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The life and times of media events: A tribute to Elihu Katz

Nordic Journal of Media Studies's Cover Image
Nordic Journal of Media Studies
Media Events in the Age of Global, Digital Media


I have just learnt that Elihu Katz – a dearly loved friend and colleague – has died at the age of 95. This abstract is a valediction forbidding mourning. Media Events, written with Daniel Dayan, was the culminating work of a career spanning six decades – a career launched by Personal Influence, written with his doctoral supervisor, Professor Paul Lazarsfeld, of Columbia University, New York, and published in 1955. In my contribution to this issue, I try to do two things: firstly, to indicate how Media Events opened up a novel way of thinking about television and, at the same time, to think of it as a summa, the distillation of a lifetime’s work in the academic field of communication and media studies. I wanted especially to point towards its stimmung – that untranslatable ordinary German word for mood, or disposition: an attitude to life, the world, and television. I start with Katz’s earliest academic work – his master’s thesis completed at Columbia in the 1940s, felicitously but not accidentally called The Happiness Game. The stimmung of this work is the same as that of Media Events. That vision, as Daniel Dayan has claimed, was not a mirage. What he and Katz saw in La Télévision Céremoniélle (the book’s French title when he translated it) was every bit as true as the dominant academic view of the politics of television whose hegemonic sociological take on “the real world” they both attempted to counter.