Deaths: Kevin Barnhurst


Kevin Barnhurst

Kevin Barnhurst

Kevin Barnhurst, 64, professor emeritus and former head of communication, died June 2 at his home in Stoddard, New Hampshire.

Barnhurst’s research and teaching covered political communication, sociology of young audiences, journalism history, visual culture and qualitative methods. His work explored the transformation of news in the 20th century and the sociopolitical influences on the definition of news in newspapers, television, radio and online.

He became a UIC faculty member in 1998 as an associate professor in the department of communication and was promoted to full professor in 2004. He was appointed interim head of the department in 2002 and served as head from 2005–2008.

After retiring in December 2012, he joined the University of Leeds’ Institute of Communications Studies as chair of Communication in the Digital Era.

“Kevin stands out as a preeminent and inspired scholar, whose work forged new directions for those of us interested in questions about contemporary media and contemporary life,” said Zizi Papacharissi, UIC professor and head of communication. “His work tirelessly traces how underrepresented and marginalized publics strive for visibility and voice.”

Barnhurst’s latest book, Mister Pulitzer and the Spider: Modern News from Realism to the Digital, covers the evolution of news ideology from the 19th century to today. It is scheduled for publication next month by University of Illinois Press.

He is the author of Seeing the Newspaper, co-author of The Form of News: A History, and editor of Media Queered: Visibility and Its Discontents. He was also a frequent speaker at universities and conferences in Europe, Latin America, and North America.

In addition to more than 100 contributions to leading scholarly publications, his op-ed pieces and commentaries were published by Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Tribune, Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, Houston Post, Commentary and American Scholar. 

Barnhurst was named to the Vercelli Chair in 20th Century History of Communications as part of the Fulbright Distinguished Chairs Program, which is among the most prestigious appointments in the Fulbright Scholar Program. In this role, he spent the 2006 spring semester teaching at the University of Eastern Piedmont Amadeo Avogadro in Vercelli, Italy.

In 1989, he received a senior Fulbright award in support of research and teaching in Peru. He also held fellowships at Columbia and Harvard universities.

“His commitment to his students’ education is one of the things I’ll remember most about him,” said Steve Jones, UIC distinguished professor of communication.

Jones noted that one example of Barnhurst’s student-focused service was the teaching page on his website, where an essay introduces graduate and undergraduate students to the forms of writing they might encounter in their social science research and provides methods to manage the quantity and quality of what they discover.

Barnhurst and his husband, Richard Doherty, a former lecturer and academic technology resource coordinator in the department of communication, have been funding a Graduate College-based endowment to support the academic work of students. He served as a faculty advisor in the college.

Previous to his appointment at UIC, Barnhurst taught at Syracuse University, UIUC and Keene State College.

He received a Ph.D. in social and political science from the University of Amsterdam in 1997. He earned a bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, in Latin American studies from Brigham Young University in 1975 and a master’s degree, with honors, in mass communications from BYU in 1979.

Barnhurst is survived by Doherty, and three sons, Joel, Andrew and Matthew.

A family gathering and service is scheduled July 9 in New Hampshire. Friends and colleagues interested in attending may contact Doherty at