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Christopher Terry

Assistant Professor
May 16, 2016

His appointment to SJMC takes on a special significance for Christopher Terry. During his masters and doctoral programs, Terry worked with David Allen, Sandra Braman and Robert Drechsel, three protégés of SJMC media law and ethics trailblazer, Don Gillmor.

“I learned from Minnesota people. Don’s legacy and traditions are really important and I feel like I get to carry the torch back to Minnesota,” said Terry. “That’s an exciting personal and professional opportunity for me.”

Terry has spent the past six years as a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He holds an M.A. in Mass Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a Ph.D. in Mass Communication with a Law Minor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He joins SJMC as an assistant professor of media ethics and law. He will teach Introduction to Mass Communication (JOUR 1001) and Mass Communication Law (JOUR 3776) during the fall semester and Administrative Law and Regulation for Strategic Communication (JOUR 3775) in the spring.

Before entering academia, Terry spent almost 15 years as a producer for Clear Channel Communications in the Milwaukee area. The role placed him at ground zero during the deregulation of commercial radio in the mid-1990s and motivated his desire to teach.

“I saw the public service we lost and I became interested in the process that was allowing that to occur,” he said. “As I learned more and developed a research agenda, I realized there was a need for people to teach, understand and explain these things, not just from a research perspective, but also for students who are entering the media to understand that the way the media existed 15 to 20 years ago is radically different to the way it exists today.”   

That professional experience continues to inform his research on policy implementation within the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Elections Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, and the real world effects of policies on political communication.

“I’m not a traditional law person; I am a policy person,” Terry said. “I see things from not only the legal side of things, but also the practical side. I study what happens after the decision is in effect.”

In his most recent research, Terry examined the influence of the Citizens United v FEC decision on judicial election advertising in Wisconsin. The results suggest changes to the quantity of issue ads run, the money spent on issue advertising, and the content of the ads themselves. Terry sees a direct relationship between his research and what he teaches in the classroom.

“We aren’t teaching lawyers in our field, we’re teaching media people,” Terry said. “They need to know as much about what the law means as what the law says. It’s one thing to talk about a court case from 1934, it’s something else to show students what that means in the real world.”