I'm a writer and historian seeking new ways of telling stories about America's past in order to help us understand our present. My current research project, advised by Julian E. Zelizer, explores the intersection of media and politics by taking a fresh look at the career of pioneering newsman Edward R. Murrow. My previous work has reexamined mythologized moments and cultural heroes in American history to probe issues of criminal justice and media misinformation that remain relevant to this day.
As an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, I studied History and Screen Arts, specializing in screenwriting, and wrote a murder-mystery/comedy short film that premiered at the Traverse City Film Festival in 2013. My senior honors thesis examined a trove of long-lost letters from radio listeners sent to Orson Welles after his 1938 "War of the Worlds" broadcast to challenge the popular myth that this landmark production sparked a nationwide panic. This research formed the basis for my first book – "BROADCAST HYSTERIA: Orson Welles's War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News" (Hill and Wang, 2015) – which recast the story of the Martian radioplay as a warning for the social media age. I also co-wrote a 2013 episode of the PBS series AMERICAN EXPERIENCE about the "War of the Worlds" broadcast, based in part on my thesis research.
My next two books, co-written with ROAD TO PERDITION creator Max Allan Collins, attempt to definitively chronicle the life of famed lawman Eliot Ness, whose pop culture reputation has obscured his efforts to transform American policing more than eighty years ago. "SCARFACE AND THE UNTOUCHABLE: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago" (William Morrow, 2018), which seeks to correct the record on Ness's conflict with America's most notorious gangster, is currently in development as a Showtime television series. "ELIOT NESS AND THE MAD BUTCHER: Hunting America's Deadliest Unidentified Serial Killer at the Dawn of Modern Criminology" (William Morrow, 2020) reveals the story of Ness's forgotten second act, as he worked to reform a corrupt, inept, and racist police department while trying to catch a brutal serial murderer.
"Although I'd established myself as a writer before coming to Princeton, I decided to pursue a PhD in order to develop the skills and experience necessary to add my research and scholarship to the national conversation. Now more than ever, historians have a responsibility – and an opportunity – to speak to a public increasingly curious about the roots of the challenges that face us in the present and eager to know how the American story has been misinterpreted in the past. The training I've received at Princeton has left me better prepared to meet that need in ways beyond the traditional understanding of a PhD career."
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"Attempting to pursue careers beyond the academy can feel isolating, as it sometimes seems you're blazing a trail all by yourself, but it's immensely encouraging to be connected with other students and scholars seeking to use their degrees in new ways."