I was asked as part of an assignment to answer this question:
What do you view as the “obligations of research” in the field of mass communication? Is it, as Wilbur Schramm suggests, to help the media industry answer questions and address problems?
Here’s how I answered:
I believe my obligation as a mass communication researcher is to future generations of researchers and faculty. Although Schramm’s intent to benefit the media industry is honorable, I don’t believe it is practical, nor has it been practical, for many years. Perhaps if one were to connect enough dots, then sure, at some point the research we produce will have professional and industrial applications. As it stands, however – and please keep in mind I am burdening my own argument with personal experience – active members of the media industry have little to no interest in what researchers are doing. “Give me a good reporter” and “find a way to monetize our website” – those concerns are more immediate. We all know that mass communication research – or most research for that matter – does not deal in the immediate.
How a mass communication researcher can best benefit the media industry is through massive long-term change. Research will alter how mass communication is approached by future generations of students and faculty, who in turn will influence future generations of students who go on to work in the media industry. The attitudes and professional approaches of future generations of media professionals will in turn shift the industry. But it won’t be quick. Academic research is slow and deliberate to ensure accuracy and transferability; the media industry at times struggles to think more than a week ahead of where it currently stands.
There are exceptions. The worlds of mass communication and real-time media needs occasionally collide. The work of Jay Rosen and Robert W. McChesney show that. But, again, those are exceptions and cannot be applied as rules.