Scholar, historian, individualist: John Michael Kittross.

Author:Covington, William G., Jr.
Position:Biography
 
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"Curmudgeon, iconoclast and gadfly" is how John Michael Kittross describes himself. "Editor and bibliophile" could be added to the list. However, it might be more accurate describing him professionally as a professor, editor, researcher, administrator, broadcaster, and consultant. The BEA Distinguished Education Service Award for 1990, a Broadcast Preceptor Award from San Francisco State (1979), and the Boston University Distinguished Alumni Award (1982) are to be found amid the welter of paper in his office.

Kittross started in broadcasting in 1945 and is still found at BEA conventions--he says he has only missed one since 1960. Kittross started as a practicing broadcaster and did not fall in love with research until a decade later. In high school, he was selected as a member of the New York All-City High School Radio and Television Workshops, which would make him a genuine television pioneer, entering the arena in the days of iconoscope cameras, just after monochromatic makeup was abandoned, and when one could be proud of association with any program that drew more than a few hundred viewers. His first full-time job in broadcasting, in 1946, was in the newsroom of WNYC, at the side of his college classmate, Rod Serling.

Matriculating at Antioch College in Ohio, he found kindred spirits--and Sally, his wife-to-be for 51 years. At Antioch, Kittross acted in numerous weekly half-hour radio shows written and produced by Rod Serling. He also engaged in motion picture exhibition and production, making the first recordings of talented soprano Coretta Scott (King), a fellow Antiochian. In 1951 Kittross graduated with an A.B. degree in creative arts-drama. He went on to graduate school at Boston University where he earned his M.S. in communication arts (radio-television broadcasting) in 1952.

Drafted into the Army in the fall of 1952, during the Korean War, Kittross wound up as an instructor at the U.S. Army Psychological Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Sergeant Kittross left the service late in 1954, with an equivalency diploma from the Psychological Warfare School. Following his army experience, he turned down the opportunity to manage a small radio station in New York State and instead earned his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His first major research article (with Jum C. Nunnally) was published in American Psychologist (and later as a book chapter) in 1958 while he was still a student (Nunnally & Kittross, 1958).

Early Professional Career

In 1959, after completing his dissertation on "Television Frequency Allocation Policy in the United States," Kittross was offered an instructorship at the University of Southern California. So, Mike and Sally and their two young children, Dave and Julia, squeezed everything they owned--including the few boxes that then constituted the "Kittross Library"--into a Volkswagen Microbus and headed west.

At age 30 he moved into a new area as Kenneth Harwood, a former president of the APBE (the predecessor of the BEA) and the figure instrumental in establishing the Journal of Broadcasting, offered Mike the editorship of the Journal, which proved to be a turning point in his career. The next semester, at the start of what became more...

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