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Last modified: Wednesday, March 30, 2011

David H. Weaver

Distinguished Professor

Distinguished Professor and Roy W. Howard Professor of Journalism
School of Journalism
University Graduate School
Indiana University Bloomington
Appointed to IU faculty, 1974
A.B., Indiana University, 1968
M.A., Indiana University, 1969
Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1974

When reviewing the arc of their careers, most scholars are pleased to have influenced one field of research in a significant way. David Weaver has made his mark on not one but two fields of study within journalism—and some say he's changed the world.

"Dr. Weaver's studies are fundamental readings in the basic and advanced research classes in our field throughout Asia, Europe, and the United States," says Bradley J. Hamm, dean of the IU School of Journalism. "Nearly all of his 12 books are influential still today." To illustrate this point, Dean Hamm recounts a 2007 trip the pair took to Korea to speak to audiences at universities there: "Throughout the week, students and scholars in Korea met with Dr. Weaver and intelligently discussed with him journalism research over the past four decades. The reason: all of the Korean graduate students and professors had studied his scholarship."

Weaver first made a name for himself as one of three major researchers in the field called agenda setting, "which posits that media coverage of an issue can, under the right circumstances, lead publics to give that issue an increased level of importance," writes Sharon Dunwoody, one of Weaver's former graduate students and now the Evjue-Bascom Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While a doctoral student at Chapel Hill, Weaver worked closely with the founders of this agenda-setting concept, Professors Max McCombs and Don Shaw, and is now considered an essential partner in the development of the idea over four decades.

The second area of research for which Weaver has won wide acclaim is his national "census" of American journalism that surveys the demographics and opinions of journalists. His seminal book, The American Journalist: A Portrait of U.S. News People and Their Work, co-authored with IU colleague Professor G. Cleveland Wilhoit, was published in 1986. Follow-up books were The American Journalist in the 1990s: U.S. News People at the End of an Era, published in 1996, and The American Journalist in the 21st Century: U.S. News People at the Dawn of a New Millennium, published in 2007. All three books were awarded the Sigma Delta Chi Distinguished Service Award for Research about Journalism.

Weaver's glimpse into the lives of journalists will have a lasting impact, according to Dunwoody. "Few occupations have benefited from such a sustained, thoughtful compilation of data," she says. "The information gathered has informed many studies of journalistic work . . . and it has also made Professor Weaver the top scholar in the United States in the midst of a growing global interest in journalistic work."

The top scholar, indeed. His list of publications befits someone considered a giant in two fields: Weaver has authored, co-authored, or edited 12 books and has written 48 book chapters, published two monographs, had 108 research articles published in refereed journals, presented 125 research papers at prestigious conferences around the world, and published 20 book reviews during his career. He has been on the editorial boards of 13 scholarly journals and has served as president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the field's premier association for faculty and scholars.

It's clear that Weaver's decades of scholarly research on the field of journalism and mass communication—and the people who work in it—have motivated scholars and professionals the world over.

Paul S. N. Lee, now dean of the faculty of social science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, recalls reading The American Journalist as a student in China more than 20 years ago. "His works inspired my colleagues and me so much that we set out to conduct a similar study on Hong Kong journalists in 1990 when the so-called '1997 Question' relating to the reversion of Hong Kong to China appeared in the media," he recalls. "Professor Weaver has influenced a whole generation of communication scholars worldwide."