Dr. Jason M. Shepard is a media law scholar, professor and chair of the Department of Communications at California State University, Fullerton, one of the largest mass communications programs in the United States. His research examines the role of the First Amendment in American democracy, journalism and culture, and he teaches courses in journalism and media law, history and ethics. Before academia, Shepard worked as an award-winning journalist in Madison and Teach For America corps member in New York City.
Shepard’s record of academic scholarship includes nearly 100 publications and presentations. He is co-author of Major Principles of Media Law, now in its 29th edition. He writes "Online Legalities," a regular column in California Publisher. His first book, Privileging the Press: Confidential Sources, Journalism Ethics and the First Amendment, explored the history and ethics of journalists' protection of confidential sources. In Ethical Issues in Communication Professions: New Agendas in Communications, published by Routledge, Shepard proposed a new agenda for scholars of press freedom and responsibility in the digital era. In Ethics in a Digital Age, published by Peter Lang, Shepard critiqued the emerging uses of journalism ethical principles in First Amendment analysis. Shepard has also published research in Yale Journal of Law and Technology, Communication Law and Policy, Journal of Media Law & Ethics, San Diego Law Review, Nevada Law Journal, Nexus Journal of Law and Policy, and Drake Law Review. Shepard’s research has been cited widely, including by a federal appellate court and in the New York Times. He has served as an expert witness in campaign finance cases defending disclosure and disclaimer laws for electioneering communications in Maine and Colorado, and he was cross examined by former Solicitor General Ted Olson in Citizens United v. Gessler. He won a university award for "research of the highest quality."
As chair of the Department of Communications at Cal State Fullerton since 2014, Shepard oversees a department of more than 1,800 communications majors with undergraduate concentrations in journalism, public relations, advertising and entertainment/tourism and graduate concentrations in professional communications, mass communications research and theory, and communications in tourism and entertainment. In 2014-2015, Shepard led the department's successful reaccreditation from the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC).
Shepard’s leadership has been recognized by several university-wide awards. He received Cal State Fullerton's University Leadership Award in 2015. In 2016, Shepard was recognized with the Academic Senate’s Faculty Leadership in Collegial Governance Award. In 2017, he was part of a team that won the University's Teamwork and Collaboration Award for a partnership with Univision and the Latino Communications Initiative.
At CSUF, Shepard primarily teaches Communications Law. He has also taught courses in journalism, multimedia news production, journalism innovations and media history. He has also served as adviser of the Daily Titan student newspaper and website, during which his students won dozens of state and national journalism awards. In his role as department chair, he now serves as publisher of the Daily Titan.
Shepard has a Ph.D. in mass communications, with a Ph.D. minor in law, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was recognized with the inaugural Sharon Dunwoody Early Career Award from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019, awarded to a PhD graduate for excellence in research, teaching and service within ten years of graduation. Shepard has two master’s degrees, in education (Pace University) and in journalism and mass communication (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science (University of Wisconsin-Madison). Before graduate school, Shepard taught seventh and eighth grade English and U.S. history in the South Bronx of New York City, beginning as a corps member of Teach For America.
As a journalist for 10 years covering crime, courts, politics, education and the media, Shepard won awards for investigative reporting, explanatory reporting, legal reporting, spot news reporting and feature reporting. Shepard wrote for Isthmus newspaper, an award-winning alternative weekly, from 2004-2009, and The Capital Times, the feistier of two local dailies, from 1996 to 2001. As an undergraduate at UW-Madison, he worked as a reporter and editor for The Badger Herald. Shepard began his journalism career at age 16 as the school board reporter for the two local newspapers in his hometown of Wisconsin Dells, Wis. (population 2,808), the Wisconsin Dells Events and the Dells/Delton Daily.
Shepard lives in Long Beach, California.