I am a political and cultural historian specializing in media and journalism history. My explorations of these subjects have resulted in published scholarship on such topics as the political economy of news, the materiality of media, the relationship between sound and print, grassroots media reform campaigns, the intellectual history of communication theory, and religious broadcasting. My first book, Sound Business: Newspapers, Radio, and the Politics of New Media (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011, paperback 2016), traced how American newspapers have responded to competition from “new media,” which in the few decades after 1920 meant radio broadcasting.
In recent years, my work has become international in scope and is increasingly incorporating insights from environmental history. 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 new book, Dead Tree Media: Manufacturing the Newspaper in Twentieth-Century North America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018), is a history of the rise and fall of both the mass circulation printed newspaper and the particular kind of corporation in the newspaper business that shaped many aspects of the cultural, political, and even physical landscape of North America. It is a history of the printed newspaper tracing its production from the forest to the reader. Popular assessments of printed newspapers have become so grim that some have taken to calling them “dead tree media” as a way of invoking an idea of the medium’s demise. Dead Tree Media explores the literal truth hidden in this dismissive expression: printed newspapers really are material goods made from trees. And, in the twentieth century, the overwhelming majority the trees cut down in the service of printing newspapers in the United States were in Canada. Dead Tree Media is an international history of these commodity chains connecting Canadian trees and US readers. In 2019, the book received Canadian Business History Association’s Best Book Prize, and it was an honorable mention for the Book of the Year Award from the American Journalism Historians Association.
I teach a variety of graduate and undergraduate courses on nineteenth and twentieth century North America, as well as more specialized courses on media, business, and environmental history. Since 2017, I have led the MSU History Department’s participation in the American Historical Association’s Career Diversity for Historians initiative.