He was brought up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has an undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College, and a doctorate in sociology from Harvard University. From 1976 he was assistant professor at the University of Chicago. In 1980 he joined the faculty of University of California, San Diego, where he was a Professor of Communication and Adjunct Professor of Sociology until 2009. He is currently a full-time faculty member of The Journalism School at Columbia University.
He received a MacArthur Foundation award in 1990.
Advertising, the Uneasy Persuasion (1984)
In the mid 1980s Schudson used the term "capitalist realism" to describe mainstream practices in advertising. Chapter seven of Schudson's Advertising: The Uneasy Persuasion compares the messages and appeals of advertising to those found in the Socialist Realism of the Soviet Union. In his account, the realism of advertising promotes a way of life based on private consumption, rather than social, public achievement.
- Discovering the News: A Social History of American Newspapers (1978) ISBN 978-0-465-01666-2
- Advertising, the Uneasy Persuasion (1984) ISBN 978-0-465-00079-1
- 'When? Deadlines, Datelines, and History' in Reading the News (1986) ed. Robert K. Manoff ISBN 978-0-394-74649-4
- Rethinking Popular Culture: Contemporary Perspectives in Cultural Studies (1991) editor with Chandra Mukerji ISBN 978-0-520-06893-3
- Watergate in American Memory: How We Remember, Forget and Reconstruct the Past (1992) ISBN 978-0-465-09084-6
- The Power of News (1995) ISBN 978-0-674-69587-0
- The Good Citizen: A History of American Civic Life (1998) ISBN 978-0-674-35640-5
- The Sociology of News (2003) ISBN 978-0-393-97513-0
- Why Democracies Need an Unlovable Press (2008) ISBN 978-0-7456-4452-X
- Faculty profile at Columbia University
- Faculty profile page at UCSD
- The Why "The Informed Citizen" Is Too Much To Ask - And Not Enough (1999 Batten Symposium Keynote Address)
- A collection of Schudson quotes
- On Advertising -- an extract