W. Joseph Campbell is an American writer, educator, historian, media critic, and blogger. He has written seven solo-authored books, the latest of which, Lost in a Gallup, examines polling failures in U.S. presidential elections. The book was published in 2020 and has been praised as “well-written, impressively researched, and detailed,” as a “fast-moving narrative history,” and as a “bracing reality check.”
Campbell’s work also includes the award-winning, media-mythbusting book, Getting It Wrong (University of California Press, 2010, 2017). Getting It Wrong inspired critics to refer to Campbell as “the man who calls journalists on their own B.S.” and “the master of debunk.”
He also is the author of the well-received 1995: The Year the Future Began (University of California Press, 2015) and The Year That Defined American Journalism: 1897 and the Clash of Paradigms (Routledge, 2006).
Campbell is a professor of communication at American University in Washington, D.C. He earned his doctorate in mass communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before entering the academy, Campbell was a professional journalist for 20 years, a career that took him across North America to Europe, West Africa, and parts of Asia.
He earned his undergraduate degree at Ohio Wesleyan University which awarded him its Distinguished Alumni Citation at a ceremony in 2014, shown in the image below.
Covers of some of Campbell’s books
Recent Posts: Commentary: W. Joseph Campbell
After a misfire in New Jersey, pollster offers a remarkable apology for error
(This essay was first posted at TheHill.com on November 12, 2021.) A refreshing departure from the blame-dodging tendency came the other day, following the outcome of the New Jersey governor’s race in which the incumbent Democrat, Phil Murphy, narrowly defeated Republican Jack Ciattarelli. The result represented another setback for pollsters, whose pre-election surveys collectively estimated […]
Afghanistan is ‘Biden’s Katrina’? Afghanistan is dramatically worse
(This essay was first posted at the Media Myth Alert blog on August 27, 2021.) USA Today suggested in an editorial the other day that the chaos accompanying Joe Biden’s botched and precipitous withdrawal of U.S. military personnel could turn into a kind of Hurricane Katrina for the president. The reference was to the damage […]
Why polls failed in 2020 still unclear
(A version of this essay originally was posted at the Conversation online site on 20 May 2021.) More than six months after the acute polling embarrassment in the 2020 U.S. elections, survey experts examining what went wrong are uncertain about what led to the sharpest discrepancy between the polls and popular vote outcome since Ronald […]
Recent Posts: Media Myth Alert
Taking stock: Top mythbusting posts of 2022
Media Myth Alert directed attention periodically in 2022 to the appearance of well-known media-driven myths, those prominent tales about the news media that are widely believed and often retold but which, under scrutiny, dissolve as apocryphal or wildly exaggerated. Here’s a look at the year’s five top posts at Media Myth Alert, a year in […]
They ‘lit the kindling’: New memoir exaggerates Woodward, Bernstein’s agenda-setting effect in Watergate
A new memoir by former Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan praises the newspaper’s Watergate reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, for having “lit the kindling” that set off investigations that brought down Richard Nixon’s presidency. Such praise is misplaced. Exaggerated. A way to sidestep the tenacious media-driven myth that Woodward and Bernstein brought down […]
Recent Posts: The 1995 Blog
Looking back 25 years: Alta Vista and ‘high-speed’ search for the early Web
It was the go-to search engine of the early Web, and it was launched on this date in 1995. The pioneer was Alta Vista, and its technology of using spiders to crawl and index the Web was an element of the gee-whiz marveling that sometimes greeted the unfolding digital landscape 25 years ago. Wired magazine […]
Quote of the 1990s? ‘If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,’ 25 years on
Twenty-five years ago today, in his closing argument at the sensational O.J. Simpson double-murder trial in Los Angeles, lead defense lawyer Johnnie L. Cochran stood before the jurors and urged them to keep this in mind: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” Cochran was referring to the prosecution’s case against Simpson and, in particular, […]