Reliable Surprises

June 7, 2010 • Ethics and Quality • by

Die Furche, Nr. 18/2010

Research institutions are following their own inherent laws.

If they weren’t, it would be difficult to understand why a particular academic discipline has been neglected in the three capitals of the German-speaking world for many years, despite the fact that it remains very popular among students and plays an important role in advising policy makers. Communication science has been overshadowed as a field for far too long. It is obvious that the discipline should be an important sparring partner and impulse generator at the seats of government – given all the ardent questions and problems arising for politics and society, as well as for journalism and the media in the Internet age as a consequence of modern communication technologies.   

For many years, university boards in Berlin, Bern and Vienna have tolerated deficiencies which made it nearly impossible for academic teachers – despite good will – to provide acceptable conditions of professional training in communication sciences. Meanwhile, internal developments within the three universities may create a fresh atmosphere of budding innovation and hopefulness. Vacant positions have been and will be filled, and the discipline of communication science is expected to gain profile.

Klaus Schönbach, a renowned professor of communication who in May transferred from the University of Amsterdam to the Austrian capital will soon be facing a Herculean task. Meeting the challenge, he will have a unique opportunity to practice what he has been successfully teaching for many years: persuasive communication. We hope for his success in Vienna, where such extraordinary researchers like Paul Lazarsfeld have laid cornerstones of the discipline. Schönbach’s ability to convince may help implement what he has long seen as a major task of journalism (and a characteristic of excellence in research): to reliably provide surprises. To be more precise, both new and senior faculty should make the discipline shine anew in Vienna (as well as in Berlin and Bern), and research should fulfil their mission for the democratic society, contributing might to their quest for the continued survival of journalism and quality media in such turbulent times.

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