Sunday,
December 17, 2017

Sunday,
December 17, 2017

Category:

Call Him Dr. McCaa: News Anchor Earns PhD from Arts and Humanities

John McCaa

Seven years ago, WFAA-TV journalist John McCaa came to UT Dallas with an interest in intellectual history. This week, McCaa will receive a PhD in history of ideas from the University.

Since 1984, John McCaa has worked at Dallas’ WFAA-TV (Channel 8) as a reporter, news anchor and newsroom chief, among other roles. If his daily job of standing before millions on live television wasn’t challenging enough, he recently finished the most difficult of academic programs — the PhD.

Seven years ago McCaa came to UT Dallas with an interest in intellectual history. He wanted to better understand the relationship between mass media, society and the notion of celebrity.

“I have always been curious about history and its relationship with American political and intellectual thought, but I wanted to look further in the past than just the Reagan era,” he said. “Journalists don’t know enough about history. I wanted to see deeper connections and how people are transformed in society.”

Dr. Wickberg was terrific. He really wanted me to write something that impressed him. He expected things to be done at a high standard. That really helped me.

John McCaa,
WFAA-TV news anchor
who will receive a PhD
from UT Dallas this week

The history of ideas program in UT Dallas’ School of Arts and Humanities was a natural fit for McCaa’s research. Dr. Daniel Wickberg, associate professor in American studies, guided McCaa through his dissertation.

“I was very impressed with the way John shouldered all the responsibility in pursuing his degree. We worked through several drafts of his dissertation, and John persevered because he truly believed in the value of his work,” Wickberg said.

“What’s more impressive about John, however, is that despite his public profile, he is a remarkable guy with integrity and humility — he approaches his work with this ethic in mind as well.”

After the many drafts, McCaa finished his dissertation and called it “Passport to a Parallel Universe: Fame, Celebrity and Media in the Digital Age.” 

“Dr. Wickberg was terrific. He really wanted me to write something that impressed him. He expected things to be done at a high standard. That really helped me,” he said.

McCaa also said the support from his family was a constant encouragement. 

“On more than one sunny Saturday, days perfect to leave the house and go for a walk, I had to stay indoors to read or write. But now I’m finished, and I’ve discovered extra time to spend with my wife — we recently found this little place called Studio Movie Grill,” he joked. 

With a new understanding of the media landscape and how ideas are connected to history, McCaa said he has no intentions of leaving the newsroom, but would like to lecture at college campuses about media ethics. 

“Seeing doctor before my name gives me chills. It took seven years, but it’s still surreal,” he said. 

Media Contact: Chaz Lilly, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2158, [email protected]
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].


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