Staff profile

Professor John Steel

Research Professor in Journalism

John Steel




College of Arts, Humanities and Education

Research centre

Identity, Culture and Representation Research Centre




Kedleston Road, Derby Campus



I was appointed as a Research Professor in Journalism in the School of Humanities and Journalism in September 2020. Before that, I was Senior Lecturer in Journalism and Political Communication at the University of Sheffield. My role at Derby is mainly concerned with research, both supporting research within the School and wider University as well as maintaining my own research areas and interests.

Broadly, my research centres around the intersection of politics, media and democratic engagement, with a particular current focus on media freedom, audiences and media ethics. My work has been published widely and I have won over £685k in competitive grant funding. I was the Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded 'Defining Freedom of the Press' research project.

Teaching responsibilities

I currently teach on the MRes in Social Science and Humanities and the MA in Journalism. I have held programme and module leadership roles in the past. 

Professional interests

My work spans political communication, media history and journalism studies. I am particularly interested in exploring historical and contemporary debates concerning democratic rights and their praxis, specifically those contestations around media freedom, free of expression and censorship. 

In addition to my current work on journalism ethics, I have recently published on topics including Advocacy Journalism, Digital Media and Journalism Education, Class and the Regional Press, and Letters to the Editor. With my co-editor Professor Julian Petley, I have recently published The Routledge Companion to Freedom of Expression and Censorship. I am also working on a monograph for Routledge entitled British Radicalism and Free Speech. 

I hold editorial board membership of the journals Media History; Journal of Applied Journalism and Media Studies; and Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics. I am a regular reviewer for leading media and communication journals including the European Journal of Communication; International Journal of Press Politics; Journalism Studies; Digital Journalism; Journalism Practice; Media History; Journal of Media and Communication Studies; Journal of Applied Media Studies; Historical Research; Digital Journalism; Cambridge Journal of Education; International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics.

I also regularly review book proposals for leading publishers including Routledge Taylor and Francis; Palgrave; Sage; and Zed Books.

Research interests

My research interests spans journalism studies, political communication and media history and was the Principal investigator in the AHRC-funded project Defining Freedom of the Press which examines press ethics and regulation in Europe and the UK.

I am currently working with Professor Julie Firmstone ( on a funded project entitled Engaging the Public in Regulating for ethical journalism ( which is an impact focussed project which builds on the recent AHRC study.

I am also currently working on a monograph on freedom of expression. The first examines the relationship between freedom of expression and British radicalism since the 17th century, the second is a comprehensive exploration of contemporary scholarship on freedom of expression and censorship (with Julian Petley, Brunel). 

I am also happy to supervise prospective PhD candidates in the following areas:

Membership of professional bodies


Recent conferences

Experience in industry

I have been, and continue to be involved in wider community industry and engagement with links to a range of external partners including Independent Monitor for the Press (IMPRESS), Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO); National Union of Journalists (NUJ); Ethical Journalism Network (EJN); European Federation of Journalists; Amnesty International; IPPR; Article 19; Index on Censorship; Tell MAMA; Trans Media Watch; Cancer Research UK; London Chamber of Commerce; Policy Exchange; Migrant Voice; Project Censored as well as having established contacts within Westminster and Whitehall.

International experience

In addition to conducting and directing research activities overseas, I have worked on a wide range of international projects and collaborations including book and writing projects, funding bids and research proposals, international panel convening and conference presentations.

Additional interests and activities

Walking, cycling, climbing, swimming and music (not all at the same time!).

Recent publications

Recent Publications

  • Steel, J. (2025) British Radicalism and Free Speech, London: Routledge (under contract)
  • Petley, J. & Steel, J. (eds.) (2024) Routledge Companion to Freedom of Expression and Censorship, London: Routledge
  • Cavanagh, A. & Steel, J. (eds.) (2019) Letters to the Editor: Comparative and Historical Perspectives, London: Palgrave ISBN: 978-3-030-26480-2
  • Steel, J. & Broersma, M. (eds.) (2016) Redefining Journalism in the Era of the Mass Press 1880-1920, London: Routledge Taylor & Francis ISBN: 9781138658806
  • Conboy, M. & Steel, J. (eds.) (2014) Routledge Companion to British Media History, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, ISBN: 9780415537186
  • Steel, J. (2012) Journalism and Free Speech, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, ISBN: 9780415493253
  • Steel, J. (2018) ““Making Voices Heard…”: Index on Censorship as Advocacy Journalism”, Journalism, Theory, Practice and Criticism, DOI: 10.1177/1464884918760866
  • Steel, J. (2018a) “Towards a Praxis-Based Media and Journalism Research”, European Journal of Communication, DOI: 10.1177/0267323118775778
  • Steel, J. (2018b) “‘Disruption’ in UK Journalism Education? A study of meta-narratives of resilience”, in Journal of Applied Journalism and Media Studies, 3(7)
  • Eldridge II, S. & Steel, J. (2016) “Normative Expectations: Employing ‘communities of practice’ models for assessing journalism’s normative claims”, Journalism Studies, 17(7), pp. 817-826 DOI:10.1080/1461670X.2016.1154795.
  • Steel J (2016) “Media Control: News as an Institution of Power and Social Control”, European Journal of Communication, 31(6), 710-713
  • Steel, J. & Broersma, M. (eds.) (2015) Special Edition: “Redefining Journalism in the Era of the Mass Press”, Media History21(3) DOI:10.1080/13688804.2015.1045469
  • Steel, J. (2014) (ed.) Special Edition: “Digital Newspaper Archive Research”, Media History20(1), pp. 1-3 DOI:10.1080/13688804.2013.872410
  • Jones CR, Lange E, Kang J, Tsuchiya A, Howell RJ, While A, Crisp R, Meade K, Qu F, Sturge S, Bray A & Steel J (2014) WindNet: Improving the impact assessment of wind power projects. AIMS Energy, 2(4), 461-484.
  • Steel, J. (2013), “Leveson: Solution or Symptom? Class, crisis and the degradation of civil life”, Ethical Space10(1) pp. 8-14
  • Steel, J. (2011) “Examining the Relationship Between Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press”, Ethical Space,9(1) pp. 8-10
  • Conboy, M. & Steel, J. (2010) “From ‘We’ to ‘Me’”, Journalism Studies11(4) pp. 500-510 DOI:10.1080/14616701003638368
  • Steel, J. (2009) “The Radical Narrative, Political Thought and Praxis”, Media History15(2) pp. 221-237 DOI:10.1080/13688800902782049
  • Steel J (2009) “Modernism on Fleet Street”. Journalism Studies, 10(3), 447-449.
  • Conboy, M. & Steel, J. (2008) “The Future of Newspapers: Historical Perspectives”, Journalism Studies9(5) pp. 650-661 DOI:10.1080/14616700802207540
  • Steel, J. (2008) “Press Censorship in Britain: Blurring the Boundaries of Censorship”, Journal for the Study of British Cultures, Special Edition15(1) pp. 159-170
  • Steel, J. et al (2007) “Experiential learning and journalism education: Lessons learned in the practice of teaching journalism”, Education and Training49(4) pp. 325-334
  • Steel, J. et al (2006) “Orchestrating Independence in an International Online Learning Community”, British Journal of Educational Technology37(5) pp. 733-748 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2006.00552
  • Steel, J. et al (2003) “The Emperor’s New Clothes: Globalisation and e-learning”, British Journal of Sociology of Education24(1) pp. 39-53 DOI:10.1080/01425690301914
  • Steel, J. & Hudson, A. (2001) “Educational Technology and Learning and Teaching: The Experiences and Perceptions of Teaching Staff”, Innovations in Education and Teaching International38(2) pp. 101-111DOI:10.1080/13558000010030158
  • Steel, J. (2024) ‘Cancel Culture and the ‘War on Woke’ Steel, J. & Petley, J. (eds.) Routledge Companion to Freedom of Expression and Censorship, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge
  • Steel, J. (2020) “Negotiating Working-Class Identities in the Regional Press in the Twentieth Century”, in A. Bingham and M. Conboy (eds.) Newspapers and Periodicals in Britain and Ireland – 1650-2011, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 131-154
  • Steel, J. & Eldridge, S. (2018) “Normative Expectations: Employing ‘communities of practice’ models for assessing journalism’s normative claims”, in S. Allen, C. Carter, S. Cushion, L. Dencik, I. Garcia-Blanco, J. Harris, R. Sambrook, K. Wahl-Jorgensen and A. Williams (eds.) The Future of Journalism: Risks, Threats and Opportunities, Abingdon: Routldege, pp. 817-826
  • Steel, J. (2017) “Liberal’ Reform and Normativity in Media Analysis”, in J. Petley (ed.) Liberalism in Neo-liberal Times, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 105-110
  • Steel, J. (2016) ‘Reappraising Journalism’s Normative Foundations’, in M. Broersma & C. Peters & M. Broersma (eds.) Rethinking Journalism Again. Societal role and public relevance in a digital age, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 35-48
  • Steel, J. (2014) ‘This Sporting “Lifeworld”: Class, Identity and the Public Sphere’, in M. Conboy & J. Steel (eds.) Routledge Companion to British Media History, London: Routledge pp. 147-159
  • Conboy, M & Steel, J. (2014) Introduction in M. Conboy & J. Steel (eds.) Routledge Companion to British Media History, London: Routledge pp. 1-5
  • Steel, J. (2013) ‘Press Censorship in Britain: Rethinking Press Control’ in T. Yasuhiko (ed.), Freedom of Speech and Media, Tokyo: Nihon Hyoron Publishing (Japanese)
  • Conboy, M. & Steel, J. (2012) ‘From “We” to “Me”: The Changing Construction of Popular Tabloid Journalism’, in B. Franklin (ed.) The Future of Journalism, London: Routledge, pp. 59-61
  • Steel, J (2009) ‘The Idea of Journalism’, in W. Eadie (ed.) 21st Century Communication, Sage
  • Conboy, M. and Steel, J. (2008) ‘The Future of Newspapers: Historical Perspectives’ in B. Franklin (Ed.) The Future of Newspapers. Routledge: Abingdon. pp. 21-33
  • Steel, J. (2004) ‘Ideas and Interests: The Struggle for Democracy and Free Speech During the Nineteenth Century’, in M. Todd & G. Taylor (eds.) Democracy and Protest, London: Merlin Press, pp. 96-114
  • Steel, J. et al (2002) ‘New Environments: The Environment for Learning’, in E. Royston, (ed.) Centred on Learning: Academic Case Studies in Learning Centre Developments, London: Gower
  • Steel, J. (2000) ‘Critical Reflections: Political Philosophy and Web Technology’, in R. A. Cole (ed.) Issues in Web-based Pedagogy, Westport CT: Greenwood Press
  • Steel, J. (2000) ‘Educational Technology in an Internationalised Context’, in B. Hudson, and M. J. Todd, (eds.) Internationalizing the Curriculum in Higher Education - Reflecting on Practice, Sheffield: Sheffield Hallam University Press