Agenda-setting pioneers Don Shaw and Max McCombs honored with 2011 Helen Dinerman Award

Don Shaw and Max McCombsThe World Association for Public Opinion Research has awarded its 2011 Helen Dinerman Award for scholarship to Donald Shaw, Kenan professor emeritus of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and to Maxwell McCombs, a retired journalism professor at the University of Texas.

The award was presented in Amsterdam recently to Shaw and McCombs, long associated together with studies of the power of public media to influence public opinion, the agenda-setting power of the press. The original study of media agenda setting was conducted in Chapel Hill, where McCombs then taught, during the 1968 presidential election.  Since then scholars have conducted hundreds of studies in many countries.

WAPOR cited Shaw and McCombs for influencing  “a paradigm shift in how we think about the media and public opinion.”  WAPOR added that their research has influenced researchers in disciplines beyond journalism and communication, such as political science, psychology, public policy, and sociology.

Shaw has taught more than 45 years at the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and has published numerous books and scholarly articles about reporting, communication theory, or journalism history. He earned his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin in 1966, and returned the same year to the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where Shaw had earlier earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, respectively, in 1959 and 1960.  He earned an associate in arts in 1957 from Mars Hill College.  Shaw has won several research and teaching awards.

Friends, colleagues and former students have established a permanent tribute to Shaw at the UNC journalism school with the Don Shaw Fund to support undergraduate honors students. To make a gift to the Don Shaw Fund, visit (be sure to select “Don Shaw Fund” from the drop-down menu).