This article examines the history of the fraught relationship between the fields of media and journalism studies and the media industries in the US and UK contexts. In the US, journalism programmes were built on instituting professionalism, and media studies arose in conjunction with the demands of a growing industry. In the UK, cultural studies developed in conjunction with the need to produce a working class that could make sense of the mass media environment. Under neoliberalism, however, professionalism in both media and the academy have been undercut, while media studies programmes have expanded. We argue that a historical, political economic orientation demonstrates that media studies faculty and students are subject to many of the same institutional pressures, providing fertile ground for new pedagogical approaches.