Wednesday, May 24, 2006


I'm saddened to report that James W. Carey, one of the most important contemporary figures in communication, media, and cultural studies, has died. He passed away on Monday, May 22nd in Rhode Island as a result of complications from emphysema. He was 71. You can read his complete obituary online at The Rhode Island News. Columbia University, where Carey was CBS Professor of International Journalism, also has set up a website and discussion forum for those wishing to share their thoughts about Professor Carey's life. You can access it by clicking here.

Carey taught for many years at the University of Illinois before moving on to Columbia. Titles and appointments, though, don't capture the depth of Carey's intellect, creativity, and passionate commitment to democracy. His writings on space, time, and communication have had an inestimable impact on my own work in media studies and communication theory, as I'm sure they have on the work of countless other people in these and related fields. He balanced history and theory as gracefully as could be, and never once let dogmatic commitments or intellectual trends cloud his vision of how this strange, modern world of ours worked communicatively. Always, the empirical led his writing and research, even as he was one of the most vociferous opponents of an unreconstructed empiricism. Carey's scholarship and mindful disposition are models for us to follow.

I had the good fortune of meeting Professor Carey twice--once when he gave a lecture at the University of North Carolina, and later on a panel I organized for the National Communication Association's annual convention a few years back. (There was a third time, when I stood behind him on a hotel registration line, though I didn't know him at the time and, to my regret, ended up not talking to him.) He was gracious, patient, and engaged, and if the testimonials of his many students are any indication, these and other qualities were precisely what made him such an extraordinary mentor.

He will be sorely missed, even by those who barely knew him.

Addendum: Here is a link to the Poynter Institute website, which has more to say about Carey's life, work, and passing.

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