Ryan J. Thomas

Associate Professor

Journalism Studies, Doctoral Faculty

101-E Reynolds Journalism Institute
Missouri School of Journalism
Columbia, MO 65211-1200

RYAN J. THOMAS is an Associate Professor of Journalism Studies in the Missouri School of Journalism. His research addresses the relationship between journalism’s institutional responsibilities and processes of change. There are two major streams to this research. First, he examines how journalists write about journalism to understand how journalists construct the norms, practices, obligations, and boundaries of their field. Second, he examines how processes of change – economic, technological, political, regulatory, etc. – impact or impede journalists’ abilities to execute their democratic duties. His work draws on theories and approaches in political and moral philosophy, sociology of news, political economy, and cultural studies and is, above all, anchored in a firm appreciation for the work journalists do in service of democracy. Thomas also maintains an ongoing research interest in how labor unions, social movements, nations, and immigrants are represented in journalism.

Thomas’ research has been published in a number of journals, including Journalism Studies, the Journal of Media Ethics, New Media and Society, Journalism Practice, and Digital Journalism. His research has won top paper awards from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), International Communication Association (ICA), and National Communication Association (NCA). He won the 2009 AEJMC/Kappa Tau Alpha/University of Hawaii Carol Burnett Award for outstanding scholarship in media ethics. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Media Ethics and served as the head of the Media Ethics Division of AEJMC for the 2016/17 academic year, having previously served as programming chair, research chair, and newsletter editor.

Thomas teaches Principles of American Journalism at the undergraduate level and Media Ethics, Qualitative Research Methods, and Philosophy of Journalism at the graduate level. He is a member of the Media Sociology and Media Law, Ethics, and Policy doctoral research areas. He works extensively with graduate students in helping them develop their research interests and become journalism studies scholars. He collaborates widely with current and former graduate students of the school in the areas of journalism studies, media ethics, and media sociology. Thomas is currently the chair of the School’s Policy Committee and is a past chair of its Doctoral Admissions and Undergraduate Recruitment and Outreach committees. He has also represented the School on the University’s Honors College committee. He is a frequent guest panelist on KBIA’s Views of the News, a weekly media criticism program.

Thomas is a first-generation college student from Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. He holds a B.A. degree in American studies from Swansea University and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.

Refereed Publications

  • Finneman, T., Thomas, R.J., and Jenkins, J. (2019). “I always watched Eyewitness News just to see your beautiful smile”: Implications of U.S. women TV anchors’ personal branding on social media. Journal of Media Ethics, 34(3), 146-159.
  • Vos, T.P., and Thomas, R.J. (2019). The discursive (re)construction of journalism’s gatekeeping role. Journalism Practice, 13(4), 396-412.
  • Hinnant, A., Subramanian, R., Ashley, R.R., Perreault, M., Young, R., and Thomas, R.J. (2019). How journalists characterize health inequalities and redefine solutions for Native American audiences. Health Communication, 34(4), 383-391.
  • Thomas, R.J. (2019). Helpfulness as journalism’s normative anchor: Addressing blind spots and going back to basics. Journalism Studies, 20(3), 364-380.
  • Kelling, K., and Thomas, R.J. (2018). The roles and functions of opinion journalists. Newspaper Research Journal, 39(4), 398-419.
  • Hendricks, M.A., and Thomas, R.J. (2018). What’s in a name? Journalistic boundary work and a high school newspaper’s effort to ban “Redskin.” Journalism and Mass Communication Educator, 73(4), 454-468.
  • Thomas, R.J., and Perreault, M. (2018). A lineage of leakers? The contingency of collective memory in coverage of contemporary leaking cases. Journalism Practice, 12(10), 1259-1276.
  • Finneman, T., and Thomas, R.J. (2018). A family of falsehoods: Deception, media hoaxes, and fake news. Newspaper Research Journal, 39(3), 350-361.
  • Vos, T.P., and Thomas, R.J. (2018). The discursive construction of journalistic authority in a post-truth age. Journalism Studies, 19(13), 2001-2010.
  • Tandoc, E.C., Takahashi, B., and Thomas, R.J. (2018). Bias vs. bias: How Fox News anchors discussed Pope Francis’ stance on climate change. Journalism Practice, 12(7), 834-849.
  • Drew, K.K., and Thomas, R.J. (2018). From separation to collaboration: Perspectives on editorial-business collaboration at U.S. news organizations. Digital Journalism, 6(2), 196-215.
  • Tandoc, E.C., and Thomas, R.J. (2017). Readers value objectivity over transparency. Newspaper Research Journal, 38(1), 32-45.
  • Thomas, R.J., Tandoc Jr., E.C., and Hinnant, A. (2017). False balance in public health reporting? Michele Bachmann, the HPV vaccine, and “mental retardation.” Health Communication, 32(2), 152-160.
  • Antony, M.G., and Thomas, R.J. (2017). “Stop sending your kids across our border:” Discursively constructing the unaccompanied youth migrant. Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 10(1), 4-24.
  • Hoops, J.F., Thomas, R.J., and Drzewiecka, J.A. (2016). Polish “pawns” between nationalism and neoliberalism in British newspaper coverage of post-EU enlargement Polish immigration. Journalism, 17(6), 727-743.
  • Thomas, R.J. (2016). In defense of journalistic paternalism. Journal of Media Ethics, 31(2), 86-99.
  • Siegelbaum, S., and Thomas, R.J. (2016). Putting the work (back) into newswork: Searching for the sources of normative failure. Journalism Practice, 10(3), 387-404.
  • Greenwood, K., & Thomas, R. J. (2015). The citizen view: The use and content of citizen-generated photojournalism. Digital Journalism, 3(4), 615-633.
  • Thomas, R. J., & Hindman, E. B. (2015). Confusing roles, uncertain responsibilities: Journalistic discourse on Juan Williams and NPR. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 92(2), 468-486.
  • Thomas, R. J., & Antony, M. G. (2015). Competing constructions of British national identity: British newspaper comment on the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. Media, Culture, & Society, 37(3), 493-503.
  • Tandoc, E. C., Jr., & Thomas, R. J. (2015). The ethics of web analytics: Implications of using audience metrics in news construction. Digital Journalism, 3(2), 243-258.
  • Drzewiecka, J. A., Hoops, J. F., & Thomas, R. J. (2014). Rescaling migrants and disciplining workers in discourses on EU migration in UK newspapers. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 31(5), 410-425.
  • Finneman, T., & Thomas, R. J. (2014). First ladies in permanent conjuncture: Grace Coolidge and “great” American womanhood in The New York Times. Women’s Studies in Communication, 37(2), 220-236.
  • Thomas, R. J., & Finneman, T. (2014). Who watches the watchdogs? British newspaper metadiscourse on the Leveson Inquiry. Journalism Studies, 15(2), 172-186.
  • Finneman, T., & Thomas, R. J. (2014). The British national press and the 2012 royal photo scandals: Privacy and the public interest. Journalism Practice, 8(4), 407-420.
  • Hindman, E. B., & Thomas, R. J. (2014). When old and new media collide: The case of WikiLeaks. New Media and Society, 16(4), 541-558.
  • Hindman, E. B., & Thomas, R. J. (2013). Journalism’s “crazy old Aunt”: Helen Thomas and paradigm repair. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 90(2), 267-286.
  • Thomas, R. J. (2012). Changing the conversation: Can the News International phone hacking scandal lead to a new covenant on media responsibilities? Political Quarterly, 83(3), 524-531.
  • Peterson, J. C., Antony, M. G., & Thomas, R. J. (2012). “This right here is all about living”: Communicating the “common sense” about home stability through CBPR and Photovoice. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 40(3), 247-270.
  • Thomas, R. J., & Hindman, E. B. (2012). “People will die because of the BBC”: British newspaper reaction to the BBC DEC/Gaza appeal decision. Journalism, 13(5), 527-588.
  • Carter, D. L., Thomas, R. J., & Ross, S. D. (2011). You are not a friend: Media conflict in times of peace. Journalism Studies, 12(4), 456-473.
  • Thomas, R. J. (2011). Media morality and compassion for “faraway others.” Journalism Practice, 5(3), 287-302.
  • Antony, M. G., & Thomas, R. J. (2010). “This is citizen journalism at its finest”: YouTube and the public sphere in the Oscar Grant shooting incident. New Media and Society, 12(8), 1280-1296.

Invited Journal Publications

  • Tandoc, E.C., and Thomas, R.J. (2017). Is “doing well” doing any good? How web analytics and social media are bringing about a new journalistic norm. Paragraph Journal (Revista Paragrafo), 5(2), 30-45.
  • Ross, S.D., Carter, D.L., and Thomas, R.J. (2009). Reporting the U.S./Mexico border in times of peace. Media Development, 56(1), 35-39.


  • Antony, M.G., and Thomas, R.J. (Eds.) (2018). Interdisciplinary perspectives on child migrants: Seen but not heard. Lanham, MD: Lexington.

Book Chapters

  • Thomas, R.J. (2018). Harm. In P.L. Plaisance (Ed.), Communication and media ethics (pp. 215-234). Berlin, Germany: Walter De Gruyter.
  • Thomas, R.J. (2018). Advocacy journalism. In T.P. Vos (Ed.), Journalism (pp. 391–413). Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter.
  • Antony, M.G., and Thomas, R.J. (2018). Introduction: The child migrant in interdisciplinary context. In M.G. Antony and R.J. Thomas (Eds.), Interdisciplinary perspectives on child migrants: Seen but not heard (pp. xvii-xxv). Lanham, MD: Lexington.
  • Thomas, R.J., Kelling, K., Wolfgang, J.D., and Greenwood, K. (2018). Discourses of compassion? British newspapers and the Alan Kurdi image. In M.G. Antony and R.J. Thomas (Eds.), Interdisciplinary perspectives on child migrants: Seen but not heard (pp. 45-64). Lanham, MD: Lexington.
  • Thomas, R.J., and Antony, M.G. (2018). Conclusion: Looking forward. In M.G. Antony and R.J. Thomas (Eds.), Interdisciplinary perspectives on child migrants: Seen but not heard (pp. 217-223). Lanham, MD: Lexington.
  • Greenwood, K., and Thomas, R.J. (2017). Locating the journalism in citizen photojournalism: The use and content of citizen-generated imagery. In S. Allan (Ed.) Photojournalism and citizen journalism: Co-operation, collaboration, and connectivity (pp. 298-316). London, UK: Routledge.
  • Thomas, R.J., and Hendricks, M. (2016). Making class matter: Journalism and social class. In M.E. Len-Rios and E. L. Perry (Eds,), Cross-cultural journalism: Communicating strategically about diversity (pp. 63-84). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Antony, M.G., and Thomas, R.J. (2016). “The classroom is NOT a sacred space:” Revisiting citizen journalism and surveillance in the digital classroom. In P. Booth and A. Davisson (Eds.), Controversies in Digital Ethics (pp. 29-43). New York, NY: Bloomsbury Press.
  • Antony, M. G., & Thomas, R. J. (2012). “This is citizen journalism at its finest”: YouTube and the public sphere in the Oscar Grant shooting incident. In M. Wall (Ed.), Citizen Journalism: Valuable, useless, or dangerous? (pp. 99-114). New York, NY: IDEBATE Press.
  • Thomas, R. J., & Ross, S. D. (2012). Torture and contempt of the law in “24″: Selling America new “patriotic” values. In P. Robson & J. Silbey (Eds.), Law and Justice on the Small Screen (pp. 381-401). Oxford, UK: Hart.


  • 2018 Top Paper, AEJMC (Media Ethics Division)
  • 2015 Campus finalist, Andrew Carnegie Fellows program
  • 2014 Top Four Paper, AEJMC (Communicating Science, Health, Environment and Risk Division)
  • 2013-2014 Member, University of Missouri Faculty Scholars Program
  • 2009 AEJMC/Kappa Tau Alpha/University of Hawaii Carol Burnett Award for outstanding scholarship in media ethics.

Updated: November 6, 2019