Michael Stamm

StammI am a political and cultural historian, and my research is organized around inquiries into media and journalism history. My explorations of these subjects have resulted in published scholarship on the political economy of news and journalism, the materiality of media, the relationship between radio sound and printed text in the 1930s, media reform campaigns in the 1960s and 1970s, the intellectual history of communication theory, and religious broadcasting on radio and television.

My first book, Sound Business: Newspapers, Radio, and the Politics of New Media (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011, paperback 2016), traces how American newspapers have responded to competition from “new media,” which in the few decades after 1920 meant radio broadcasting. Confronted by a new aural medium that could be used to distribute both information and paid advertising, many newspaper publishers began broadcasting as a way to meet this new competition directly. Papers around the country, from large metropolitan dailies to smaller local papers, established radio stations, in the process creating a new type of media corporation with a public presence in multiple media. Concern about the influence of these new multimedia corporations was widespread, as they seemed to critics to be not manifestations of strategic decisions by firms in the media business but instead institutions that could attain too much power to shape public discourse and stifle the circulation of diverse perspectives through the mass media. The outcome of the struggles between corporations, policymakers, and critics over how to regulate these new kinds of media businesses ultimately decided who would have the power to shape the emerging public sphere that included radio alongside newspapers, and who would control the institutions undergirding American society and politics. For those interested in the travails of the contemporary newspaper business in the digital age, the book offers a historical perspective on how newspaper publishers have for almost a century responded to a media environment in which new media have displaced them as the first providers of news.

While my training and previous research is in United States history, my work in the past few years has been international in scope. I have recently published work comparing the development of news broadcasting in Britain and the United States and analyzing global newsprint scarcities in the first half of the twentieth century. My current book manuscript traces the evolution of the twentieth-century daily newspaper as a product of industrial capitalism. With the support of a Canadian Embassy Faculty Research Grant, I have completed major research for the book, and I began drafting the manuscript in the 2012-2013 academic year while serving as the Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in Public Policy at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada in Montreal. Tentatively titled Dead Tree Media: The Industrial Newspaper in the Twentieth Century, the book connects two histories of the past one hundred years: the evolution of the American metropolitan newspaper as the product of industrial capitalist manufacturing, and the creation of the trade policies undergirding the modern global economy. The project balances a global history of newsprint production with a specific narrative focus on the Chicago Tribune, which began Canadian papermaking operations after 1913 when the United States government lifted the duty on newsprint produced in Canada. Favorable tariff policy gave the Tribune Company access to cheap newsprint, which helped the Tribune to become one of the most influential daily newspapers in the United States, and it also allowed the parent company to establish the New York Daily News, which became the highest circulating newspaper in the country. The duty free American importation of newsprint in turn spurred the development of one of Canada’s most important industries and transformed the global market for newsprint. This analysis will offer a new approach to journalism history and the study of North American relations, and it is based on original archival research in United States and Canadian sources, including a significant collection opened to researchers for the first time in 2011.

I teach a variety of graduate and undergraduate courses on post-Reconstruction United States history, as well as more specialized courses on media and journalism history.

Position: Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, and Associate Chair

Field: Cultural, Political

Region: United States

Office: 315 Old Horticulture

Office Hours: Wednesday 3-5

Email: stamm@msu.edu

Phone: (517) 884-4944

Curriculum Vitae

Book Cover Sound Business