Journalist Steven Thrasher to join Medill as inaugural Daniel H. Renberg chair


Source: Steven Thrasher

Steven Thrasher. The accomplished journalist will join the Medill faculty next year as the inaugural Daniel H. Renberg chair.

Wilson Chapman, Reporter

Steven Thrasher, a 2012 recipient of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association’s Journalist of the Year Award, will join the Medill School of Journalism in 2019.

Thrasher, who has written about LGBTQ issues for publications including The New York Times, The Guardian and Buzzfeed, will join the University as the inaugural Daniel H. Renberg chair, a newly created position in which he will lead programming on LGBTQ issues and teach classes on similar subjects. Associate dean of Medill Charles Whitaker said Thrasher’s combined experience in journalism and academia makes him a good fit for Medill.

“Thrasher is both an accomplished journalist and an accomplished academic, and his strengths in both fields will make him a great addition to Medill’s faculty,” Whitaker said.

Medill Prof. Douglas Foster, chair of a faculty search committee looking to fill the position, said he believes it is the first major journalism professorship to focus on the topic.

Foster said the position was established through an endowment provided by the husband of the late Renberg (Medill ’52). The committee worked to narrow a field of 60 applicants to five finalists, who were invited to Medill to host lectures about LGBTQ topics. After reviewing the lectures, the committee decided to offer Thrasher the position.

“Thrasher gave a terrific lecture, and we ultimately decided that he was the best man for the job,” Foster said.

Thrasher said he is excited to join the Medill faculty and already established goals for the new position. One of his primary focuses as the chair, he said, will be to establish programs and classes that examine media coverage of sexual and gender minorities.

Though he won’t join NU until next year, Thrasher said he has already started developing ideas for classes that can help fulfill those goals. These tentative plans include classes on 21st-century social movements and journalistic narrative framing.

He also said while his position is through Medill, he will work with other departments such as the American studies program, the African American studies department and the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing, to develop LGBTQ programs across campus.

In addition, Thrasher said he also intends to incorporate his background in American studies into his work at Medill. For example, he said he hopes to start classes that look at HIV/AIDS history or gay rights before and after the Stonewall Riots — a series of 1969 demonstrations against police raids that sparked the gay liberation movement of the following decades — with a journalistic perspective.

Thrasher said he hopes the study of queer media history can help facilitate conversation among students about LGBTQ representation in media and help teach them how to be responsible and inquisitive reporters.

“Queer and trans people have such a long history of biased media coverage,” Thrasher said. “Studying this history can be a rewarding learning experience even for straight people and those who do not fall within these demographics.”

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