An ICA Tribute to Elihu Katz

Unparalleled Contributions of Elihu Katz to Studies of Communication

Inspired members of the International Communication Association (ICA) are organizing a preconference on the ‘legacies’ of the American-Israeli sociologist, Elihu Katz. This promises to be a fitting and most deserved tribute to his contributions to multiple academic fields, and certainly to the field of communication. My thanks to the organizers and my encouragement to all those who might wish to join this celebration of his contributions.

I first met Elihu when I was interviewing for my position at the Annenberg School for Communication in 1979, when Professor Katz was a member of its faculty. The interview was so memorable and pleasant – he simply communicated his knowledge of my work and encouraged me to join the faculty. While I was not in the communication field, until I joined Annenberg, I was trained as a political scientist and could not but know his seminal work, such as with Paul Lazarsfeld on the two-step flows of persuasive communication in a book, entitled Personal Influence (1955).[1]

Elihu Katz and Paul Lazarsfeld

Elihu left Annenberg at USC a few years after I joined. However, I was able to follow his early work with Daniel Dayan on media events (broadcasts such as of the moon landing that literally bring people together to watch TV) and benefit from his insights on the field. While leaving USC, he became a key faculty member at Annenberg at Penn, where his contributions to the communication field in the US continued.

About a decade ago, I discovered that when Professor Jay Blumler was visiting USC in the early-1980s, Elihu encouraged Jay to speak with me with the wonderful compliment that I was remarkably ‘sane’. Perhaps he was damning me with faint praise – but knowing the context I was flattered and amused. Years later Jay and I laughed about this.

Elihu Katz died in Jerusalem December 2021 at 95 years of age. I believe it was during the summer before he passed away that I received a kind and generous email from Elihu about only recently discovering my work on the ‘Fifth Estate’. He liked it. Simply having my work recognized by Elihu was remarkably encouraging and rewarding to me.

There have been a number of tributes to Elihu Katz, but it is great to see him so well recognized by the ICA and so many other academic institutions, including his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School.[2] Do join the preconference at the forthcoming ICA in Toronto and continue to follow his work – as it will remain seminal.

[1] PERSONAL INFLUENCE: THE PART PLAYED BY PEOPLE IN THE FLOW OF MASS COMMUNICATIONS. By Elihu Katz and Paul F. Lazarsfeld. Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press, 1955.


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