Ken Ward: Research
While teaching is my first passion, I’ve developed a research agenda in which I am deeply engaged. My primary research agenda pursues questions of media history, focusing on the under-researched development of journalism in America’s middle states. A second line of research investigates the role of social media in effecting our perceptions of those around us. My work has been published in such periodicals as the Journal of Mass Media Law and Ethics and the Journal of Magazine and New Media Research. It has also received numerous awards, including AEJMC’s Warren Price Award and AJHA’s Robert Lance Award, both for top student research. Abstracts of major projects can be found below.
My dissertation is a large-scale investigation of the history of competition between the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News, which fought for dominance of the Denver news market for over one hundred years. The battle ended in 2009, when the News folded in the midst of the then-deepening economic crisis. When completed in February 2018, my work will represent a significant contribution to scholars’ understanding of the economic forces prevalent in the twentieth century that affected media diversity as well as the impact of the Newspaper Preservation Act, the Great Recession, and digitalization on journalism.
Jacob Frohwerk was the editor of the German-language Kansas Staats-Zeitung and Missouri Staats-Zeitung, both of which were published in Kansas City in the 1910s. He was prosecuted and jailed under the Espionage Act of 1917 for anti-war editorials published in one of his newspapers. This research illuminates his case, which was argued before the US Supreme Court in the same context as landmark cases like Schenck, Abrams, and Debs. While Frohwerk is frequently footnoted by First Amendment scholars, historical complexities in his biography and legal case caused his full story to go unresearched prior to this work; thus, this research fills a crucial gap in media law history.
The 2016 US presidential election witnessed the development of ethically dubious methods of political persuasion built and executed on social networking sites. The following analyzes the ethics of behavioral microtargeting practices like those of Cambridge Analytica, a company which claims to have played a central role in Donald Trump’s successful candidacy through its use of social networking sites like Facebook. After describing Cambridge Analytica’s method of data manipulation and identifying several threats to individual autonomy posed by such practices, this research explores whether Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative could be used by individuals to effectively guards democratic processes.
This article identifies innovative marketing strategies utilized at the dawn of the twentieth century in the Arts and Crafts magazine The Craftsman, a product of furniture maker Gustav Stickley. Drawing upon all issues of the publication, the article identifies the use of novel product nesting strategies that advertise Stickley’s products within The Craftsman magazine. Additionally, it analyzes multi-directional branding strategies employed by Stickley and his company that illustrate the versatility of the brand and its ability to borrow credibility from significant figures in the Arts and Crafts movement and American history. It contributes a notable case of creative advertising previously overlooked by media scholars and provides opportunities for parallel studies of other magazines.
This thesis can be viewed in its entirety here.
This historical research explores two political issues, the silver movement and political regionalism, in select newspapers of the Cripple Creek Mining District in Colorado from 1896-1904. These two topics are not suitably studied in prior research on Colorado journalism, which has tended to explore minor press environments and has largely neglected press operations and editorialism during the Gilded Age. This research is grounded in concepts such as sectionalism, which is used to guide the study’s investigation of silver and political regionalism. Primary research utilizes the Cripple Creek Citizen, Morning Times, Morning Times-Citizen, Times (weekly and daily), Evening Star, Mail, and Daily Press and the Victor Daily Record newspapers. Those sources are analyzed to better understand how Cripple Creek Mining District editors manipulated the battle for free silver and bimetallism in the 1890s and identified political boundaries to direct voters in elections surrounding the turn to the twentieth century. Such analysis expands media historian’s understanding of Colorado journalism, explores the significant but poorly-researched influence of bimetallism on Gilded Age presses, and applies the critical concepts of political regionalism and sectionalism to mine camp and Colorado journalism. This research concludes with a number of observations intended to generate further study in related concepts by media historians and offers a potential gateway towards the development of cultural theory pertaining to sectionalism during the 1890s in the American West.