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Film & History, Vol. XXI, Nos. 2 & 3, 199141 Introduction Lawrence W. Lichty Critic John Leonard recently described Erik Barnouw as "the historian of broadcasting from whom the rest of us steal instead of doing our own research."1 As a tribute to his pioneering work, the Media Studies Project of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars held a conference on September 27, 1991, to discuss media history. The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is a presidential memorial that fosters scholarship and dialogue in the humanities and the social sciences. By bringing Fellows and Guest Scholars from around the world to Washington, encouraging discourse among disciplines and professions, and publishing the results of these activities, the Center hopes to enrich the quality of knowledge and debate in the nation's capital and throughout the world. Erik Barnouw was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in 1976 when he did much of the work on his book, The Sponsor. While still in Washington, at the Library of Congress, he participated in a number of other Center activities. The Media Studies Project was established in 1988 to encourage serious research on the role of the media. Operating with funds from private sources, it sponsors projects that examine electronic media, newspapers, films, magazines, and books, but with a special emphasis on news.2 The work of the Project is guided by the members of its Advisory Council: Peter Braestrup, Library of Congress; Philip S. Cook; Leo Bogart, New York University, Alan Brinkley, Columbia University, and William Chafe, Duke University.3 Our conference was organized by Douglas Gomery and Mary Ann Watson. We are all grateful to Traci Nagle, Program Assistant of the Media Studies Project, and the staff of the Wilson Center for their help. We very much appreciate the cooperation and help of John O'Connor, Greg Bush, and Kathy Fuller in seeing that some of this work reaches a larger audience. I would especially like to acknowledge Richard Barione for his extraordinary efforts in structuring and shepherding this issue from rough draft to completion. To begin our day, Chris Sterling and Kathryn Montgomery provided reflections on Erik Barnouw's contributions to media scholarship and public policy. Mr. Barnouw's books are the starting point for most scholars studying broadcasting, advertising and documentary film. Douglas Gomery, the Media Studies Project's Senior Researcher since its inception, provided a brief overview of the field as it has evolved, especially since the Lawrence W. Lichty is Professor of Radio, Television, and Film at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, and Director of the Media Studies Project. 42 Lawrence W. Lichty trilogy was published. The mark of Erik's trilogy is his own close relation with the industry's development. His own interviews and experience are primary sources. As Chris Sterling notes, Barnouw was among the first to make such extensive use of oral histories. We all know he laid the groundwork with his careful organization and illustration of the broad trends with precise, often firsthand, examples. That all who write any type of media history acknowledge Erik in their first footnote demonstrates the sweep, comprehensiveness, and especially the clarity of his work. There have been, and will continue to be, additions, amplifications and reinterpretations of media history. The works of Jannette Dates and Mary Ann Watson are illustrative of many studies of the last two decades that carefully help us define specific aspects of media history. In her paper, Mary Ann Watson presented an instructive and most interesting example of just how much we can learn about the media, and especially about our society, from a careful examination of a single program series. Jannette Dates reminded us how diverse broadcasting really is. So many of us, in our efforts to summarize extended periods of history, have concentrated on only a limited number of characters, programs, events and outside forces-leaving the picture incomplete. In both papers, of course, the secret ingredients are careful research and imaginative analysis.4 As Erik notes in the discussion of his own career which is presented here, many more sources of information are now available for historians. Major national and regional archives make radio and television programs available. Further, the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9922
Print ISSN
0360-3695
Pages
pp. 41-43
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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