Don McLeese, M.A.

Associate Professor

What is Don’s story?

Don has spent his career immersed in arts, entertainment and popular culture. He was the popular music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and the Austin American-Statesman; a columnist, reviewer and feature writer for Rolling Stone; and a frequent music and book reviewer for a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites.

His work has appeared in publications ranging from The New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post and the Oxford American to TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly and He has also written three books and contributed to many others. 

His biggest journalistic thrill was interviewing Bob Dylan. His proudest journalistic possession is a fan letter from Nobel Prize-winning novelist Saul Bellow. He also knows and cares more about the Chicago Cubs than anyone not paid to do so (though he has written about sports off and on as well).

Since joining the SJMC faculty in 2003, he has developed courses in arts, culture and entertainment media. He has also directed the school’s masters programs for students aspiring to careers in the communications professions (and for midcareer professionals continuing their education).  He has been at the vanguard of online education within the SJMC—using the latest technology to teach the latest technology.

He serves on the Editorial Advisory Boards of the University of Iowa Press and Rock Music Studies, and is Senior Editor of Texas Music.

Don believes that the seismic changes in the fields of journalism and communication present great opportunity for students entering those professions. Through his teaching and mentoring, he helps students find those opportunities and ensures that they are prepared to make the most of them. 

  • JMC:3124 - Entertainment Media
  • JMC:3185 - Topics in Understanding Media: Journalism and Bob Dylan
  • JMC:3460 - Arts and Culture Reporting and Writing
  • JMC:3490 - Feature Reporting and Writing
  • JMC:5300 - Foundations of Strategic Communication
  • JMC:5400 - Strategic Communication Writing
  • JMC:5950 - Capstone Project Strategic Communication

Over a journalistic career spanning four decades (and still going strong), Don has published thousands of features, profiles, essays, reviews and columns. Listed here are the books he has written, the ones to which he has contributed, and the academic journals in which he has published since joining the SJMC.

Refereed books

  • Dwight Yoakam: A Thousand Miles From Nowhere, University of Texas Press, 2012
  • The New York Times Reader: Arts and Culture, CQ Press, 2010
  • The MC5: Kick Out the Jams, Continuum Books, 2005

Commissioned book chapters

  • “Empire Burlesque” and “Shot of Love,” Dylan: Disc by Disc, Jon Bream, ed., Voyageur Press, 2015
  • "Buddy Holly: A joyous sound from the dry Texas plains" in Rockin' Out: Popular Music in the USA, Reebee Garafalo, editor, Pearson Custom Publishing, 2007
  • “The Platonically Perfect Pizza,” in Pizza: A Slice of Heaven, Ed Levine, editor, Universe/Rizzoli, 2005
  • “Music Clubs” and “Street Musicians, Encyclopedia of Chicago,  James R. Grossman, Ann Durkin Keating, and Janice L. Reiff eds University of Chicago Press (in conjunction with the Newberry Library and the Chicago Historical Society), 2004

Refereed articles in anthologies

  • The Bruce Springsteen Interview,” Springsteen on Springsteen, Jeff Burger, editor, Chicago Review Press, 2013
  • “Heartfelt Music,” Daniel Johnston: Symbolical Visions, Jose Guirao Cabrera, Director, La Casa Encendida/Caja Madrid, 2012
  • “Kick Out the Jams,” 33 1/3 Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, David Barker editor, Continuum Books, 2007
  • “One Road More: The Flatlanders” in The Best of No Depression: Writing About American Music, Grant Alden and Peter Blackstock, eds. University of Texas Press, 2005.
  • “Abdicating the Rock and Roll Pedestal: Bruce Springsteen Gets Down,” Racing in the Street, June Skinner Sawyers editor, Penguin Books, 2004.

Blind refereed articles in academic journals

  • “Straddling the Cultural Chasm: The Great Divide Between Music Criticism and Popular Consumption,” Popular Music and Society, (lead article in special issue on music journalism) summer 2010
  • “Seeds Scattered by Katrina: The Dynamic of Disaster and Inspiration,” in Popular Music and Society (Special Issue on New Orleans Music: Legacy and Survival), July, 2008
  • “Sir Douglas Sahm and the Garage as Big as Texas, Popular Music and Society, October, 2006.

Refereed essay in a literary magazine

  • “Buddy Holly,” Oxford American, Summer, 2005

Refereed reviews in an academic journal

  • Empire Falls”  by Richard Russo, Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol. 181, 2004
  • Outstanding Faculty Member, Society of Professional Journalists, UI Chapter, 2009
  • Midwest Travel Writers Association, Mark Twain Award, best travel feature, 2003.
  • Headliner's Award: best column at a Texas newspaper, 1997.
  • Texas APME (Associated Press Managing Editors): first place, columnist, 1996; first place, comment and criticism, 1992, 1994; second place, 1995.
  • Austin Music Awards: best journalist, 1992-3-4-5.
  • Katie Awards, Dallas Press Club, best arts/entertainment criticism, 1992; best columnist, finalist, 1997.
  • Chicago Newspaper Guild: best criticism, 1987.
Don McLeese
M.A., University of Chicago, 1975
Contact Information

E336 Adler Journalism Building (AJB)
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States