1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Christopher Ali

Assistant Professor

226 Wilson Hall

Office Hours:

by appointment

Class Schedule:

Fall 2019 

MDST 3405 Media Policy and Law 

MDST 4704 Political Economy of Communication 

Dr. Christopher Ali is an Assistant Professor in Department of Media Studies. He joined the Department in the fall of 2013, after completing his PhD at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He also holds degrees from Concordia University (Montreal, Canada – MA in Media Studies) and the University of Alberta (Edmonton, Canada – BA in Film & Media Studies and Sociology).

His research interests focus on communication policy and regulation, critical political economy, critical geography, comparative media systems, localism, and local news. He has published in numerous internationally ranked academic journals including: Communication Theory, Media Culture & Society, and International Journal of Communication. His newest article, investigating alternative economic approaches to local news in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom was published in the Journal of Information Policy in 2016.

Christopher has worked for the Federal Communications Commission, submitted research for the Swiss Office of Communication, consulted with the South Korean Committee on the Impact of Media Concentration, and was part of a consortium of researchers, activists, and practitioners intervening at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission regarding community and local media. In 2015 Christopher held the inaugural Gressly-Fleck visiting scholar fellowship in the Department for Communication and Media Research at the University of Fribourg, in Fribourg, Switzerland.

Christopher’s first book, Echoes of Gabriel Tarde: What we know better or different 100 years later was published by the USC Annenberg Press in 2014. Written with Elihu Katz and Joohan Kim, the book prefigures Gabriel Tarde as a founder of communication studies and traces his lineage in fields such as political communication, deliberative democracy, the diffusion of information, imagined communities, and the sociology of news.

His new book, Media Localism: The Policies of Place (University of Illinois Press, 2017) addresses the difficulties of defining and regulating local media in the 21st century in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada and the implications these difficulties have for the long-term viability of local news. This is the first book to investigate local media policy in a comparative context (US, UK, Canada), and the first to systematically assess media localism in Canada and the UK (it also updates the work on localism done in the US). It combines policy analysis and critical theory to provide for a unique perspective on one of the most challenging policy questions in the media industry: what does it mean to be local?

As a Fellow with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, Christopher has just completed an intensive research project on the state of small market newspapers in the United States. Specifically, the project investigated how small market newspapers are adapting to the new realities of digital technologies in everything from content, to platforms, to distribution and advertising. Titled “Local News in a Digital World: Small Market Newspapers in an era of Digital Disruption,” the first report was released in April 2017 and the second report in November 2017.

Currently, Christopher is working on a new book project, Farm Fresh Spectrum: Rural Interventions in Communication Policy. This is an investigation into the relationship between farming communities, communication technologies, and communication policy in the United States. Starting from the observation that farming has been constantly invoked in policy discourse over the last century but seldom investigated, the goal is to better understand the role that farming communities, along with their organizations, associations, and regulatory bodies (like the USDA) have played in shaping community policies – both past and present.


Media Localism

University of Illinois Press, Feb 2017

Echoes of Gabriel Tarde: What We Know Better or Different 100 Years Later

USC Annenberg Press, May 2014

Originally published in 1898, Gabriel Tarde’s essay “Opinion and Conversation” can be read as a series of propositions about the interaction of press, conversation, opinion and action, anticipating today’s “deliberative democracy.”

Exploring these themes in a hyper-text “dialogue” with Tarde, Elihu Katz, Christopher Ali, and Joohan Kim ask what we know better or different 100 years later in this book. The aim is not only to reawaken attention to Tarde’s text, but to assess the progress of communications research in its light. The e-book’s format makes it possible to access the essay as a series of propositions, foreshadowing contemporary concerns with issues such as agenda setting, public opinion formation, the diffusion of innovation, the two-step flow of communication, the role of the press in nation-building, new media technologies, the normative role of media in a democracy, media events, and the like. The e-book includes an analytic Introduction, a biographical postscript and the first full English translation of Tarde’s essay. Long overlooked, “Opinion and Conversation” deserves to be canonized as foundational for theories that link mass and interpersonal communication, especially in the age of social media.