James McCommons

Professor
B.A., University of Pittsburgh
M.A., Syracuse's Newhouse School
M.A., SUNY, Syracuse
jmccommo@nmu.edu

Teaching Specialties & Interests

  • Journalism
  • Nature and Essay Writing

Biography & Selected Publications
James McCommons joined the Northern faculty in 2001. He is a veteran journalist, specializing in ecology, environmental and travel topics. He has written hundreds of general interest magazine articles. In the past few years, McCommons has contributed to Better Homes and Gardens, the History Channel, Next American City, Wildlife Conservation, Organic Gardening, Backpacker, The Oregonian, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minneapolis Star and Tribune, the Saturday Evening Post, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Discover and Michigan History.

 He attended the Art Institute of Boston majoring in photography and later earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pa.  After several years of newspaper work and a stint in corporate communications, he moved to upstate New York where he was a freelance journalist from 1990 to 1997. During this period, he earned an M.A. in magazine journalism from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and an M.S. in environmental science from College of Environmental Science and Forestry-SUNY.  He taught essay and magazine writing at Syracuse University and at Muhlenberg College and DeSales University in Allentown, Pa.

In 1997, he joined Rodale Press in Emmaus, Pa. as a senior health writer and member of a writing team that produced several books for the Prevention and Men's Health brands. He became a senior editor at Organic Gardening magazine until he left to pursue a fulltime teaching career.

In 2009, James McCommons published a narrative, non-fiction book: Waiting on a Train: The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service. McCommons spent a year riding on America’s trains. Readers meet historians, railroad executives, transportation officials, politicians, government regulators, railroad lobbyists, and passenger-rail advocates. The book is a blend of travel writing and investigatory journalism.

“Waiting on a Train” was named by the Library Journal as one of the best books of 2009.  It also won a ForeWord Book of the Year Silver Award in the social science category.

He has just completed a biography of George Shiras 3d, a pioneering nature photographer and a seminal figure in the Progressive Conservation movement of the early 20th century. The book will be published in 2017 by the University of New Mexico Press.

McCommons is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

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