Ryan J. Thomas is an Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Production and Director of Graduate Studies in the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. His research program addresses the intersection of journalism ethics and the sociology of news, focusing on journalism amid processes of change. This research program examines the forces shaping journalism, how journalists make sense of them, and how these changes affect journalism’s institutional obligations and role in public life. A related stream of research asks critical questions of journalism studies as a field and its tendency to hastily embrace technological change and treat these changes as fundamental, inexorable, and unprecedented.
Thomas’s research has been published in such peer-reviewed journals as Journalism Studies, Digital Journalism, the Journal of Media Ethics, and New Media & Society. His research has been recognized with top paper awards from the International Communication Association (ICA), the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication (AEJMC), and the National Communication Association (NCA), winning ten top paper awards in all.
Thomas has taught a range of classes, from freshman-level introductory journalism classes to senior-level classes in media ethics to graduate seminars in research design and media sociology. He won the Teaching Excellence Award sponsored by the Media Ethics Division of the AEJMC in 2022. He has advised five Ph.D. students through to successful completion of their dissertations and twenty M.A. students through to successful completion of their theses. He was recognized for his extensive mentorship of graduate students with the University of Missouri’s “Gold Chalk” Award in 2020.
Thomas serves on the editorial board of four international journals and is a former head of the Media Ethics Division of the AEJMC. He has led and participated in several committees at the national, university, college, and departmental levels, including a four-year stint as the elected chair of the Missouri School of Journalism’s Policy Committee. In this capacity, he facilitated an overhaul of the school’s standing committee structure and faculty bylaws and served alongside the school’s Associate Deans and Department Chairs on the Dean’s Executive Council. This and similar work led to him being recognized with the University of Missouri Faculty Council’s Shared Governance Award in 2021. Thomas prioritizes attention to detail, inclusive decision-making, and consensus-building to align diverse stakeholders in pursuit of a common mission.
Thomas holds Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in Communication from Washington State University and a B.A. degree in American Studies from Swansea University. He is a first-generation college student proudly hailing from Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.