In the early 1990s Richard Wentworth, the director of the University of Illinois Press, invited Bob McChesney to create and edit a series on communication history, and McChesney gladly accepted. McChesney’s only request was that John Nerone, the communication historian on the faculty at the University of Illinois, be his co-editor. Nerone and Wentworth were already at work on an update and critique of the classic Four Theories of the Press, and Last Rights: Revisiting “Four Theories of the Press” was published as one of the first books in the series.
McChesney and Nerone created an original and provocative series of well researched books on the history of the media—radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet—and on the media’s many roles and functions: reporters, advertisers, and opinion leaders, government and corporate public relations, and businesses in competition with one another.
Now with more than sixty titles, the series has provided an identity to the field of communication history through its publication of authors from variety of disciplines and institutional homes, with titles ranging from McChesney’s influential Rich Media, Poor Democracy to first books from emerging new voices. In an era of fake news and growing attacks on journalists, the books in the series reveal that today’s biased journalism is not new and that the failures of commercial media have been decades in the making. Titles from the early nineteenth century to the present critically expose the challenges inherent to the economic and political systems of the United States and the rest of the world but also explore democratic successes and opportunities for reform. The telegraph, radio, and television preceded social media, and the History of Communication series has chronicled the distinct nature that marked each communication technology’s emergence as well as journalism’s evolution.
The University of Illinois Press looks forward to the future of the History of Communication series and the central work of communication history: from histories of technological change and innovation to explorations of how communication policy shapes democratic society, from the role of the press as active participants in political struggle to trenchant critiques of economic and cultural imperatives that drive our media.