Republican media is peddling lies with reason and professionalism — and GOP partisans are never coming back to mainstream news

Nikki Usher, PhD

For those who do not regularly watch Fox or stream OAN YouTube videos or Infowars, and for those who do not regularly peruse Brietbart or RedState, it is so easy to think that right wing media is created entirely by GOP partisans wearing tinfoil hats.

Who are these journalists who keep perpetuating this monstrosity of lies around voter fraud?, ask those of us who see ourselves living in reality. Yes, who are these journalists?, …


Local newspapers are the bedrock for original newsgathering in communities, but roughly 36,000 news workers have endured lost jobs, cut salaries or furloughs because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has accelerated the decline of local advertising revenue already disrupted by Google and Facebook.

Newspaper economics are grim, but newspapers make for opportunistic investing, with hedge funds and newspaper chains heading toward a level of unprecedented consolidation that threatens to further erode local journalism.

That opportunism is heating up. Unless policymakers act by June 30, hedge fund Alden Global Capital is poised to seize control over what would become the nation’s…


Demanding more from remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic is reasonable, but not for the reasons you’re thinking

This was written largely as a response to Masha Gessen’s New Yorker piece and fueled by insomnia and frustration.

The sooner professors admit that they are only a small portion of what it means to go to a four year college or university in the US, the better the case for higher education’s survival as an institution.

So much of the public discourse around the transition to remote learning (not “distance learning,” as it’s an insult to distance learning) questions whether higher ed can even pretend that this semester gives students both a quality educational experience and reflects the high…


In Champaign-Urbana, a college town home to the University of Illinois, the local newspaper has been slowly dying, its death recently accelerated with a Chapter 11 filing. We sought to figure out — if it were to shut down one day, what would happen to our community? (caveat: our local newspaper is not exactly beloved)

Part I: Print Media Census:

The highlights here: the rich bougie places that we expected to be super local were not hubs of local printed media, like the fancy grocery and health food coop and the coffee shop President Obama visited when he was in town — nary a piece of printed media to be found. The chain stores in town at best offered a local newspaper for sale, but these often stood unsold when compared to national news counterparts. We also did not find much local political information —there was limited printed material from politicians and advocacy groups.


Taught by: Nikki Usher, Ph.D., nusher@illinois

Mondays 10 a.m. -11:50, RM Greg 336

This class is intended to spur debate and critical thinking about the future of journalism. The goal of this course is to educate you about the biggest issues facing journalism today as well as to introduce you to some of the most exciting new developments in the field. We will be approaching this from a US-based perspective, but as many of you are from elsewhere, I hope to take advantage of your area expertise.

This semester, we are living through the upheaval of our own local media…


Professor: Nikki Usher, Ph.D.

Twitter: @nikkiusher

Office hours: by appointment; Class MW 6:10–8:00PM, RM 308, 5/20–6/29/2019

How to use this online document:

*To skip to readings, Control F for Course Readings. Course readings due on date listed.

*Most PDF readings will be on Slideshare. To use a Slideshare PDF, look below the document’s image and you will see three buttons: like, share, and download. Download so you don’t hurt your eyes.

*All readings are linked on this document. Please alert me to any missing or corrupted links. …


What is always interesting as an academic — but in a lot of fields, too — is when you start to see your personal networks of horizontal peers really start to take over. These are the folks you aren’t scared of because you remember “those days” of youthful scholarly anxiety — and then all of a sudden, they become journal editors. Or book series editors (cough). Or division chairs of your associations.


As discussed earlier in our open-access celebration of female journalism and communication scholars for International Women’s Day, there’s an important structural imbalance in the recognition and the success of academic work done by female scholars. A number of journal editors have worked to make articles by women scholars open-access for a brief time to help highlight their contributions. Thus far, Digital Journalism and Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly have worked to make this possible (see these articles here!). Now, Journalism has done the same, thanks to editors Barbie Zelizer and Howard Tumber and the supportive folks at Sage. A roundup…


We know the facts: women get cited less than men*. Men who publish with women experience a similar citational bias. Research across the social sciences shows that female scholars are less cited, get paid less, are less likely to be invited to give talks, and have difficulty moving beyond associate professor. Parsing out these inequities is only the beginning of a longer discussion about equity in academia: discussions of gender bias that focus on a binary between women and men fail to acknowledge key factors such as race, intersectional identity, and gender-identity.

The field of Communication has a gender problem…


Another post-take out from my monograph written for Journalism and Mass Communication Monographs, pre-peer review. (whoops, waves at blind reviewer). This lays out some of the thinking for my forthcoming book, News from Somewhere, about the relationship between place and audiences and trust in journalism. A previous take-out on digital economics can be found here. The book, well, that’s coming, but here’s the thinking. References.

Anti-media sentiment is popular and it is amplified by the most powerful person in the US. This anti-media sentiment has a strong place-based undercurrent; though not new, the old trope exemplified by the Goldwater…

Nikki Usher

Associate Prof at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Studies news, politics, technology, and power with a humanistic social science take.

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