David Berlo biography and books

David Berlo - Toolshero

David Berlo (1929 – 1996) was an American communications theorist, who founded the Department of Communication at Michigan State University. Aside from also teaching at Michigan State University, he later became the eleventh president of Illinois State University. David Kenneth Berlo is best known for his SMCR Model of Communication. He furthermore wrote the popular textbook ‘The Process of Communication’ (1960).

Who is David Berlo? A Short Biography

David Berlo was born in St. Louis, Missouri, where he was also raised. He later studied psychology, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He earned his PhD in communication from the University of Illinois as well.

In 1958, while at the University of Illinois, he wrote his book ‘Philosophy of Education’, which was followed by his most famous work ‘The Process of Communication’ in 1960. This book is still used today.

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From 1958 to 1971 Berlo was a founding chairman of the Faculty of Communication at Michigan State University. He became the first chairperson for the new department of General Communication Arts.

David Berlo’s SMCR Model of Communication

Back in 1948, the Bell System Technical Journal published a Communication Cycle model, developed by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver. This model was initially developed to improve technical communication, but would later be applied in many other fields.

In 1960, David Berlo expanded on this linear communication model and created the SMCR Model of Communication. Berlo’s SMCR Model of Communication represents the process of communication in its simplest form. The acronym SMCR stands for Sender (Source), Message, Channel, and Receiver. The model describes the different components that form the basic process of communication, and can be used for more efficient communication in many different fields. Today, the sender-receiver framework is often used in communication sciences.

Illinois State University and Berlo’s Presidential Residence Controversy

In 1971 Berlo was appointed as the new president of Illinois State University. He had an ambitious start at ISU and made positive contributions, like stabilizing some administrative structures and working to improve communications technologies.

During his presidency, another highlight came in the form of basketball player Doug Collins, who played for ISU. Collins got to play in the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics and got drafted for the NBA as well, where he became a notable player en coach.

David Berlo wanted Illinois State University to become the premier undergraduate university in the state. He hoped to achieve this by cutting costs, changing faculty salaries and changing administrative strutctures. The Illinois Board of Higher Education had prompted each public university to find the lowest priority programs that could be cut, in order to use the freed up budget for the highest priority programs.

Therefore, Berlo formed a commission on institutional priorities to complete this task. This was met with quite some resistance from the faculty, that feared program cuts and employee layoffs. Berlo’s presidency therefore became characterized by a low morale among faculty members and university students, who had been fighting for more power on campus.

Matters got worse, when a controversy arose after possible evidence of mismanagement of funds appeared. Berlo allegedly misused university funds on his presidential residence and was criticed for his food and liquor bills. In the latter part of his second year as ISU president, Berlo was therefore forced to resign.

David Berlo resigned on May 30th, 1973.

Later Years

After his resignation, Berlo moved to St. Petersburg Florida, where he became a communication and management consultant, working for the Industrial Council of the YMCA. In 1979 this council awarded him the ‘Man of the Year Award’.

Berlo died in Florida on February 23, 1996, as the age of 66. He was buried in the New Saint Marcus Cemetery and Mausoleum in Affton, Missouri.

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Books and Publications David Berlo et al.

  • 1977. Right to know… need to learn: warning—consumption of uncontrolled information is injurious to your health. ACM SIGUCCS Newsletter, 7(2), 7-12.
  • 1977. Communication as process: Review and commentary. Annals of the International Communication Association, 1(1), 11-27.
  • 1975. Morality or ethics? Two approaches to organizational control. Management Review, 64(8).
  • 1969. Dimensions for evaluating the acceptability of message sources. Public opinion quarterly, 33(4), 563-576.
  • 1962. The public’s opinions on existing or potential Federal fallout shelter programs (p. 0050). Michigan State University. College of Communication Arts.
  • 1960. The Process of Communication: An Introduction to Theory and Practice. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  • 1957. Some determinants of the effect of oral communication in producing attitude change and learning. Communications Monographs, 24(1), 10-20.
  • 1956. The investigator: The impact of a satirical radio drama. Journalism Quarterly, 33(3), 287-298.
  • 1956. Allocation of procedural responsibilities as a determinant of group productivity and satisfaction. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • 1955. Problems in communication research. Communication Studies, 7(1), 3-8.

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Baas, S.L. (2024). David Berlo. Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero: https://www.toolshero.com/toolsheroes/david-berlo/

Original publication date: 05/14/2024 | Last update: 05/14/2024

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Sheryl Lynn Baas
Article by:

Sheryl Lynn Baas

Sheryl Lynn Baas is our Communications Manager at Toolshero and you might recognize her from our learning videos. Sheryl’s academic background is in Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology and she is the founder of the Sheryl Lynn Foundation, a non-profit for children and education in the Philippines. She’s a jack-of-all-trades and furthermore shares her gifts as a spiritual coach, presenter and DJ. Fun fact: she is former Miss Netherlands 2006.


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