My research involves the cultural study of journalism, which originated in my doctoral studies with Dr. James W. Carey at the University of Illinois. The group of scholars pursuing this approach was mentioned by Barbie Zelizer in “When facts, truth, and reality are God-terms: on journalism’s uneasy place in cultural studies,” in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, Vol. 1, Issue 1, March 2004:
The work of Carey was central to weaving discussions of journalism into the larger social and cultural fabric, including concerns about politics, technology, and the public. Carey’s argument for the recovery of journalism as a cultural form rather than as a profession was mounted in numerous contexts, each of which demonstrated the complex nature of journalism’s cultural world. In Carey’s view, there was a dialogic and normative side to journalism’s cultural life that required a mode of understanding actions and motives, not in terms of psychological dispositions or sociological conditions but as a manifestation of a basic cultural disposition to cast up experience in symbolic forms that are at once immediately pleasing and conceptually plausible, thus supplying the basis for felt identities and meaningfully apprehended realities.
Others at Illinois followed in Carey’s path. Albert Kreiling’s work, parts of which were published years later but an important doctoral dissertation already in the early 1970s, used the African American press to address the shaping of middle class identities. Following their lead, a second generation of scholars largely comprising Carey’s students—Tom Connery, Joli Jensen, Mary Mander, Carolyn Marvin, and Norman Sims, among others—produced a substantial body of material emphasizing journalism’s meaning-making capacities. The work of John Pauly and Linda Steiner extended Carey’s sensitivity to the internal view of journalistic practice to show how phenomena as varied as journalistic handbooks and discourse about key journalistic personalities served as boundary markers for the group.
Along with literary journalism, I taught the history of journalism, freedom of the press, and nonfiction writing. I served twelve long years as a department chair, and ended my career at UMass Amherst as a professor in the Commonwealth Honors College.
I have a long-time interest in river conservation and in canoes, including open canoes and whitewater boats. Mark Neuzil from the University of St. Thomas and I have written a natural history of the North American canoe, which was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2016.