Social Research in Communication and Law


Jeremy Cohen & Timothy Gleason

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
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  • The SAGE CommText Series

    Series Editor:


    Gannett Center for Media Studies, Columbia University

    Founding Editor: F. GERALD KLINE, late of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Minnesota

    Founding Associate Editor: SUSAN H. EVANS, Annenberg School of Communications, University of Southern California

    The SAGE CommText series brings the substance of mass communication scholarship to student audiences by blending syntheses of current research with applied ideas in concise, moderately priced volumes. Designed for use both as supplementary readings and as “modules” with which the teacher can “create” a new text, the SAGE CommTexts give students a conceptual map of the field of communication and media research. Some books examine topical areas and issues; others discuss the implications of particular media; still others treat methods and tools used by communication scholars. Written by leading researchers with the student in mind, the SAGE CommTexts provide teachers in communication and journalism with solid supplementary materials.

    Available in this series:

    • TELEVISION IN AMERICA George Comstock
    • COMMUNICATION HISTORY John D Stevens and Hazel Dicken Garcia
    • PRIME-TIME TELEVISION Content and Control Muriel G. Cantor
    • MOVIES AS MASS COMMUNICATION. Second Edition Garth Jowett and James M. Linton
    • CONTENT ANALYSIS. An Introduction to Its Methodology Klaus Krippendorff
    • INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION The Social Exchange Approach Michael E. Roloff
    • THE CARTOON: Communication to the Quick Randall P. Harrison
    • SHAPING THE FIRST AMENDMENT: The Development of Free Expression John D. Stevens
    • THE SOAP OPERA Muriel G. Cantor and Suzanne Pingree
    • THE DISSIDENT PRESS: Alternative Journalism in American History Lauren Kessler
    • TELEVISION AND CHILDREN: A Special Medium for a Special Audience Aimée Dorr
    • PRECISION JOURNALISM A Practical Guide David Pearce Demers and Suzanne Nichols
    • PUBLIC RELATIONS What Research Tells Us John V Pavlik
    • NEW ELECTRONIC PATHWAYS: Videotex, Teletext, and Online Databases Jerome Aumente
    • UNDERSTANDING VIDEO: Applications. Impact, and Theory Jarice Hanson
    • EXAMINING NEWSPAPERS. What Research Reveals About America's Newspapers Gerald Stone
    • CRITICIZING THE MEDIA: Empirical Approaches James B. Lemert
    • MEDIA ECONOMICS: Concepts and Issues Robert G Picard
    • SOCIAL RESEARCH IN COMMUNICATION AND LAW Jeremy Cohen and Timothy Gleason

    additional titles in preparation


    View Copyright Page


    It is not unusual for legal scholars to study communication law, nor is it uncommon for communication and media scholars to study law and legal issues. But it is something of a departure for the two to commingle. Studies of law and communication with emphasis on law (especially media law) as a communication process have evident value to anyone who considers the intrinsic importance of these interrelated, but rarely explored concerns.

    This is the mission that engages Jeremy Cohen and Timothy Gleason in Social Research in Communication and Law which makes a persuasive case for the interdisciplinary study of law and communication. To their research colleagues in the nation's communication and journalism schools they suggest that following the lead of law professors in publishing traditional law review articles about media law is not the way to go. Similarly, they urge scholars in other fields to move beyond a “sociology of law” approach wherein legal topics are simply fodder for research, as is religion, the family, or the school. While they do not deny the value of these studies, they believe that “communication and law” scholars can do something original that contributes to knowledge and, thus, to the public understanding of two symbiotic processes.

    The mission that professors Cohen and Gleason outline provides a daunting challenge for students of communication law, history, and sociology. They have produced a book that is a valuable augmentation to courses by those names and for media ethics, issues, and problems in mass communication and several others. Students of communication law, criminal justice, judicial administration, and other fields will also benefit from reading and using this thoughtful book.

    Although they don't say it bluntly, a subtext of this book is clearly a call for more rigorous work by students interested in the interface of communication and law. It is not enough, Cohen and Gleason posit, for a student of media law to work in isolation on one narrow legal specialty without a broader knowledge of jurisprudence and legal philosophy. Similarly, those who study media law from a legal perspective ought to know more about the communication process and theoretical underpinnings.

    Blessedly, this book is not a polemic nor a sermon, but rather a practical guide to doing research on law and communication questions. Along the way the authors offer rich citations and examples from the literature.

    This book is a natural outgrowth of a current movement among communication law scholars to make more effective use of the methodologies of communication science. It is a stand against First Amendment reductionism which takes the researcher on a too easy path toward simple advocacy. Both authors have been active in that movement, although the book is a quite original step beyond social science applications in communication law. It is instead the confrontation of two substantive areas of knowledge with the scholarly tools of both as well as a few from related disciplines.

    Social Research in Communication and Law appears at a time when we are experiencing a renaissance of interest in the interface of these vital social processes. Thoughtful readers will appreciate its message both in literal and more subtle ways.

    EveretteE.Dennis Series Editor

    Preface and Acknowledgments

    This book represents the authors’ belief that freedom of expression is an area of research especially appropriate to the discipline of communication studies. Yet while freedom of expression may be anchored well within our discipline, understanding clearly requires familiarity with a variety of substantive fields and methodological approaches beyond the usual concerns of communication theory, such as legal studies, history, and jurisprudence.

    Our approach is an interdisciplinary approach, which we refer to as communication and law to distinguish our concerns from traditional media law analyses harbored in case law and constitutional scholarship. This book is prefaced on the notion that communication researchers should not simply duplicate the efforts of legal scholars. A communication and law approach must distinguish itself from research generally recognized as within the traditional purview of law or legal studies. It should add to the literature of communication. It should be generated from the perspective of the communication scholar, not in competition with the legal scholar, but in recognition of the objectives of communication research.

    This book is an attempt to encourage distinctions that recognize the relationships among communication theory, freedom of expression, history, and law and place them squarely within the identifiable domain of communication scholarship. Contextual understanding of communication and law can only benefit from familiarity with, and respect for, the integrity of each of these disciplines.

    Throughout the preparation of these chapters the authors have shared, and benefited from, each other's ideas. The sum of the individual chapters is a shared approach and commitment to interdisciplinary social research in communication and law.

    In fact, Jeremy Cohen holds principal responsibility for Chapters 1, 4, and 5. Timothy Gleason bears the primary responsibility for Chapters 2, 3, and 6. We accept equally the blame for whatever errors of thinking or fact are present.

    We are grateful to a number of people for their encouragement, their criticism and their patience. Particular gratitude is due Everette Dennis at the Gannett Center for Media Studies at Columbia University, Richard Carter and Don Pember at the University of Washington, Arnold Ismach at the University of Oregon, Steven Chaffee at Stanford University, Jerilyn McIntyre and David Eason at the University of Utah, Al Gunther and Diana Mutz at the University of Wisconsin, and Vincent Price at the University of Michigan.

    The Stanford Department of Communication lightened a teaching load and the University of Oregon Freshman Seminar Program and the School of Journalism provided much appreciated support. At Stanford, doctoral candidates Kathleen Kurz, Sara Spears, and Judy Polumbaum provided useful commentary. Gloria Beck with untangled the mysteries of word processing and kept the phone at bay. Roni Holeton provided administrative support and continued encouragement and always found a way to make it possible to get in one more long-distance phone call, to secure one more needed journal and to make the project a lot easier on two authors living and working 500 miles apart.

    Transaction Books provided gracious permission to quote Morris Cohen from his book of essays on law and legal philosophy, Law and the Social Order. We also appreciate permission to quote liberally from Sage Publications’ Handbook of Communication Science by Charles Berger and Steven Chaffee.

    And, of course, we are grateful for the love and encouragement of Jennifer Ulum, Catherine Jordan, and Leah and Joshua.

  • About the Authors

    JEREMY COHEN is Assistant Professor of Communication at Stanford University where he teaches coursework in communication and law, media law, and mass media and society. He is the author of Congress Shall Make No Law: Oliver Wendell Holmes, the First Amendment, and Judicial Decision Making. He has lectured in Africa and Europe on the role of the press in the United States for the United States Information Agency. His current research on communication and law appears in Public Opinion Quarterly, Journalism Quarterly, American Journalism, and in legal journals. Cohen is a member of the editorial board of Journalism Monographs. He received his doctorate in communications from the University of Washington.

    TIMOTHY GLEASON is Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism, University of Oregon, where he teaches mass media law, journalism ethics, and news-editorial courses. He is the author of The Watchdog Concept: The Press and the Courts in Nineteenth Century America. His research is published in Journalism History, American Journalism, and the Hastings Journal of Communication and Entertainment Law. Gleason is a member of the editorial board of American Journalism. He received his doctorate in communications from the University of Washington.

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