Letter from the President

IAMCR Newsletter - January 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Greetings and best wishes for the new year and a new decade!

As you know, IAMCR is planning to meet at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, July 12-16, 2020. The conference will be hosted by the School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University; the School of Film and TV Arts, Xi’an Jiaotong – Liverpool University (XJTLU); and the Chinese Association for the History of Journalism and Mass Communication. (See the conference website).

The main host institution for the Beijing conference, Tsinghua University, is one of the world’s leading centres of learning. It heads the latest THES ranking of universities in Asia and is ranked 17th overall in the current QS World Rankings.

Over the last decade teaching and research in media and communications has expanded rapidly in China and across South East Asia. New departments and research centres have been launched and established centres expanded. As a consequence, there is now an extensive community of scholars from the region working across the range of disciplines and specializations that fall within IAMCR’s remit. An increasing number of scholars from the region have joined the Association and are actively contributing to our conferences.

For instance, scholars from mainland China and across Asia presented papers to a wide range of sessions in Madrid – including political economy, environment, gender, ethics, journalism, and audiences. They came from institutions located not only in major metropolitan nodes such as of Beijing and Shanghai, but also provincial centres. These contributions, however, represent only a very small sample of the research and theorizing currently being undertaken.

Considerations of cost prevent many Chinese and Asian scholars from travelling to international conferences. IAMCR has always recognized these financial constraints and has sought to address them by rotating conference venues around the globe to give participants in the country or region chosen a greater chance of attending. In pursuit of this commitment, in recent years the Association has held conferences in Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Northern Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, facilitating a wide diversity of participation. (See a list of all IAMCR conferences and their locations since the association’s founding in 1957).

But there are additional, arguably more important, rationales for rotation. Firstly, the word ‘International’ in the Association’s title is not simply a signal of geographical reach. It expresses a defining commitment to internationalizing research and debate by listening attentively to experiences and perspectives shaped by a wide range of circumstances.

Indeed, looking more carefully at IAMCR’s history shows that this has been our tradition. IAMCR was founded during the Cold War years and, in contrast to other academic associations in both the ‘East’ and the ‘West’, pursued a policy of active engagement holding conferences on both sides of the divide. These decisions, which were often condemned at the time, reaffirmed two animating principles that have always defined IAMCR’s activities: that the community of scholarship is indivisible and that addressing common problems requires a commitment to dialogue across political and intellectual borders.

In times of heightened political tension, supporting colleagues across the globe and engaging in active debate on shared challenges is more important than ever. Debate can only be productive, however, if it is grounded in discussion that is unconstrained.

Some of you may recall the historic debate (or “exchange of views”) between Ithiel de Sola Pool and Herbert Schiller at the Caracas, Venezuela, conference in 1980 – at the height of the “ferment in the field” period (later to be dubbed, “paradigm dialogues”), between critical and mainstream perspectives for the study of media/communication.

We may be directing more attention to such discussions during the coming year, which is not only the 40th anniversary of the Pool/Schiller debate, but also of the MacBride Commission report, “Many Voices, One World” – a document replete with negotiated and contested points of view and conclusions that was widely debated within IAMCR.

These debates continue, as represented/indicated by speakers at our Madrid conference and indicative of differences in current discussions of the role of media and communication in the emerging digital world. While the Madrid conference featured controversial plenaries, it also included a plethora of panel presentations focusing on a wide variety of themes and issues from different perspectives, and representing the high-quality research being done by our members. In addition, special sessions represented IAMCR’s expanding relationships with other international and regional organizations, including UNESCO, UNICEF, ECREA, ALAIC, and ICA. We look forward to this diversity being represented at the Beijing conference in July.

Meanwhile, IAMCR has directed more attention to its history lately with two specific initiatives.  The first is a project to scan and make available online the most essential documents from IAMCR's history. The IAMCR Digital Archive includes all circular letters sent by the presidents of the association from April 1965 to March 1990 and the printed newsletters produced since June 1990 (a couple of newsletters to be added). Also available are the first two printed bulletins from 1959 and 1960n and minutes of the General Assemblies and other statutory meetings from the founding conference (1957) to the 50th anniversary conference (2007).

In addition, the IAMCR Executive Board created a Commission on IAMCR History during the association's 2018 conference in Oregon. Jörg Becker (Germany; IAMCR member since 1976) was appointed head of the commission. Kaarle Nordenstreng (Finland) and Cees Hamelink (Netherlands), authors and editors of many of the texts currently found in the IAMCR history pages on the website, were also named as commission members. The commission's mandate includes the a range of tasks that will maintain and initiate projects related to the Association’s history.

These and many other projects are moving ahead and some are presented in this newsletter. I invite you to become familiar with these activities and join with us in building the organization and sharing our work.

Again, best wishes for the coming year!

Janet Wasko, President

Note: Thanks to Graham Murdock for contributions to this text.