"Intelligent discontent is the mainspring
of civilization. Progress is born of agitation. It is agitation or
stagnation."-- Eugene V. Debs
- I am a Professor of Communication at
North Central College where I teach courses in media studies, urban and
studies, and liberal studies. My intellectual interests
are eclectic and wide-ranging: film, news and journalism,
media history, media reform activism, philosophy and social theory,
urban history, contemporary American politics, social movements,
the list could go on and
on. Most of the courses I teach reflect at least some of these
interests and typically adopt a critical, interdisciplinary perspective
informed by history, political economy and social and cultural
theory. For a full list of the courses I teach, please click here. Outside the classroom, I am actively involved in
AAUP (the American Association of University Professors) and in various movements for social justice.
- I'm currently pursuing two interrelated research projects dealing with Chicago media history.
- For the past seven or eight years, I have been working on a book-length critical history of the
Chicago news media tentatively titled News For a Divided Metropolis.
Drawing on the research for the book, in the summer of 2008 I wrote some
articles with my student research assistant Alyssa Vincent about the underground press scene in Chicago during the late
60s, early 70s that were published in
the special 1968 issue
of the excellent local arts and activism zine, AREA Chicago. More
recently, an essay of mine on The Chicago
Journalism Review-- a magazine started by reporters who had had their
heads bashed in covering the protests at the 1968 Democratic National
Convention in Chicago-- was published in Janice Peck and Inger Stole's
collection A Moment of Danger: Critical Studies in US Communication History Since World War II (Marquette U Press, 2011).
- The other main focus of my current research is the strange and little-known history of film censorship in Chicago. In
the summer of 2014, my former student research assistant Brian Failing
and I co-curated an exhibition at the Museums at Lisle Station Park
based on some of this research. Entitled "Banned in Chicago: Eight Decades of Film Censorship in the Windy City,"
the show featured photos of the "cards" filled out by the city's censor
board for each film they reviewed as well as reproductions of posters
for some of the hundreds of films they banned. The exhibit
garnered quite a bit of attention in the local press, including coverage on Chicago Public Radio and in the Chicago Tribune. I am currently writing a book on the topic.
- Up until a few years ago, my research and writing focused
on media representations of American cities and the urban poor. My book on the subject,
Urban Nightmares: The Media,
the Right and the Moral Panic over the City, was published by University
of Minnesota Press in May, 2006. You can see a video of me discussing the book -- produced by Chicago's own Labor Beat TV-- here.
If you can read Italian, check out the 2008
interview with me about the book in the magazine Carta.
- Winner of the
Urban Communication Foundation's
2006 Jane Jacobs Publication Award.
- I have long been interested in classical and Western Marxist
critiques of the capitalist media.
Over the years, I've been active in organizing panels, workshops and
forums on Marxist communication research, its strengths and
shortcomings, and its relationship to other
critical approaches and schools of thought (poststructuralism, feminism,
liberal humanism, media ecology, "positivist" media research etc.). In 2006, I contributed to and (with Lee Artz
and Dana Cloud) co-edited a volume on historical materialism
and critical communication scholarship,
Marxism and Communication
Studies: The Point is to Change It (Peter Lang) that
deals in depth with these issues.
- I've also done some research on TV news coverage of dissident political
movements and on various media policy issues. In 2003 and
2004 I helped to design and carry out
Chicago Media Action's study of
bias and sourcing on WTTW's news show Chicago Tonight.
- I am an active participant in the media reform/media democracy
movement, in particular the local group
Chicago Media Action.
- At the 2008 National Conference for Media Reform, I chaired a panel
Locally at the Grassroots" which featured representatives from
Reclaim the Media,
Media Alliance, Media
Alliance and The Media
Mobilizing Project. In January 2007, I put together a panel on
"How to Challenge a Broadcast License" at the National Conference
for Media Reform in Memphis whichhttp://shmacek.faculty.noctrl.edu/Courses/coursespage.htm included speakers from
Chicago Media Action,
Iowans for Better Local TV,
Youth Media Council and
University's Institute for Public Representation.
- At the 2005 NMRC in St. Louis, I organized an "Action Clinic" on
media monitoring that featured speakers from
Chicago Media Action,
Grade the News and the
Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (click on the logo below for more information
about the conference itself).