UM J-school Prof. Lee Banville Writes Encyclopedia About Media and Politics

Back in July 2014, Associate Professor Lee Banville mapped out all of the best coffee shops in Missoula after signing the contract for his next book. His romantic vision as a writer disappeared when he realized that his 10,000 word-per-week quota could only be met from the basement of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library at the University.

“Sometimes, as a treat, I’d sit on the third floor,” Banville said. “There are windows there, and I could look outside.”

Now, 788 pages later, Banville’s work is in the hands of Praeger Press, who will release the two-volume encyclopedia in October 2016. Titled Covering American Politics in the 21st Century: An Encyclopedia of News Media Titans, Trends, and Controversies, the book tackles topics like the role of money in elections, how social media has increased the personalization of the Internet and the roles of female reporters on the campaign trail.

banville-book

Banville witnessed the digital revolution first hand, between the 1996 National Convention in San Diego, covered with “traditional media by the nth-degree,” and the 2008 elections, when he was at Grant Park in Chicago and saw President Obama give his victory speech.

“By the end of that, information was treated differently,” Banville said. “I wanted to dig into all of these things I was affected by and was seeing, but hadn’t spent much time thinking about.”

While he said technology and society have shaped politics and the media, Banville continued, “It’s part of a larger story that’s not changing as fast as we think.”

Banville started working in the newsroom when he was 22 and living in Washington, D.C. He spent 14 years with PBS NewsHour as an online editor, but realized he missed working with people who were still “pretty green to journalism” and could adapt more quickly to evolving technologies. The constant bustle of Washington, D.C. also made Banville wistful for the mountains, so when a teaching position opened up at the University of Montana in 2008, he seized the opportunity, joining the School of Journalism the following year. Banville said the move definitely paid off.

“I still get a twinge during election season,” Banville said. “But it’s nice not to have to wait up for the final results anymore.”

However, he still finds himself awake at midnight, watching the polls and eating frosted animal cookies during the primaries. This election season Banville will be serving as an on-air political analyst for ABC FOX Montana to keep audiences informed about the issues at stake and their historical context.

“There’s a spectacle to politics, like nerd sports. It’s fun to report on,” Banville said. “There’s competition, winners and losers, bizarre personalities and civic good.”

Stay up to date with Lee Banville on Twitter: @banville

UM School of Journalism Assistant Professors Jule Banville and Jason Begay, as well as alumni Michael Wright, helped contribute to Covering American Politics in the 21st Century: an Encyclopedia of News Media Titans, Trends, and Controversies.

Lee Banville is also the author of Debating Our Destiny: Presidential Debate Moments that Shaped History.

By Jana Wiegand
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