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Raymond B. Nixon, President 1959-1964

From: Past, Present and Future: A collection of papers and letters from some members of the International Council, IAMCR 1980

The constituent assembly was held in Paris in December 1957 under the chairmanship of Jacques Bourquin, executive secretary of the French-language press association in Switzerland and lecturer at the University of Lausanne. The new Association’s announced purposes were quite similar to those found in the present constitution of IAMCR except for those tasks which subsequently were assigned by Unesco to other bodies — for example, the international bibliographical exchange, which is in itself an enormous and complex undertaking. The Paris meeting also elected provisional officers, including Professor Terrou as president; Jacques Kayser, his deputy director at the French Press Institute, as deputy president; and Raymond B. Nixon of the University of Minnesota, U.S.A., as vice president. (Incidentally, I was not present at the meeting and did not learn of my election until later!)

The Executive Bureau of the Association convened in Paris for the first time in the spring of 1958. It was decided then to hold the first General Assembly at Milan in October 1959. At that time the permanent statutes were adopted and the first regular slate of officers were elected. These were as follows: President, Raymond B. Nixon, Professor of Journalism, University of Minnesota, U.S.A.; secretary-general, Fernand Terrou, and deputy secretary-general, Jacques Kayser, University of Paris. Vice presidents: Jacques Bourquin, lecturer in the University of Lausanne, Switzerland; Mieczyslaw Kafel, Professor in the University of Warsaw, Poland. Additional members of the Executive Bureau: Claude Bellanger, secretary-general of the International Federation of Newspaper Editors and Publishers, and editor of Parisien Libere, Paris; Marcel Stijns, president of the International Federation of Journalists and editor of Het Laatste Nieuws, Brussels, Belgium; Francesco Fattorello, director of the Institute of Mass Communication, University of Rome, Italy; and Martin Loeffler, representing the newly formed Society for Mass Communication Studies in West Germany. Members of the still larger Executive Committee included all the foregoing and also Roger Clausse, Belgium; Domenico de Gregorio, Italy; Danton Jobim, Brazil; Abdus Salam Khurshid, Pakistan; Vladimir Klimes, Czechoslovakia; Nell Morrisson, Canada; O.W. Riegel, United States; R.J.E. Silvey and E.B. Simpson, United Kingdom; Jean Tardieu, France.

As the list of officers indicates, most of the Association’s early leaders were journalism teachers and professional journalists, with a definite orientation toward the print media. Unesco had made it clear, however, that it wished the organization to embrace other media as well. Moreover, since most of the founding members were from Europe, and European research in journalism up to that point had been predominantly historical, political and legal, they tended to define “mass communication research” as they had known it. Social, psychological, marketing and technological research were represented inadequately, if at all. And while the cinema and broadcasting fields were represented on the Executive Committee by two members, both soon lost interest and withdrew because of the meager attention shown to their fields.

As provisional vice president, I made some efforts to remedy this situation. For example, in planning the program of the Milan General Assembly, I had suggested as a principal speaker Dr. Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, whose survey research organization was known as the “Gallup Poll” of Germany. The Executive Committee also had enlisted the cooperation of the International Federation of Newspaper Editors and Publishers and the International Film and Television Council to present a joint program upon the compared effects of the major means of communication.

Two of my main goals, both as provisional vice president and later as president, were to widen geographical representation in the Association and to enroll more communication researchers from other disciplines. Western Europe, except for the United Kingdom, was fairly well represented in the early meetings, but only Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia had taken part from Eastern Europe. Consequently, in the summer of 1959 I visited the Soviet Union and all the other socialist countries where any communication research was believed to be under way. There were interested organizations or individuals in every country, but those without IAMCR connections hesitated to apply for membership, usually saying that it would be necessary to go through “official channels”. I even talked with the Assistant Minister of Culture in the Soviet Union but could obtain only a non-committal reply; it was seven years later before the USSR was represented on our rolls. Today that country and all the socialist states of East Europe, except Albania, are quite active.

Upon assuming the presidency in January 1960 I wrote personal letters to many communication researchers whom I knew in other disciplines, enlisting their support. One of the Americans who became active at that time was Sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld, to whom many referred as the “father of communication research”.

During my first year in office, I was impressed increasingly by the need for a printed bulletin of high quality and wide appeal, and for a secretariat capable of communicating with members and potential members on a world-wide scale. Since IAMCR’s funds were far too small to enable it to fill this need on its own, I decided that the only answer was to attach our Secretariat and Editorial Office to some established research center with its own scholarly journal. The Institute of Press Science at the University of Amsterdam, with its international journal Gazette, appeared to offer the best possibility. Even though the IAMCR Statutes provided that the “legal seat” of the Association should be in Paris, there seemed to be no reason why secretarial and editorial functions could not be carried on elsewhere.

Consequently, in the spring of 1961 I went to the meeting of the IAMCR Bureau in Paris with a recommendation that Dr. Maarten Rooy, director of the Amsterdam Institute, be nominated as the next Secretary-General, and that Gazette become the official journal of the Association. Naturally, this aroused strong opposition from most of our French members, but a majority of the Bureau finally agreed. The next General Assembly at Vevey, Switzerland, in June 1961, approved the changes by a vote of 76 for, one against, and 17 abstaining.

Dr. Rooy took over the office of Secretary-General in the summer of 1961. The first issue of the IAMCR Bulletin under his editorship appeared in October 1962 as a supplement to Gazette. This arrangement had been worked out to satisfy those members from East European countries who felt that Gazette was too pro-Western in policy. The Editorial Board of Gazette was enlarged, however, to include the chairman of each section of IAMCR. Both Gazette and the Bulletin supplement were sent without extra charge to all IAMCR members.

Under the Statutes, the next biennial General Assembly should have been held in 1963. The Executive Bureau tentatively accepted an invitation to meet in Holland, but when it was learned that Holland could not extend visas to some of our East European members, it was decided to postpone the Assembly until June 1964. Moreover, arrangements were made to hold the meeting in Vienna, Austria, where the visa problem did not exist.

The Vienna Assembly, in my opinion, was the most successful held up to that point. More countries were represented in the attendance than ever before, and the general program covered more areas of research interest. With the election of Jacques Bourquin as the next president, I felt that the future of IAMCR was assured. He had been a mainstay of the organization since its founding, and a patient peacemaker in the many difficulties that had arisen. When Maarten Rooy found it necessary to relinquish his office, Bourquin took over the Secretariat de facto and began mimeographing a regular Presidential Newsletter which took the place of the printed Bulletin without bankrupting the Association. Because of him, the future of IAMCR seemed assured.

The growth of IAMCR, from only about 30 countries and 100 individuals in 1959 to some 60 countries and 1,000 members in 1979, has exceeded the expectations of most of its early sponsors. I am confident that a period of even more rapid growth lies ahead, and that in an era of rapid technological and social change, the tasks in mass communication research will become even more challenging.