Moving from Kansas City, Mo., to a rural Kansas community made me aware of cultural distinctions based on class and geography at an early age. Growing up the son of a Latina mother and German-American father made me similarly aware of the ways people assert their social identity based on ethnic, racial, and religious differences. Love of writing and storytelling led me into journalism in my first career. My background naturally led me to ask questions about social identity, culture, and mass communication, my current foci of research. More broadly, my research involves the institutional history of journalism as a cultural and social force in the United States.

My research interests reach from contemporary contexts back to the mid-nineteenth century. Thus, I select from a range of theoretical and methodological tools depending on the research question at hand. The research questions I find most compelling involve the ways institutions and individuals use mediated communication to project and correct injustice in society. Social identity theory and Bourdieu’s concepts of field, habitus, and doxa inform my work.

Qualitative methods: I have used qualitative case study methods to examine contemporary issues involving the news media and Latino immigration. This involves institutional analysis, depth interviewing, and qualitative content assessment of media artifacts.

Quantitative methods: My research team—I call it the Fuhlhage Research Gang, or simply the Research Gang to avoid the confusion with the Federal Republic of Germany that “FRG” might stir up—has been using statistical analysis by categorizing and coding news content and using descriptive statistics to identify patterns for analysis and exploration. It’s not Cliometrics in the original sense, and it’s not Big Data, but with the Secession Information Flow database reaching into the thousands of articles, we verge on Biggish Data. I used this approach to conceptualize the categories of Open Source Intelligence that I explore in my book Yankee Reporters and Southern Secrets: Journalism, Open Source Intelligence, and the Coming of the Civil War. Find it in a library here.

Cultural history and ethnohistorical methods: I am attracted to big questions involving the cultural history and ethnohistory of journalism and mass communication. While writing my dissertation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I formulated a method I call “cultural contrapuntal reading.” This method blends Edward Said’s contrapuntal reading and Marion Marzolf’s content assessment with Russell Barber and Frances Berdan’s reality-mediation model. For an in-depth description of cultural contrapuntal reading, please see my chapter in Identity & Communication: New Agendas in Communication (Routledge, 2013).