David H. Weaver · 2012In the 100 years that journalism has been taught at Indiana University, there has been one distinguished professor.
That would be David H. Weaver, 65, who retired in December and assumed professor emeritus status after more than 37 years of teaching and research.
The “hugely significant” 2011 honor “means that journalism has won a seat at the academic table,” according to Fort Wayne Journal Gazette Editor Craig Klugman, a friend and colleague of Weaver’s (and a member of the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame).
“I’m very pleased about this, not just for myself but also for the school,” said Weaver. “It’s a sign of recognition from Indiana University that journalism is a legitimate field that belongs in a research university.”
Other Weaver firsts include:
• In 1988 he became the first Roy W. Howard Professor in Journalism and Mass Communication Research at IU’s Bloomington campus. The chair is named for the Howard in Scripps-Howard.
• In 2009 he became the first IU recipient of the lifetime research award given by the national Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Weaver was president of AEJMC in 1987-88 and the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research in 1986-87. He is a fellow of the International Communication Association.
Such recognition is no surprise to those who have worked with him during his illustrious career. Says IU School of Journalism Dean Brad Hamm: “… Dave’s unique standing (indicated by the AEJMC Deutschmann Award for research excellence, given to only about 20 people in our field in its history), along with top national book awards (SPJ) for the American Journalist studies, provided the clear justification” for him being named a distinguished professor.
Weaver’s 27-page curriculum vitae details awards, 13 books and numerous articles about journalists, the agenda-setting role of media, voter learning in political campaigns, newspaper readership, foreign news coverage and journalism education. Read it and you will get a peek into the man’s prodigious work ethic, curiosity and contributions “not only to the IU’s School of Journalism, but also to the industry and to research and study of journalism,” Klugman said.
The vitae and more make this Hoosier native a worthy inductee into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.
Most prominent is his work in agenda setting, which now is replicated throughout the world. An IU release announcing that Weaver was ending his teaching career, but continuing his research, said the work is an “exploration of media effects on the public as well as influences on the media agenda such as news sources, other news media, journalist norms and traditions, unexpected events and media audiences.”
His other focus centers on journalists and journalism, which has resulted in the 1982, 1992 and 2002 American Journalist series, co-authored mainly with his mentor, IU professor emeritus G. Cleveland Wilhoit.
The series involves asking nearly 1,500 journalists basically the same questions from year to year and presenting the findings.
Weaver’s latest book is “an edited book, with professor Lars Willnat, titled The Global Journalist in the 21st Century, that includes studies of journalists from more than 30 different countries,” Weaver said. “Each chapter is written by a scholar living and working in the country where the study took place.”
Weaver said he will play a secondary role in a 2012 American Journalist study, if funding is acquired.
Of the future of journalists and journalism, Weaver said, “I’m optimistic that the skills and knowledge of good journalists will always be in demand, regardless of how the news is delivered, but I’m also concerned about the economics of journalism at this very challenging time for many traditional news organizations. I hope that some way can be found to better pay for high quality journalism in this Internet Age.”
Weaver was born in Hammond in December 1946 to Josephine and David Weaver. She graduated from the University of Chicago and taught French in junior high and high school. He was an insurance inspector.
The oldest of four children, Weaver became interested in journalism in junior high, when he carried papers for The Hammond Times, and at Hammond High School, when several teachers encouraged his writing. He graduated in 1964 and headed to Bloomington.
Says Weaver: “My interest in journalism was honed and heightened when I became a journalism major at IU and worked on the Indiana Daily Student as a campus reporter, copy editor and assistant editor"; the Gary Post-Tribune; Bloomington Courier-Tribune and the Chapel Hill (N.C.) newspaper.
He also knew he did not want more than summer work at Inland Steel Company in Northwest Indiana. And he wanted to make his mother, who died when he was a senior at IU, proud.
Writing about his protégé’s early days for an IU faculty retirement book, Wilhoit said one of Weaver’s IDS stories “about a cross burning by the Ku Klux Klan – in which he identified Klan leaders – led to a visit to the IDS newsroom by them in search of David.
“Although he was seated nearby, the editor alertly told them no one knew where David was. Fortunately, no threats were ever made, but the incident gave David an intense realization of the power and importance of journalism and fired his desire to learn more about it.”
He graduated in 1968 and immediately began a master thesis project as Wilhoit’s first research assistant. Building on earlier work by Wilhoit and Joseph Ward, Weaver said his was a study of “news magazine coverage of U.S. senators that tried to predict which senators would get the most and least news coverage from factors such as state size, seniority, committee assignments, staff size and activity, political leanings, and security of a Senate seat.”
Upon its completion in October 1969, Weaver entered the U.S. Army as part of his ROTC obligation as a second lieutenant in the Signal Corps, serving at Fort Bragg, N.C., and Long Binh, South Vietnam, as an information officer and adjutant. He was discharged honorably in the summer of 1971 with two Bronze Stars and several other medals.
Then, again with encouragement from Wilhoit, Weaver began the doctoral program in mass communication at Wilhoit’s alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in the fall of 1971.
His doctoral dissertation was a study of predictors of press freedom in 137 different countries from 1950 to 1966, and was directed by professor Donald Shaw, who was also Hamm’s dissertation director. With a doctorate in hand, he was actively recruited by several universities, but chose to return to Bloomington.
It didn’t take long for Weaver’s academic star to shine. In 1983, “even before publication of the first book in the American Journalist series, he won the prestigious AEJMC Krieghbaum Under-40 award,” Wilhoit said.
“Weaver is known internationally and he has been a clear leader for decades as a top scholar in our field,” Hamm said. “He has an incredible record both in quality and quantity, and he has worked with scholars and students throughout the world.”
In 2008, he returned to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a distinguished visiting professor. In 2009, he was a visiting professor at National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan.
But Bloomington is home. He and wife Gail (they met at IU), have a son, Quinn, a software engineer in the San Francisco Bay area, and a daughter, Lesley, who is finishing a doctorate in medical anthropology at Emory University, Atlanta. They are first-time grandparents to Lesley’s daughter Annie, born in August.
Now removed from the demands of teaching, Weaver plans to spend some time perfecting his guitar skills. “I play mostly folk music, especially the music of Bob Dylan, but also some blues and early folk-rock and rock of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Otis Redding and others.”
About Indiana and IU, Weaver said: “I am proud to be a native Hoosier, and I consider myself very lucky to have been able to spend my entire career at Indiana University. I have received great support from my deans, fellow faculty members, students, the Roy Howard family, and Indiana journalists such as Craig Klugman and Ray Moscowitz for nearly 38 years as a faculty member. It has been a privilege to have spent my career at Indiana University and in the state of Indiana during all these years.”
By Sarah O. Wilson, publisher, The Rochester Sentinel