The first decade as seen from Kraków, Poland

By Walery Pisarek

It all began with the conference on methods of journalists' training in Paris in April 1956, organized by UNESCO with the participation of representatives of 31 countries. It was chaired by the director of the Carleton College School of Journalism in Ottawa, Professor Wilfred Eggleston. After the conference of journalism teaching experts, a meeting of media researchers was held in a narrower circle.

Representatives of Czechoslovakia, France, Pakistan, Switzerland, the Federal Republic of Germany, Japan and Poland took part in it. An exchange of publications, drawing up a directory of all research units and schools of journalism in the world was postulated. "This Paris conference, called by UNESCO in April 1956 was the first worldwide meeting of media researchers and representatives of press practice as well as experts on journalistic staff training", wrote its Polish participant, Mieczyslaw Kafel.

A few months later, in December 1956, the International Conference of Media Researchers and Professors of Journalism Schools, organized by UNESCO, Institut Français de Presse and Université de Strasbourg, was held in Strasbourg. Delegations from 26 countries of Africa, Asia and Europe took part in it; the delegations from Czechoslovakia and Poland were again among them. As a marginal event of this conference, there was again a meeting of media researchers at which it was settled that an international association of journalism and media studies institutes would be established shortly, under the aegis of UNESCO and with its headquarters in Paris. The needs for an international bibliography of journalism studies, publications exchange, translations of literature on mass communication and drawing up a five-language dictionary of terms and notions of journalism and media were discussed.

In April 1957, a session of the UNESCO-appointed preparatory committee of the first conference of Association Internationale des Études et Recherches sur l'Information (AIERI) / International Association for Mass Communication Research (IAMCR) took place in Paris. Fernand Terrou (director of Institut Français de Presse, France), David Manning White (chairman of the Council on Research of Association for Education in Journalism, USA), Marcel Stijns (president of the International Federation of Journalists, Belgium), Mieczyslaw Kafel (director of the Journalism Institute of the University of Warsaw, Poland) and Jacques Kayser (France), appointed as the director of the Committee, participated in the session. The organizational committee set the following tasks for the future association:

  1. Facilitating exchange of experiences,
  2. Assistance in organization and development of research units,
  3. Cooperation with other related disciplines,
  4. Establishing a documentation centre.

It was decided that a constitutional assembly would be convened in October 1957. The representatives of Poland participated intensively in the organizational work of the future international association.


Finally, on December 18th and 19th 1957, the first AIERI/IAMCR conference took place in Paris. It was convened by this four-person preparatory committee (Terrou, White, Stijns, Kafel), created by UNESCO. The members of the Committee also took the managing positions in the newly elected authorities of the Association. Together with Fernand Terrou (chairman), his deputy Jacques Kayser, vice-chairmen Raymond B. Nixon and Jacques Bourquin as well as members: Marcel Stijns and Claude Bellanger, Mieczyslaw Kafel got into the Permanent Bureau of the Association. Fortunately for Professor Kafel and for the Polish mass communication studies, Vladimir Klimeš from the Charles University in Prague also joined the Executive Committee. If he hadn't been there, AIERI/IAMCR would probably have shared the fate of IPI as an organization closed to societies from the so-called countries of the Soviet bloc.

The situation changed radically only in 1966, when the Soviet Union representatives appeared at the 5th General Conference in Herceg Novi; one of them was the young dean of the University of Moscow Journalism Faculty, Yassen Zassoursky. Two years later, after elections in Pamplona (Spain), the representation of Central and Eastern European countries in the AIERI/IAMCR authorities greatly exceeded their research and teaching potential. Two (of four) Vice Presidents (Kafel and Zassoursky), Secretary General (Klimeš), a member of the Permanent Bureau (Marinovic from Yugoslavia), two Section chairmen (Dusiska from the Federal Republic of Germany and Tetelowska from Poland) and five members of the Executive Committee (Budzislawski from the Federal Republic of Germany, Osolnik from Yugoslavia, Berezhnoy from the Soviet Union, Topencharow from Bulgaria, Gabor from Hungary) hailed from these countries. Today, most of these countries are not institutionally represented in the AIERI/IAMCR bodies.

In 1957, it was probably due to the specificity of these countries, with their centrally planned "research and development policy and centralized foreign exchange policy (fees in foreign currency!), that a recommendation was made at the Paris conference so that national AIERI/IAMCR committees, putting together all media researchers and journalism lecturers, were to be appointed in every country. The conception of national committees did not suit everyone in the socialist countries. It found supporters in research and teaching institutions of the capital cities, as it strengthened their domestic domination and enhanced their prestige abroad. Provincial institutions were reluctant to it, since they had ambitions of directly establishing their international contacts. In the 50's in Poland, the Press Research Centre in Cracow was among these "ambitious provincial institutions". Let me quote here Raymond B. Nixon, who wrote after his round-the-world study tour:

"Poland, in the summer of 1957, was a revelation to this visitor. The journalists and scholars connected with the Press Research Institute in Cracow were quite busy with projects and eager to talk about their problems. The best evidence of the quality of their work is to be found in their new journal, Kwartalnik Prasoznawczy (Polish Journal of Press Research) [...], which now publishes a foreign-language edition with articles in English, French, German and Russian. Some of the articles by Polish writers in this journal will compare favourably with the best that the journals of the West have to offer.

While the Polish Institute is financed by an annual grant from Prasa, the big Polish press cooperative, it has a close relation with the School of Journalism at the University of Warsaw. Its director and editor, Dr. Mieczyslaw Kafel, is professor of editorial technique in the university and a former dean of the journalism faculty. [...] Cracow has no school of journalism, but the journalists working part-time in the Institute's branch there co-operate with graduate students in sociology at the University of Cracow. These joint teams of journalists and students recently have completed some well-planned surveys of attitudes toward the media both in certain communities and among Polish intellectuals. [...]

The main value of the Press Institute's foreign-language journal to Westerners is that it opens a window upon the journalism research being done today not only in Poland but in other countries of the Russian bloc. [...] With relatively more freedom than these countries, Poland provides one of the best avenues for increased understanding between East and West."

Nixon's opinion about the intensive participation of Poland in the organizational activity of IAMCR was justified by the participation of Professor Kafel in subsequent meetings of the Permanent Bureau and Executive Committee Bureau, participation of Poles in courses (e.g. in Strasbourg Centre International d'Enseignement Supérieur du Journalisme) and conferences, activeness of the Bibliographical Section, chaired by Irena Tetelowska (until her tragic death in an air disaster on April 2nd, 1969) and involvement of the Polish members in realization of some flagship undertakings of the Association.

Incomparably more valuable were the benefits derived, thanks to the membership in IAMCR, by Polish specialists in press studies and Polish press studies as a whole. In order to appreciate them, one must be aware of the isolation of the Polish and generally entire Central and Eastern European science from the rest of the world. This state of isolation began for Poland in September 1939. Immediately after the war, there was still a short period of hope and delusions, after which several years (chiefly 1949-1955) of ruthless intellectual terror occurred. It was then, when in Poland, the homeland of Florian Znaniecki, sociology was crossed off from the university curricula and the information theory was called a "bourgeois pseudoscience. This system, as everybody knows, began to crumble soon after Stalin's death, to undergo a substantial restructuring under the influence of protests and social pressure. As the oldest of us probably remember, the years 1955-1957 brought a period of thaw. In the societies under totalitarian rule, a mechanism of exploiting every broadening of the freedom margin evolves, a mechanism typical of polar flora which takes advantage of every sunbeam. In such an atmosphere, the Press Research Laboratory was founded in 1955 in Warsaw and the Press Research Centre was established in Cracow a year later.

In about the same period, the Centre for Journalists' Training in Strasbourg and Institute for the Studies on Journalism in Bratislava were established, while in Amsterdam Gazette was launched, in Germany Publizistik and in Cracow Zeszyty Prasoznawcze.

It's easy to establish a unit for mass communication research in such a climate of thaw and unrest. A feat was to maintain it when the favorable climate ended. It was exactly the connections of both the Centre and Zeszyty Prasoznawcze with IAMCR that played a very important role in keeping them alive. They resulted in study trips to Paris, Strasburg, Vevey, Vienna, Stockholm… and visits from famous media researchers to Poland. As early as 1956 (and then in 1958) Jacques Kayser was in Warsaw and Cracow (and he contaminated the Press Research Centre with trust in content analysis). In the next two or three years, Walter Hagemann (still from Münster), Jacques Leauté, Raymond B. Nixon, Ithiel de Sola Pool, among others, delivered lectures in Cracow as the guests of PRC; a few years later, Jacques Bourquin and still later, James Halloran, Herbert Schiller and George Gerbner.


According to an assessment of the time: "The visits of the guests from abroad were mutually profitable: they enabled the Polish press researchers to get into touch with Western European and American science and drew the foreign researchers' attention to the specific and sometimes complicated problems of journalism in Eastern Europe".

Cooperation with the Western European and American research and teaching institutions was usually an efficient protection against the consequences of political authorities' potentially negative assessment in the countries of the Soviet domination zone and other authoritarian countries. Of course, only if this cooperation was associated with signs of recognition. The party, in spite of the whole official phraseology about the priority of unshaken friendship with brotherly socialist countries, was very sensitive to Western opinions on Poland. And the posts in the authorities of international organizations, entrusted to Poles, publications in academic journals and other prestigious titles, as well as participation in international research projects were regarded as the signs of approval for the Polish participation in foreign undertakings. Party officials would reluctantly decide on liquidation of an institution which enjoyed worldwide recognition.

AIERI/IAMCR made a key contribution to revival of native traditions of press research in Poland, to advance of modern (yes, not yet postmodern) thought of social communication and above all to the development of comprehensive studies and research on mass communication in their three main approaches: neo-positivist, cultural and critical. AIERI/IAMCR had a substantial influence on the reforms and improvement of journalists' training system, not only in Poland after 1956 but also in Czechoslovakia and Hungary at that time. AIERI/IAMCR favoured regarding social communication research as an element of politics in the field of media. AIERI/IAMCR created, for the Polish and generally Central European research and teaching institutions in the field of mass communication and journalism, connections with similar institutions from all over the world. Thanks to these connections, one of the most internationalized libraries specializing in the field of mass communication in this region of Europe could be established in Cracow.

Walery Pisarek
Press Research Centre, Jagiellonian University, Kraków