Geoffrey Cowan

University Professor, Annenberg Family Chair in Communication Leadership, Director of the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy, and Dean Emeritus of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California

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Geoffrey Cowan Interviewed by History News Network

With the 2020 Democratic and Republican National Conventions fast approaching, Becky Little interviewed Geoffrey Cowan to explain the origins of political conventions and how they have changed over time. Originally, conventions functioned as the main way of selecting a candidate for president.

“The effect of primaries was not that they would elect enough delegates to make the decision,” says Geoffrey Cowan, a professor of communication and journalism at USC Annenberg School and author of Let the People Rule: Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of the Presidential Primary.

“Instead of that, they were testing grounds for people’s popularity,” he continues. Primaries played a significant role in selecting John F. Kennedy as the 1960 Democratic presidential nominee. “It was thought that a Catholic couldn’t win the presidency, and when he won the state of West Virginia…it showed that he could win.”

Little describes how “Cowan, then a law student who’d worked for McCarthy’s campaign, organized the Commission on the Democratic Selection of Presidential Nominees to consider whether the party needed to change its rules. This led the Democratic Party to adopt new rules giving more power to primary elections in selecting a presidential nominee. The Republican Party followed suit by rewriting its rules in a similar way. Cowan, then a law student who’d worked for McCarthy’s campaign, organized the Commission on the Democratic Selection of Presidential Nominees to consider whether the party needed to change its rules. This led the Democratic Party to adopt new rules giving more power to primary elections in selecting a presidential nominee. The Republican Party followed suit by rewriting its rules in a similar way.”

Read more here.

Geoffrey Cowan’s play ‘Top Secret’ published in L.A. Theatre Works’ docudrama anthology

On May 14, Geoffrey Cowan’s play Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers was published in The L.A. Theatre Works Audio Docudrama Series: Pivotal Moments in American History. The anthology includes five plays that explore crucial political moments in twentieth century U.S. History, each of which were originally commissioned by L.A. Theatre Works. According to LATW producing director Susan Loewenberg, many of the historical events covered in the plays “are essential to understanding the current political climate; the docudrama format provides a captivating and engaging way to experience them.”

The collection was by released by Methuen Drama imprint under Bloomsbury Publishing, a leading publisher of drama and performance books.

Professor Cowan receives General Education Teaching Award for “The Power and Responsibility of the Press”

This May, USC’s General Education Committee selected Geoffrey Cowan as a recipient of the General Education Teaching Award for the 2018-2019 academic year. Since 2017, Cowan has taught JOUR 200w: The Power and Responsibility of the Press. JOUR 200w explores the role of journalism and social media in society – its influence on government, technology, business, national security, sports, science and entertainment. It is the first Annenberg School class to fulfill a USC GE requirement. From the over 800 courses offered each year through the GE Program, Cowan is among six instructors honored for their excellence in teaching. 

Geoffrey Cowan responds to Trump’s criticism of The Voice of America

On April 22, The L.A. Times published a non-partisan editorial co-authored by Geoffrey Cowan and James K. Glassman  in response to Trump’s recent criticism of the Voice of America. 

Geoffrey Cowan delivers the keynote address to the Council of Chief Judges of State Courts of Appeal

On Wednesday, November 14th, Geoffrey Cowan delivered the keynote address to the annual meeting of the Council of Chief Judges of State Courts of Appeal (CCJSCA). The CCJSCA is the national organization of chief judges from intermediate appellate courts from across the country, and their 2018 meeting’s theme was was “California Dreamin’ – Perfecting the Art of Communication as Chief. Cowan spoke to court’s struggle to be trusted in an era when facts and truths are dismissed as #fakenews.

Geoffrey Cowan teaches “The Power and Responsibility of the Press” to 200 students

This past fall, Geoffrey Cowan taught “The Power and Responsibility of the Press” (JOUR200w) after the class’s popularity in the fall of 2017. It was the first ever General Education course offered by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and covered topics such as the Iraq War, the Pentagon Papers, whistle-blowing, journalistic ethics, and modern day politics. The class had close to 200 students and featured renowned guests such as Alan Dershowitz, Congressman David Dreier, and former Editor in Chief of Glamour Cindi Leive. He will also be teaching the class next spring.

Professor Cowan’s Journalism 460 class featured by Annenberg News

For his spring semester class, “Social Responsibility of the News Media”, Geoffrey Cowan decided to give his students firsthand insight into the process for building a credible and high-quality news organization. Once a week, the students had a chance to speak by phone with staff members of the media start-up Axios, a new enterprise started by POLITICO’s Mike Allen that embraces the concept of “smart brevity”. The students learned about advertising, production, digital design, and journalism from the Axios’ perspective. The experience was a highlight for the students and, as a result, Annenberg News covered the unique series in its May article, “News outlet Axios gives journalism students an up-close look at its startup“.

Presidential Studies Quarterly Calls LTPR “A Great History Book”

In Volume 47, Issue 2 of Presidential Studies Quarterly, for June of 2017, Stephen Tootle called LTPR “a great history book” in his essay of reviews, “The Roosevelt You Already Knew“.

LTPR was also reviewed by the Theodore Roosevelt Association in their fall 2016 journal. James Strock, of the Board of Trustees of the TR Association, concluded his review of LTPR by writing that, “One expects that Let the People Rule will find its place on the select shelf of books to read by anyone seeking to comprehend Theodore Roosevelt and his era. Geoffrey Cowan has indeed produced a very admirable and very valuable work of historical scholarship.”

Geoffrey Cowan Joins Panel Organized by U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy

In the spring of 2017, Geoffrey Cowan traveled to Capitol Hill to make the case for and highlight the virtues of Voice of America, the U.S. government-funded multimedia news source and the official external broadcasting company of the U.S. Cowan explained the importance of English-language news broadcasting in other countries and the need for Voice of America as an organ of public diplomacy with distant parts of the world.

Geoffrey Cowan reviewed the same topic in a report published by the USC Center on Public Diplomacy called “Why the Voice of America Remains a Vital Force in the World” in March of 2017.  The article was modified from a speech that Geoffrey Cowan delivered to the World Affairs Council of the Desert in Indian Wells, CA, on December 13, 2015.

Geoffrey Cowan Published by History News Network

“It’s a long way off but worth remembering that TR’s challenge to Taft for the 1912 Republican nomination is what launched presidential primaries and that Ronald Reagan ran a serious campaign against an incumbent Republican president in 1976. History may have a lot to teach us as we enter into the next delegate selection season,” writes Geoffrey Cowan in his March article published by the History News Network.

In “The Disturbing Factor that Shapes Our Attitudes About the Electoral College, Primaries, and Direct Democracy“, Cowan discusses democracy skeptics, the impact of the electoral college on the 2016 general election, and the challenges of popular government. Cowan situates his claims about the trajectory of American democracy in a positive narrative taken directly from his recent book on Theodore Roosevelt, Let the People Rule.

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© Geoffrey Cowan 2021