Robert W. McChesney: Wikis


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Robert W. McChesney, Ph.D.

Bob McChesney
Born United States Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Alma mater The Evergreen State College
University of Washington
Occupation Professor
Employer University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Known for Media criticism; History and political economy of mass communication
Spouse(s) Inger Stole

Robert Waterman McChesney is an American professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication. His work concentrates on the history and political economy of communication, emphasizing the role media play in democratic and capitalist societies. He is the President and co-founder of Free Press, a national media reform organization. McChesney also hosts the “Media Matters” weekly radio program every Sunday afternoon on WILL-AM radio; it is the top-rated program in its time slot in the Champaign-Urbana area.[citation needed]

McChesney has written or edited seventeen books. He has also written more than 150 journal articles and book chapters and another 200 newspaper pieces, magazine articles and book reviews. His work has been translated into twenty-one languages. Since launching his academic career in the late 1980s, McChesney has made some 500 conference presentations and visiting guest lectures as well as more than 600 radio and television appearances. He has been the subject of more than 70 published profiles and interviews. In 2001 Adbusters Magazine named him one of the “Nine Pioneers of Mental Environmentalism.” Utne Reader in 2008 listed him as one of their "50 visionaries who are changing the world".


Background and education

McChesney was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, along with fellow progressive journalist John Bellamy Foster. After college, he worked as a sports stringer for United Press International (UPI), published a weekly newspaper, and in 1979 was the founding publisher of The Rocket, a Seattle-based rock magazine which chronicled the birth of the Seattle rock scene of the late 1980s and 1990s. The creation of The Rocket is credited as the beginning of the Seattle rock scene by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[1]

Academic career

McChesney received a M.A. and a Ph.D. in communications at the University of Washington in 1986 and 1989, respectively. From 1988 to 1998 he was on the Journalism and Mass Communications faculty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is currently a research professor in the Department of Communication and the Graduate School of Information and Library Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

McChesney's most recent books have included, Communication Revolution: Critical Junctures and the Future of Media, published by New Press in October 2007, The Political Economy of Media: Enduring Issues, Emerging Dilemmas (Monthly Review Press), which appeared in Spring 2008, and most recently, The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again, published with John Nichols in January 2010 (Nation Books). His other recent books include: with John Nichols, Tragedy and Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy and The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the 21st Century, published in 2004.

McChesney co-edits, with John Nerone, the History of Communication Series for the University of Illinois Press, serves on the editorial boards of several journals, and is a research advisor to numerous academic and civic organizations. While teaching at Wisconsin, he was selected as one of the top 100 classroom teachers on the Madison campus. From 2000 to 2004 he served as co-editor of Monthly Review – the independent socialist magazine founded by Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman in 1949.

McChesney is an editor for several scholarly communication journals and co-edits the University of Illinois' History of communication book series.[2] He has served on the editorial board of The Progressive and the board of directors for In These Times[3]

Media Matters radio program

Since 2002, Bob McChesney has hosted Media Matters, a call-in radio show broadcast weekly on WILL-AM. Guests such as Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, Danny Schechter, Seymour Hersh, Norman Solomon, Amy Goodman, Howard Zinn, and Gore Vidal discuss the relationship between media and American politics and answer questions from callers.[4] Programs and archives can heard online at

The liberal media watchdog group Media Matters, formed in 2004, changed their name to Media Matters for America to avoid confusion between the two entities.

Media reform and social activism

One of McChesney's primary interests is media reform. He is the founder and president of Free Press, a national, non-partisan organization dedicated to media reform and democratization. He is a former editor of the socialist Monthly Review, and now a director of the foundation that operates the magazine. McChesney sits on the board of directors of the Institute for Public Accuracy,[3], and is a member of the Liberty Tree Board of Advisers.



American media

One of the main themes of McChesney's work is that "deregulated media" is a complete misnomer. The media is, instead, a governmentally sanctioned oligopoly, owned by a few highly profitable corporate entities. These concerns jealously guard their privilege through legislative influence and through use of their control of news coverage, by which means they distort public understanding of media issues. McChesney pinpoints the beginning of governmental oversight with the regulatory role imposed on the U.S. government at the advent of broadcast, where government was required to enforce the broadcasting rights of a limited number of participants. McChesney sees the Communications Act of 1934 as essentially allowing monopolistic rights to broadcasters who had shown the greatest propensity for profit. Subsequent to this act were the provisions of the Fairness Doctrine, which had provisions for public interest broadcasting due to the scarcity of the broadcasting resource. These restrictions were later overturned in the 1980s under the banner of "deregulation."

Policy debates focus on marginal and tangential issues because core structures and policies are off-limits to criticism. In this environment, policy debates tend to gravitate to the elite level and public participation virtually disappears. After all, for most people, minor media policy issues are far down the list of important topics. Sweeping media reform is unthinkable - and politically impossible. The public's elimination from the process is encouraged by the corruption of the U.S. political system, in which politicians tend to be comfortable with the status quo and not inclined to upset powerful commercial media owners and potential campaign contributors. The dominant media firms enjoy the power to control news coverage of debates over media policies; this is a power they have used shamelessly to trivialize, marginalize, and distort opposition to the status quo.[5]

McChesney criticized the lack of investigative reporting immediately following the attacks on 9/11 and characterized American media coverage as "propaganda."[6] He advocated delving deeper into the issues behind the attacks, rather than merely repeated coverage of benefits, remembrances, and footage of the aftermath.

Personal life

McChesney lives in Champaign-Urbana. He is married to media scholar Inger Stole and has two children.




As author

  • 2010. Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols. The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again. Nation Books.
  • 2008. The Political Economy of Media: Enduring Issues, Emerging Dilemmas. New York: Monthly Review Press.
  • 2007. Communication Revolution: Critical Junctures and the Future of Media. New York: The New Press.
  • 2005. Media, Class Struggle and Democracy. Athens, Greece: Monthly Review Press. (A collection of essays from Monthly Review and a new introduction; Translated and published in Greek.)
  • 2004. The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the 21st Century. New York: Monthly Review Press.
  • 2002. Robert W. McChesney & John Nichols, Our Media, Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle Against Corporate Media. Introductions by Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, and Barbara Ehrenreich. New York: Seven Stories Press.
  • 2000. Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times. Paperback edition, with a new preface by the author. New York: The New Press.
  • 2000. John Nichols & Robert W. McChesney, It's the Media, Stupid!, with forewords by Paul Wellstone, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Ralph Nader. New York: Seven Stories Press.
  • 1999. Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
  • 1997. Edward S. Herman & Robert W. McChesney, The Global Media: The New Missionaries of Corporate Capitalism. London and Washington: Cassell.
  • 1997. Corporate Media and the Threat to Democracy. Open Media Series, No. 1. New York: Seven Stories Press.
  • 1993. Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy: The Battle for the Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-1935. New York: Oxford University Press.

As editor

  • 2005. Robert W. McChesney, Russell Newman and Ben Scott, editors. The Future of Media. New York: Seven Stories Press.
  • 2004. John Bellamy Foster & Robert W. McChesney, editors. Pox Americana: Exposing the American Empire. New York: Monthly Review Press.
  • 2004. Robert W. McChesney & Ben Scott, editors. Our Unfree Press: 100 Years of Radical Media Criticism. New York: The New Press.
  • 1998. Robert W. McChesney, Ellen Meiksins Wood & John Bellamy Foster, editors. Capitalism and the Information Age: The Political Economy of the Global Communication Revolution. New York: Monthly Review Press.
  • 1993. William Solomon & Robert W. McChesney, eds., Ruthless Criticism: New Perspectives in U.S. Communication History. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.


Other media appearances

See also


  1. ^ Biography from Seven Stories Press website. Reproduces material on defunct site. [1]
  2. ^ Robert W. McChesney bio
  3. ^ a b profile
  4. ^ "Bob McChesney, host of Media Matters, challenges listeners to be critical media consumers." WILL AM 580 website. Accessed March 14, 2007. [2]
  5. ^ McChesney, Robert. 2004. Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy: The Battle for the Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-1935. New York: Oxford University Press.
  6. ^ "Nattering networks: How mass media fail democracy. An interviw with Bob McChesney." by Jessica Clark. LiP Magazine, Sept 24, 2001.[3]
  7. ^ Visionaries Who Are Changing the World
  8. ^ "Robert W. McChesney Authors Award-Winning Book." December 1, 2000. University of Illinois Graduate School of Library Sciences Archives.[4]
  9. ^ Transcript: Bill Moyers Talks with John Nichols & Robert McChesney. NOW with Bill Moyers website. [5] Accessed March 14, 2007.

External links


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