Donald M. Gillmor, professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Minnesota, died on February 14, 2013. He was 86 years old.
Gillmor was known internationally as a leading expert on media law and ethics. His many years of teaching and research "shaped the major contours of the field of mass communication law," said Daniel Wackman, former director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. Gillmor's many publications included the seminal Mass Communication Law: Cases and Comment (with Jerome A. Barron), in its 6th edition in 1998, which is used throughout the country by students and scholars in the field. In 1970, the first edition received the Frank Luther Mott Research Award from Kappa Tau Alpha, the field's honor society.
Gillmor joined Minnesota's faculty in 1965. From 1984 to 1995, he served as the founding director of the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law, which was endowed by the late Otto Silha, a former executive with The Minneapolis Star and The Minneapolis Tribune and their parent company Cowles Media. In 1990, Gillmor was named the first Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law, a position he held until his retirement from Minnesota in 1998. "The Silha Center is unique in the world," said Jane E. Kirtley, the current Silha Professor and director of the Silha Center. "Don was the inspiration for Otto Silha to endow both the Silha Center and the professorship. Don's research and teaching embodied the marriage between these two related but distinct aspects of media scholarship. His legacy continues to influence our research, publications, outreach and support for graduate and law students at the Silha Center."
Gillmor earned his bachelor's degree in liberal arts from the University of Manitoba in 1949, and a year later a master's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He joined the editorial staff of the Winnipeg Free Press in 1950 where he was a reporter and copyreader. He was also a part-time copyreader for the Fargo Forum and the Grand Forks Herald while serving on the faculty of the University of North Dakota from 1953 to1965. He was the first director there of an all-university honors program. He was awarded his doctorate in mass communication from the University of Minnesota in 1961.
In addition to Mass Communication Law, his many articles and books include Power, Publicity, and the Abuse of Libel Law (1992); Media Freedom and Accountability (co-editor, 1989); Enduring Issues in Mass Communication (co-editor, 1978); and Free Press and Fair Trial (1966). He was a frequent guest on radio and television regarding discussions of media and made dozens of presentations to community groups and academic and professional gatherings. In 1999 he received the Al McIntosh Distinguished Service to Journalism Award from the Minnesota Newspaper Association.
Gillmor's first award for distinguished teaching was made by students, faculty and alumni of the University of North Dakota in 1959. He received two similar awards from the Minnesota Press Club in 1975 and 1978. In 1993 he received the Horace T. Morse - Minnesota Alumni Association Award for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education. Ball State, Saint Cloud State and Washington and Lee universities gave him First Amendment awards in 1984, 1992 and 1993 respectively. He was cited for "contributions to student experience" by the University of Minnesota student Alumni Board of Governors in 1985, and he received the George Hage/Mitch Charnley Award of Excellence from the Minnesota Daily Alumni Association in 1996. That same year he received the Constitutional Law Award from the Minneapolis law firm of Mansfield, Tanick and Cohen. In 2009, he received the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication Alumni Society's Award for Excellence.
In 1990, Gillmor was selected as a Senior Fellow at the Gannett Center for Media Studies at Columbia University and assigned to Columbia's law faculty. He was also a visiting professor of American Studies and Mass Communication at the University of Munich in Germany and a visiting professor of political science at the University of Lund in Sweden. He also lectured in Russia, South Korea and Taiwan. He was always available to local and national publications and broadcasters for advice on questions of media ethics and law. And he served on numerous professional and academic boards and committees.
Gillmor is survived by his wife of 63 years, Sophie; daughter, Vivian Cathcart of Toronto; son, Peter; and grandsons, Steven Cathcart, and Kevin and Geoffrey Gillmor. He is also survived by brothers Douglas and Alan. A memorial service will take place at Roseville Memorial Chapel, 2245 N. Hamline Avenue, Roseville, MN, on Saturday, February 23 at 4 p.m.
Memorial gifts may be directed to the Donald Gillmor Fund at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Checks should be made payable to the University of Minnesota and can be mailed directly to The Donald Gillmor Memorial Fund, c/o University of Minnesota Foundation, C-M 3854, PO Box 70880, Saint Paul, MN 55170-3854. To give online, click here. All gifts will be matched by the School of Journalism & Mass Communication.