employees and a budget of $1.5 million. One of the largest divisions within OFF was the Bureau of Intelligence, in charge of gauging public opinion about the war, headed by Budd Wilson. The staff of 140, assisted by another 160 in the USDA's Program Surveys Division, designed surveys to measure the public's understanding of war-related issues and conducted data gathering about the effectiveness of OFF's public information activities. For instance, surveys were conducted of the extent of home canning, the amount of pleasure driving (which was banned officially), participation in a wartime rubber salvage drive, and how effectively Boy Scouts were distributing government posters about the war. Enemy propaganda was analyzed as a basis for carrying out counterpropaganda efforts. OFF and OWl claimed to be providing accurate information about the progress of the war, which largely amounted to acknowledging U.S. and ,Allied losses in 1941 and 1942. However, media critics of OFF and OWl claimed that U.S. losses were intentionally underreported.
The director of OWl was Elmer Davis, a distinguished radio commentator who had been a Rhodes scholar, a fiction writer, and a news analyst for CBS Radio. In 1941, Davis broadcast a criticism of the confused organizational setup of public information in the federal government and as a result was promptly nominated by President Roosevelt to head the newly created OWl. Rationalizing the government's wartime public information efforts was an impossible task; the Army, Navy, and other agencies continued their own public communication activities, independent of the OWl (Bishop and MacKay 1971, p. 18). During 1943 the OWl experienced extreme difficulties. Its annual budget was cut from $8.9 million to $2.7 million by a Congress distrustful of the notion of wartime propaganda, internal conflict raged, and its leadership changed (Converse 1987, p. 472). The OWl retained its responsibility for "white" propaganda -- aimed at the domestic audience -- while the Office of Special Services (OSS, later to become the Central Intelligence Agency) was responsible for "black" propaganda -- communication messages in which the true identity of the communicator is falsified and which include false information -- employed overseas against the enemy.
Schramm's Vision of Communication Study
Schramm's vision was formed during 1942, while he was the director of the education division of OFF, and later at OWI. His ideas about communication study probably grew gradually out of his everyday contacts with other scholars interested in the emerging field of communication, but he was most directly influenced by the two dozen staff members and consultants at OFF/OWI who met every two or three days around a long conference table in the U.S. Library of Congress building. Schramm participated with the following members of this planning group (Cartier 1988, p. 170; Hilgard 1992b): Sam Stouffer from the Research Branch of the U.S. Army; Ralph O. Nafziger, head of OFFs Media Division, on leave from the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism; Rensis Likert and Jack Hfigard from the Division of Program Surveys in the USDA, who conducted audience surveys for OFF/OWI; and George Gallup, Elmo Roper, Paul F. Lazarsfeld, and Frank Stanton, all consultants to OFF (Stanton 1992).
The group met to decide what information should be communicated to the American public to boost domestic morale and what communication channels OFF could use to reach their intended audience. They tried to assess, through surveys, the effects of their communication activities on the public. The central concern of this planning group was to carry out large-scale communication campaigns guided by the best expertise available, with feedback about effects provided by audience surveys. As David Manning White, then a recent Ph.D. from the University of Iowa who was invited to the planning group sessions by Schramm, stated: "Mass communication research began in the Library of Congress in 1942" (Cartier 1988, p. 171).
Thus was Wilbur Schramm's vision of communication study born during his fifteen months at the OFF and OWI. He returned to Iowa City to begin implementing his vision in 1943. Ralph O. Nafziger went back to the University of Minnesota when his two-year leave without pay ended in 1943, where he founded the Research Division in the Minnesota School of Journalism in 1944. But while Natziger was introducing some communication study into his school of journalism, Schramm at Iowa was seeking to launch a whole new field of academic study. He was preoccupied with "Why aren't we in communication asking those kinds of questions [the questions discussed by the planning group in OFF/OWI? I wanted to do that so bad it hurt" (Cartier 1988, p. 174).
Schramm was happy to leave OWI and Washington in 1943, and return to the University of Iowa. He found OWI "tangled, messy, busy" and much of the work routine and uninteresting (Cartier 1988, p. 174). When he returned to the University of Iowa, he was quite a different man than when he had left. Then he was a professor of English, in charge of teaching creative writing. Now he had a vision for founding the new field of communication study.
THE IOWA PROGRAM IN MASS COMMUNICATION RESEARCH
When Wilbur Schramm returned to Iowa City, it was a fortuitous and opportunistic happenstance that he wound up in the School of Journalism at the university. The university's top administrators wanted to keep him at Iowa, and the School of Journalism needed a director since Frank Luther Mort had resigned effective August 1, 1942. Schramm was somewhat of an odd choice to be director because he had never been a fulltime journalist. At the time, such experience as a reporter or editor was considered an essential requirement for being appointed as a journalism professor. Schramm was not at heart a journalism professor, and he did not teach courses in writing and editing skills at any time during his career. He was pursuing a broader vision of communication study and considered himself just temporarily alight in a school of journalism for the next few years.
Schramm would have more logically fit back in the Iowa Writers' Workshop, but another scholar, the poet Paul Engel, was in charge of the workshop. In 1981, Schramm was asked in an interview why he did not return from Washington to his previous faculty position in the Department of English at the University of Iowa: "I went to Harvard and worked with Alfred North Whitehead, did graduate work at Iowa with Carl Seashore and George Stoddard in psychology, then learned about statistics and quantitative research. Having such broad interests, it would have been hard coming back to Iowa and teaching the history of Chaucer" (McElwain 1991, p. 18).
Schramm did not want to return to his prewar position as workshop director in part because Norman Foerster, his former mentor while a doctoral student, was dean of the School of Letters, which included the Department of English and hence the workshop. In 1943, Foerster and Schramm's relationship had ruptured, and this split was a major reason that Schramm did not wish to return to his old post (Cartier 1988, p. 109).
Appointing Schramm as director of the School of Journalism solved another problem for the University of Iowa's administration; they wanted to keep him at Iowa. In fact, Schramm was offered a choice of administrative positions, including director of the University of Iowa libraries (Wilbers 1980, p. 12). Had he accepted that position, communication study might have grown out of library and information science. Instead, he fit his vision of communication study into the School of Journalism, thus shaping and constraining in important ways what the field of communication would later become.
Inauguration of the first communication Ph.D. program in a school of journalism, a professional training unit oriented to the print channel of communication, directly led to the division of the communication field into two subdisciplines: mass communication and interpersonal communication. Other doctoral programs in communication study were later launched in existing departments of speech, stressing interpersonal interaction. The communication Ph.D. program at Iowa could have begun in the Department of Speech and Dramatic Arts (now the Department of Communication Studies), devoted to studying interpersonal communication. This department was the first in the United States to study speech scientifically and had been awarding Ph.D. degrees since 1930, so Schramm might have initiated his idea for a doctoral program in communication study as part of an already-existing operation. He did not, and so Iowa was to have two different doctoral programs in communication. The Department of Communication Studies has awarded more than four hundred doctorates since 1930, and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication has awarded about two hundred such degrees since 1947. The potentially divisive situation of having two different academic units on the same university campus awarding Ph.D. degrees in communication is replicated on many university campuses today. This unusual arrangement stems from Wilbur Schramm at the University of Iowa in the 1940s.
An alternative would have been for Schramm to launch the first university unit in communication study in one of its parental disciplines like sociology, psychology, or political science, but at Iowa those departments already had Ph.D. programs. Additionally, Schramm had a doctorate in the humanities and was not acceptable as a faculty member in the other departments. So he launched the new discipline of communication in a school of journalism, although the doctoral curriculum that he created was interdisciplinary, drawing on courses in psychology, sociology, and political science.
Daddy Bleyer and the Bleyer Children
The teaching of journalism in U.S. universities began around 1900, although in 1869 Robert E. Lee, the former commander of the southern armies in the Civil War, had proposed college fellowships in journalism at Washington College (now Washington and Lee), when he was president of that institution. Several universities lay claim to founding the teaching of journalism. The first journalism course still extant was offered at the University of Kansas in 1903. The following year, Willard G. "Daddy" Bleyer at the University of Wisconsin taught a course on newspaper libel law to twenty-five students. The next year, he offered a yearlong course in journalism, in which forty students enrolled. Journalism at Wisconsin was thus launched. It grew into a department of journalism in 1912 (with Bleyer as chair) and a school of journalism in 1927. Thereafter, Wisconsin's school of journalism, with Bleyer as its director, became the key institution in producing professors of journalism in the United States. Bleyer recruited talented individuals who had newspaper experience and had been teaching journalism at the university level to teach journalism part time at Wisconsin while they pursued a Ph.D. degree in political science, sociology, or history, minoring in journalism by enrolling in doctoral seminars on public opinion and propaganda that Bleyer taught. The journalism minor doctoral program at Wisconsin was approved by the university administration in 1927 as part of the creation of the school of journalism.
Bleyer's strategy was to help schools of journalism survive in U.S. research universities by training a cadre of directors for these schools ("the Bleyer children") who had Ph.D. degrees in a social science and shared his vision of journalism as a social science. His students became the deans and directors of schools of journalism at Minnesota, Northwestern, Stanford, Illinois, and Michigan State, among others (Nafzinger 1970). This strategy was quite radical for its time, but it eventually was widely accepted. Professor Fred S. Siebert (1970) who served as an early director of the School of Journalism at Illinois and later as dean of the College of Communication at Michigan State, considered Daddy Bleyer the outstanding pioneer in journalism education: "He established the first real operating school of journalism, with [a]...research orientation at Wisconsin." Thus Wisconsin in the 1930s was the seed institution for journalism training based in the social sciences, and Daddy Bleyer was the pioneering figure.
Bleyer (1873-1935) was born into a family of newspaper people in Milwaukee. While an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin, majoring in English, he helped found the student newspaper, the Daily Cardinal, and served as its editor. He earned his bachelor's degree and then his master's in 1889, subsequently teaching high school English while doing newspaper work part-time. He returned to teach at the University of Wisconsin, earning his Ph.D. degree in English in 1904, when he began teaching the university's first course in journalism. Bleyer's academic title was soon changed to assistant professor of journalism (Sloan 1990, p. 77). Henry Ladd Smith (1992), who taught with Bleyer at Wisconsin for two years, described him as a very poor teacher: "In all my years in academia, he was the worst I've known at the lectern. It was obviously torture for him to stand against the blackboard wall, facing the volley of a hundred pairs of drooping eyelids. He sponged his dripping face at regular intervals. But his seminars were well worth the experience. Dull, yes, but respected." Daddy Bleyer was "dry as dust" in the classrooms, one of his students said (Nelson 1987, p. 5).
Bleyer pioneered in promoting journalism as a legitimate university discipline, with emphasis on teaching journalism as a social science rather than as a vocational subject. He believed that U.S. democracy could be improved through a more responsible press, staffed by newspeople trained so that they not only knew how to write the news but also could understand the society whose events they were reporting. Further, Bleyer thought that journalism could not survive in research universities like Wisconsin if it were just vocational training. Journalism education had to gain academic respectability. Bleyer was a missionary for his journalism-as-social-science point of view, working through professional journalism associations and training a cadre of journalism professors. He wrote journalism textbooks that defined the field of journalism: The Profession of Journalism (1910), Newspaper Writing and Editing (1913), Types of Newswriting (1916), How to Write Special Feature Articles (1920), and Main Currents in the History of American Journalism (1927). Along with Waiter Williams, dean of the more vocationally oriented school of journalism at the University of Missouri, Bleyer is considered the founding father of journalism education (Emery and McKerns 1987). Bleyer's vision of journalism education has had a lasting influence on the field, even though he is now fifty-eight years gone.
Bleyer's vision of journalism consisted of three components. First was a four-year undergraduate curriculum comprised of one-fourth journalism courses and three-fourths classes in the social sciences and humanities. Daddy Bleyer's journalism curriculum at the University of Wisconsin became "the basic command of accreditation" (Nelson 1987, p. 5) and was eventually accepted by most U.S. schools of journalism. Second, Bleyer conducted social science research on problems that he felt could improve the quality of newspapers and also provide a more adequate knowledge base for journalism teaching. For example, he carried out a newspaper readership survey in Madison in 1.928 in order to determine the effects of newspapers on their readers. Finally, in 1922, he initiated a graduate seminar in public opinion, taught in the Department (later School) of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin, which centered on Walter Lippmann's (1922) important book, Public Opinion. In 1927, Bleyer obtained the approval of the graduate school at Wisconsin to offer a Ph.D. degree in political science, sociology, or history, with a minor in journalism. Bleyer's philosophy was of "a well-organized four-year course of study in preparation for journalism in which required and elective courses in history, economics, government and politics, sociology, psychology, science, and literature are being pursued at the same time that students are taking courses in journalism, [which] gives purpose and direction to the student's work and shows him what these other studies mean in relation to the life and work of the world." Some decades later, in the 1940s, when the accreditation of journalism schools got underway, Bleyer's vision of the ideal journalism curriculum became the standard for accrediting schools of journalism.
The first Ph.D. degree granted in the Wisconsin program of study was in 1929 to Ralph D. Casey, who had come to Madison after several years of newspaper experience and after teaching journalism at several universities. After earning his Ph.D. degree in political science with a minor in journalism, Casey moved to the University of' Minnesota, where he became director of the journalism school in 1930. With Ralph O. Nafziger, Casey established a research division at Minnesota in 1944, the first of its kind. Two other "Bleyer children" followed in Casey's footsteps: Chilton R. ("Chick") Bush and Nafziger. Like Casey, both had newspaper and journalism teaching experience and then came to Wisconsin, where they earned Ph.D. degrees in political science with a journalism minor (in 1935 and 1936, respectively), while teaching parttime in the School of Journalism. Nafziger then taught at Minnesota in the School of Journalism for fifteen years (except for the World War II years, which he spent in Washington, D.C.). Chick Bush followed a similar career path to that of Nafziger, except that he devoted a year of his doctoral study to enrolling in political science at the University of Chicago. After earning his Ph.D. degree, Bush went from Wisconsin to Stanford, where he served as head of the department of communication and journalism from 1934 until his retirement in 1961. Bleyer's purpose in establishing the doctoral program at Wisconsin was to train a cadre of journalism professors with competence in the social science aspects of communication.
Daddy Bleyer was a strong critic of certain newspaper policies, particularly sensationalism. He also badgered newspaper owners and publishers to pay higher salaries to journalists. Bleyer had progressive gender attitudes for his day, encouraging women to study.journalism. He was the only male elected to membership in the women's national journalism honorary. Bleyer was a brave man who on one occasion stood up to the president of the University of Wisconsin, in defense of a student journalist who had written a critical but accurate article in the Daily Cardinal.
Daddy Bleyer was in an advantageous position to promote his notion of the social sciences in undergraduate journalism training. As the informal founder of journalism education in U.S. universities, he helped create the American Association of Teachers of Journalism (AATJ) in 1912 and served as its first president. He chaired for several years the curriculum committee of the Association of American Schools and Departments of Journalism (AASDJ), the organization of administrators of journalism schools, through which he influenced the journalism curricula of other universities.
Bleyer was a strong promoter of research on.journalism problems. He chaired the research committee of the AATJ during the late 1920s and regularly presented papers at the annual conferences that reported his research findings or outlined needed research topics. Bleyer's overall strategy was to help journalism schools survive by remaking them in a more scholarly direction, including an increased emphasis on research.
rThe general idea of the social sciences foundation for journalism major did not originate with Bleyer. Where did he get his vision? Bleyer wrote in 1934, "This seems to have been the first attempt to carry out Pulitzer's and President Eliot's proposals for combining instruction in social sciences with that in journalism for the purpose of giving students broad background and some technical training in journalism" (Ross 1957), Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911), a Hungarian eémigreé, had launched his newspaper empire with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and grew it into a major newspaper chain whose flagship was the New York World. The World was known for its sensationalistic, yellow journalism press wars with William Randolph Hearst's newspaper chain, and one would not then associate Pulitzer's name with serious journalism. But in 1892 Pulitzer approached President Low of Columbia University with an offer to endow a school of journalism. He was initially rebuffed at Columbia and took up the matter with President Charles W. Eliot of Harvard, who drew up a program for the teaching of journalism. Out of their discussions, Eliot and Pulitzer proposed a curriculum for a school of journalism that stressed courses in the social sciences and humanities, complemented by courses in journalistic skills. Harvard did not get the Pulitzer School of Journalism (it went to Columbia after all, in 1912), but the journalism curriculum that Pulitzer and Eliot proposed became Daddy Bleyer's model at Wisconsin (although not at Columbia, where the curriculum is heavily professional and vocational). Pulitzer gave Columbia $2 million for a new building for journalism, student fellowships, and for the Pulitzer Prizes for meritorious journalistic and literary achievements (Bleyer 1934).
Most newspaper editors of the day ridiculed Pulitzer's proposal for a school of journalism. He responded with an article in the North American Review (Pulitzer 1904) in which he explained that the objective of the school of journalism was "to make better journalists, who will make better newspapers, which will better serve the public....My hope is that this College of Journalism will raise the standard of the editorial profession....I wish to begin a movement that will raise journalism to the rank of a learned profession" (Pulitzer 1904).
Iowa School of Journalism
The University of Iowa began teaching journalism in the early 1900s, and the School of Journalism was established in 1924. One of the early journalism instructors at Iowa was George H. ("Ted") Gallup (19021984). He grew up in the county seat town of Jefferson, in western Iowa. As a high school boy, Gallup got a share of the profits from the six cows that he milked on his father's farm. He was also captain of his school's football and basketball teams, until Jefferson High School decided to drop sports when the coach was drafted into military service in World War I. Gallup told the school administrators that he would outfit the athletic teams in uniforms and also serve as the coach. "The only stipulation was that I got to keep the gate receipts at the games. They agreed," remembered Gallup (McElwain 1991, p. 1). Even at an early age, Gallup was very enterprising.
Gallup earned his B.A. degree at Iowa in 1923, his M.A. in 1925, and his Ph.D. in psychology in 1928, with a dissertation entitled "An Objective Method for Determining Reader Interest in the Content of a Newspaper." From 1924 to 1929, Gallup taught journalism courses at Iowa in news editing, copyreading, advertising, and magazine writing. Meanwhile, he worked out the basic idea of drawing a sample of survey respondents from a large population and then generalizing the research results. His specialty was studying newspaper audiences. While teaching at Iowa, Gallup founded Quill and Scroll Society, the international honorary society for high school journalists. Years later, long after Gallup had moved to New York and established the American Institute of Public Opinion (commonly called the Gallup Poll), the Quill and Scroll Foundation established a chaired professorship at Iowa named in his honor, the George H. Gallup Professorship in Journalism (McElwain 1991, p. 4). Gallup was a key founder of the field of polling research, and in the eyes of the American public, the words Gallup and poll are essentially synonymous. (In fact, gallup is the Finnish word for a poll.)
From 1927 to 1942, the director of the School of Journalism at Iowa was Frank Luther Mott. He grew up in a small-town Iowa newspaper family, earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University, and then came back to Iowa City to teach journalism and earned a Pulitzer Prize in history for his 1939 book, History of American Magazines. Mott organized the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Speakers, a behind-closed-doors drinking club (illegal during prohibition.) that provided postlecture relaxation for noted speakers whom Mort had persuaded to travel to Iowa City: Robert Frost, e. e. cummings, Carl Sandburg, Henry Wallace, Lincoln Steffens, and Stephen Vincent Benet. Wilbur Schramm was one of the sixteen regular members of the society, which gloried in its ability to bring outstanding public figures to Iowa City.
Directing the Journalism School
When Frank Luther Mott resigned as director of the journalism school at Iowa in May 1942 to become dean of journalism at Missouri, a search process was launched to find a replacement. Schramm was contacted about the position and was asked to describe his proposed journalism program. A month later, in September 1942, he sent: President Virgil Hancher "A Blueprint for a School of Journalism, with Fourteen Recommendations for the Iowa School." It stated: "I should like to see the kind of School of Journalism that would be not as weak as itself, but as strong as the university. Not a group of teachers and students sitting on the periphery of the university, playing with their toys, putting together the picture of who, what, where, and when in the first paragraph -- not that, but a School that would be in the very heart of the university, which would begin with the assumption that the students it wants to produce will be the students in the whole university best equipped to understand and talk about the world they live in" (Cartier 1988, p. 246). This visionary statement reflected in part the perspectives on human communication that Schrarnm had absorbed from his wartime associates on the banks of the Potomac. It was not a vocational-type vision of journalism training but rather called for a Bleyer-style curriculum that would include a minimum of courses in journalism and a maximum of courses in the social sciences and humanities.
Schramm's blueprint was evidently helpful; the university administration offered the position to him in March 1943 (Oukrop 1965, p. 55). Although Schramm had only several years of part-time newspaper experience, he had considerable personal charm and proved administrative experience in helping establish the Iowa Writers' Workshop and heading the Education Division of the OFF/OWI. He was 35 years old.
Schramm's blueprint included a plan for the Ph.D. degree in mass communication and for a communication research center. His vision for communication study at Iowa called for the School of Journalism to conduct research and to award doctoral degrees. Schramm went one big step beyond Bleyer: he established a doctoral program in mass communication, not in journalism as at Wisconsin. The doctoral curnculum at Iowa included courses taught in the journalism school in communication theory, research methods, public: opinion, propaganda analysis, and other social scientific topics, plus courses outside the school in psychology, sociology, and political science to buttress the curriculum. The idea of a school of journalism's giving a Ph.D. degree was new at the time. The University of Missouri had awarded the first Ph.D. in journalism in 1934, but only a couple of these degrees had been earned by 1943 (Oukrop 1965, p. 140). The first two Ph.D.s in mass communication were awarded at Iowa a year after Schramm left for Illinois, in August 1948, to Charles E. Swanson and Donald D. Jackson. Swanson was recruited to the new doctoral program by Wilbur Schramm while they were playing baseball on the campus down by the Iowa River one afternoon (McElwain 1991, p. 219). Swanson was working on his master's in the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the time. Schramm convinced him to test the new waters of a mass communication doctorate.
Notice that the new mass communication schools in the 1940s and 1950s were not located in the IW League universities or in the other high-prestige universities like Chicago or MIT. These elite universities were the locations of the forerunners of the field of communication: the Chicago school and Harold D. Lasswell at the University of Chicago; Paul F. Lazarsfeld at Columbia University; Kurt Lewin, Norbert Wiener, and Claude E. Shannon at MIT; and Carl I. Hovland and Lasswell at Yale University. America's most prestigious universities conducted the first communication research, but they resisted founding organizational units to provide communication study. (They still do.) Instead, the first doctoral programs in mass communication were founded at the large land-grant universities in the Midwest: Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota and, a West Coast outlier, Stanford. These universities already had journalism schools, and doctoral programs in communication study were grafted on to these existing structures. (In later years, these schools of journalism typically added "and mass communication" to their names.) Not accidentally, the Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Stanford schools were all headed by Bleyer children. The only school of journalism in the Ivy League was at Columbia, thanks to the gift from Joseph Pulitzer. Iowa had a journalism school, and it had Schramm and his vision of communication study. Of course there were many other university schools of journalism that did not adopt the innovation of communication study until years later, and then only partially or halfheartedly, if at all. The innovator universities by that time had gained a big advantage in academic prestige from being first in the field. Today, Wisconsin, Stanford, Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa are still considered among the top university schools of mass communication in the United States.
Communication Research Institutes
The founding of the doctoral programs in mass communication -- at Iowa in 1943, at Illinois tn 1947, at Wisconsin in 1950, at Minnesota in 1951, and at Stanford in 1952 -- was usually followed in each case by the founding of a communication research institute, each patterned loosely after Paul F. Lazarsfeld's Bureau of Applied Social Research at Columbia University (which was still called the Radio Research Project in 1943):
* The Research Division in the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism, founded by Ralph Casey and Ralph O. Nafziger in 1944 on Nafziger's return from OFF/OWl work. This was the first communication research institute in a school of journalism in the United States.
* Schramm's Bureau of Audience Research at the University of Iowa, founded in 1946.
* Schramm's 1947 Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois.
* The Mass Communications Research Center at the University of Wisconsin, founded in 1949 by Ralph O Nafziger when he moved to Madison from Minnesota.
* Chilton Bush's 1955 Institute for Communication Research at Stanford University, which was directed by Wilbur Schramm after 1957.
* The Communication Research Center at Michigan State University, founded by Paul J. Deutschmann (who had been a doctoral student of Schramm's at Stanford University) in 1956.
These research institutes provided apprentice-style training for communication doctoral students and made it easier to enlist other social science disciplines in communication research. Sociologists and psychologists would be less likely to participate in communication study if such research were headquartered in a school of journalism, which other social scientists were likely to perceive as irrelevant to their research interests. A communication research institute could serve as a source of prestige for a school of journalism that may have been looked down upon by professors in other fields because of the perceived trade school nature of journalism training.
In 1946, radio station WMT in Cedar Rapids provided the Iowa School of Journalism with a grant of $5,000 to establish the Bureau of Audience Research, whose mission was to conduct audience studies for newspapers and radio stations. Leslie G. Moeller was recruited by Schramm to head the new bureau. Moeller was an experienced newspaperman and president of the Iowa Press Association, the trade association of Iowa newspapers. The bureau was intended to provide survey results to media institutions about the size and composition of their audience. Later, the media organizations also wanted to know the effects of their messages on their audience. The first newspaper readership studies under Schramm's direction at the Iowa Bureau of Audience Research were funded by George Gallup and his employer, Young and Rubicam advertising agency in New York. Later newspaper readership surveys were funded by the Iowa Press Association.
A research institute can be more flexible than a university department. It is easier to launch than is a department, and it can facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration. Thus, the institutes were an ideal place in which to launch the new field of communication study. But their flexibility also made them vulnerable, and most of the institutes for communication research founded in Schramm's era are now gone or relatively unimportant (including the Institute for Communication Research at Stanford, undoubtedly the most famous of the institutes, which continues to exist but seems to serve little purpose).
SCHRAMM'S DEPARTURE TO ILLINOIS
In 1947, Wilbur Schramm left Iowa City for the University of Illinois, where he became director of the Institute of Communications Research, director of the University of Illinois Press, and assistant to the president of the university. These duties were greatly expanded in 1950 when the Division of Communication was created, with Schramm as dean. The division encompassed the School of Journalism and Communications, the Library School, the University Libraries, the university's radio and television broadcasting stations, the Alumni Office, University Publicity, University Extension, Athletic Department Publicity, Agricultural Information, Allerton House Conference Center, the University Press, and the Institute of Communications Research. Table talk at the faculty club commonly referred to Schramm as the "communication czar" of the university, or the "duke of Allerton" after the name of the conference center.
Why did Schramm move from Iowa to Illinois? Illinois president George Stoddard had known Schramm at Iowa, where Stoddard had been the director of the Iowa Child Welfare Research Station and, later, dean of the graduate school. He promised Schramm that he could establish a research institute and a doctoral degree-granting program in communication at Illinois. That was a strong pull. There was also some push for Schramm to leave Iowa. He had drawn up an enthusiastic plan for communication study at Iowa for the next ten years, asking for $130,000 a year in operating costs, a level of resources that the university administrators felt they could not afford (Oukrop 1965, p. 69). So in April 1947, Schramm resigned at Iowa, to take up his new duties at Illinois effective the following September. Schramm became assistant to President Stoddard, joining his "kitchen cabinet" at Illinois, and participating in a "let's-get-the-university-moving-again" thrust (Hudson 1977, p. 311).
Professor Leslie G. Moeller replaced Wilbur Schramm as director of the Iowa School of Journalism in 1947 and continued in this position for the next twenty years. Moeller was born in 1904, grew up on an Iowa farm, and majored in journalism at the University of Iowa (Moeller 1970). After two decades of newspaper work, while serving in the U.S. Navy, Moeller wrote to Schramm, at the Iowa journalism school, raising penetrating questions about the role of journalism in society. Their exchange of letters impressed Schramm, who offered Moeller a faculty job in 1946, along with the position as head of the Bureau of Newspaper Research in the Iowa School of Journalism.
Schramm played a key role in the history of communication study. He was the founder of the field, the first individual to identify himself as a communication scholar; he created the first academic degree-granting programs with communication in their name; and he trained the first generation of communication scholars. Schramm authorized the textbooks at Illinois that helped launch the new field. Schramm's mass communication program in the Iowa School of Journalism was a pilot project for the doctoral program and for the communication research institute that he founded in 1947 at Urbana. At Illinois, Wilbur Schramm set in motion the patterns of scholarly work in communication study that continue to this day.
Copyright © 1994 by Evertt M. Roges