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. 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 and the New York Times.
He attended the Art Institute of Boston majoring in photography and later earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh. 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 has also 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. At Northern, McCommons teaches news writing, feature writing, editing and design, history of American journalism and nature writing. He serves as faculty adviser to The North Wind, the student newspaper.
In 2009, McCommons published a narrative, non-fiction book: "Waiting on a Train: The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service." McCommons spent a year on America’s trains, talking to the people who ride and work the rails across much of the Amtrak system. The book is a blend of travel writing, memoir and investigatory journal. “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.
"Camera Hunter: George Shiras III and the Birth of Wildlife Photography" will be published October 1, 2019 by the University of New Mexico Press.