Steven Walters of Wisconsin Eye had an interesting idea for a show: if Scott Walker wins the Republican Nomination for President of the United States, how might he have done it? If he loses, what might have happened? While it is almost always a bad idea to speculate wildly months in advance of the first caucuses and primaries, Charles Franklin and I did anyway. Link is here.
Experiencing discrimination literally hurts your heart.
Important new research from my friend and former colleague from my University of Nebraska-Lincoln days Bridget Goosby shows that people who report being discriminated against have higher levels of systolic and diastolic blood pressure — that is, being discriminated against is associated with inflammation and other cardiovascular problems that are less likely to occur for those who do not report experiences of facing discrimination.
In my own city of Madison, citizens, public officials, and the media that cover them are experiencing one result of a decades-long problem with racial and economic inequality in a city famous for its liberalism. On Friday night, an unarmed 19-year-old black man named Tony Robinson was killed by a white police officer named Matt Kenny of the Madison Police Department.
How the city and its news media deal with the grief, the anger and the engagement could have important consequences for the future of the city I love. To that end, I want to offer some suggestions to the local and national news media covering the tragic shooting of Tony Robinson.
Madison is blessed with a very strong local news media – with multiple newspapers, news-oriented websites and several television and radio stations that rigorously cover politics, communities and civic life. This morning, Madison led off national newscasts and local newscasts alike. The world is watching.
Journalists have unique access to cover aspects of a situation that others cannot. They can release police tapes of the events leading up to the shooting, talk with the police chief, and rely upon the years spent cultivating local sources to provide a variety of angles to what is happening now.
Journalists also have special access to experts studying the myriad issues at play in the death of Tony Robinson – from racial discrimination to economic inequality, from mass incarceration to higher education inequality, and from community policing to crisis management. Highlighting the voices of the community and of people who study the issues at play are things the news media should do – and keep doing.
I work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of the finest institutions of higher learning and study in the world. Scholars here are experts on these issues. Most of them want to help.
It is vitally important for journalists to use their skills to get the facts exactly right about what happened Friday night and what happens to the family and friends of Tony Robinson, Officer Kenny, the Madison Police Department, and important civic activist groups like Young, Gifted, and Black.
It is just as important for them to use their skills to tell the broader story of the shooting and what the people of Madison, the civic activists and elected officials, and the public servants assigned to protect and serve Madison can do to not only prevent a tragedy like this from happening again, but to move the city closer to the kind of place it purports to be.
If I were on the assignment desk at a local or national news outlet, I’d be pushing for stories about:
- How communities can productively talk about race? UW-experts like Kathy Cramer, Shawnika Hull, Hemant Shah, Linn Posey-Maddox, Sue Robinson and others would be valuable resources.
- Madison’s incarceration rate and how it differs by important factors like race. UW-experts like Pam Oliver, Karma Chavez, and David Schultz would be good sources.
- How does access to education and inequality in education affect community life? UW-experts like Sara Goldrick-Rab, Rachelle Winkle-Wagner (disclosure: we’re married), Nick Hillman, Gloria Ladson-Billings, and Madeline Hafner would be great people with whom to start.
- How can cities productively respond to crisis-moments? Donald Moynihan and Jack Mitchell could provide perspectives from the public management and public media fronts, respectively.
- How can the media comprehensively and ethically cover major stories that help paint a comprehensive picture of the events leading up to and spilling out of last weekend’s tragic events? Folks in my own department and related fields of inquiry and teaching would be great resources.
- How does economic inequality manifest itself in cities like ours? Folks like Christine Schwartz, John Ahlquist, and Eric Grodsky are good places to start.
It has been a terrible few days in Madison, but what led to Friday’s tragic event did not come out of nowhere. I have been generally impressed with the level of response from Madison’s community, its news media, and its police department in the wake of Friday night, but it is too easy and too common to let moments like this pass without pushing for meaningful change. A sustained media effort to ask critical questions and pose a variety of options that sit before us is vital if this time is to be any different.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker looks like he will be running for president. Wisconsin Public Television’s excellent public affairs program Here and Now has talked with me about Gov. Walker’s candidacy, and state and national politics in general, a few times over the past few months. Here they are if you’d like to see them.
Here is my conversation with my terrific colleagues Doug McLeod and Dhavan Shah, authors of the great new book News Frames and National Security” Covering Big Brother. We spoke on December 23rd on WORT radio. Thanks to the great Doug and Dhavan for the conversation and to our lively set of callers as well.
My latest piece for PBS’ MediaShift argues that we need to rethink how we train journalists to cover elections. The rapidly warming relationship between journalists and poltiical scientists points to some things journalism educators can do to improve campaign coverage. The piece is here.
I was delighted to participate in a forum sponsored by the CapTimes addressing what the polls can tell us about the Wisconsin gubernatorial race. Polling expert and all around good guy Charles Franklin (@pollsandvotes in the Twittersphere), political scientist and gov’s race aggregated poll modeler Brad Jones, and the well-known Democratic pollster Paul Maslin were also on the panel. It was a fun hour. One fun exchange between Paul Maslin and me is here. More videos to come. Moreover, we should all be on the lookout for more interesting forums like this one that the CapTimes will be sponsoring in the future.
In addition to the polls, I talked a bit about history and how hard it has been to unseat governors seeking re-election across our great land. I also shared a bit of research from Diana Mutz on the third-person effect and Danny Hayes on how the media cover campaigns when the polls are close and when they are not.
The great work Charles has done on the Marquette Law Poll and that Brad has done modeling the available surveys suggests a very close race here in the Badger State. Stories on the event are here and here.
Here is a link to my conversation with Shawnika Hull, a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UW-Madison, about her incredible research that aims to reduce homophobia and the spread of HIV among black men in Milwaukee. We spoke on October 13th, on 89.9 WORT radio – the people’s megaphone.