John SteelDr John Steel

Senior Lecturer in Journalism and Political Communication

Tel: (+44) (0)114 222 2545
Twitter: @jnlfreespeech

Room 232

BA, PhD (Sheffield)

After spending a number of years in the print industry as a graphic designer and originator, John decided to study for a degree in politics at the University of Sheffield. Following his undergraduate degree John went on to study for a PhD in political theory. His PhD focused on the role that the concept of freedom of expression played in 19th-century radical politics.

While completing this research, he took up a research post at Sheffield Hallam University focusing on the use of internet technologies in higher education. Following stints teaching politics at both Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield, John was appointed as Lecturer in Journalism Studies in February 2005 and Senior Lecturer in December 2018.

Teaching and research

John Steel's teaching is led by his research interests which centre around the intersection of politics, media and democratic participation. More specifically, his research is concerned with exploring the relationship between media, civil rights and freedoms, citizen activism and engagement. He has convened a wide number of modules covering issues and debates within political communication, free speech and censorship, journalism, politics and public opinion.

He is principal investigator on Defining Freedom of the Press, a major collaborative AHRC-funded project launched in June 2018. This interdisciplinary project explores the ethical and regulatory complexities of the legacy news media, digital news innovators and third sector activist organisations across Europe and the UK.

John convenes the modules JNL312 Journalism and Political Communication and JNL315 Free Speech and Censorship. He also oversees dissertation work by students on MA Global Journalism (JNL6133) and MA International Public and Political Communication (JNL6600).


In this short video John discusses the role of journalism in democracy – and holding politicians to account.


PhD supervision

John is interested in work that enmeshes debates within political theory and the history of ideas with media and journalism studies. He is particularly interested in supervising students within the following broad areas:

  • Histories and theories of free speech, censorship and press freedom
  • Political participation, democratic theory and praxis
  • Political, ethical and regulatory implications of digital media
  • Transformations within political communication

Current and recent PhD projects under John's supervision:

  • 'Social Media, Political Activism and Journalism in Saudi Arabia' (principal supervisor)
  • 'Role Perceptions of War Journalists in India and Britain 1990-2010' (principal supervisor)
  • 'Anticlericalism and secularism as a form of political communication in popular print culture' (joint supervisor)
  • 'Liberal Sensibilities and religious ‘hate speech’ in China' (principal supervisor)
  • 'Waking the Silent Majority, Democratic Deficit and Wind-farm Sitting in the UK' to be submitted August 2018 (joint supervisor)
  • 'Social Media - Public Sphere 2.0? The uses of social media in a political dialogue through a journalistic perspective' 2018 (principal supervisor)
  • 'The Historical Construction of the people in the Franco-Latino Caribbean Press', 2017 (principal supervisor)
  • 'Poor Journalism: Framing Poverty and Welfare in the British Press during the age of ‘Neoliberalism 1985-2015’', 2017 (principal supervisor)
  • 'Protocols of Censorship and their application in Online Newsrooms in China', 2016 (principal supervisor)
  • 'Towards Democratisation? Understanding University Students’ Internet use in Mainland China', 2015 (principal supervisor)
  • 'Coverage of Corruption Scandals in the Nigerian Press: A Comparative Analysis of Northern and Southern Newspapers' 2015, (principal supervisor)