Author Archive

2016 Elections and Presidential Mandates with Julia Azari (WORT’s A Public Affair)

January 6, 2016 Leave a comment

How are the traditional political science explanations of presidential primaries holding up?

What should we be looking for now that we are closing in on the actual casting of votes?

How do new presidents try to claim a mandate?

What should we make of President Obama’s emotional announcement about taking executive action on gun regulations?

I was delighted to discuss these issues and more with the great Julia Azari, Marquette University political scientist and ace blogger for Mischiefs of Faction at Vox. You can listen by going to the WORT archive and listening to the A Public Affair broadcast from January 6, 2016. Julia was a terrific guest and the calls from listeners were interesting as well. Enjoy!

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Talking Media Ethics with Katy Culver (WORT’s A Public Affair)

November 23, 2015 Leave a comment

I spent the Friday noon hour talking media ethics with the Associate Director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Katy Culver.

We chatted about the #Mizzou protests, recent terror attacks in Beruit and Paris, campaign coverage and more. The Friday, November 20th archive has the whole show for download/podcast.

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The Deal on the Art. . . of Covering Donald Trump: Ten Strategies for Journalists

November 20, 2015 Leave a comment

Note: This post appears in its entirety on the website for the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

He has been called a “sham.” His campaign was initially dismissed as a “charade.” The Huffington Post relegated him to the entertainment page. And while elections experts maintain that he still is not the most likely candidate to win his party’s nomination for the presidency, the mainstream media spent late summer and early fall 2015 calling him “frontrunner.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has caused fits for his opponents to be sure, but his candidacy raises interesting ethical questions for the news media covering him, as well. Should mentions of Trump’s failed marriages, multiple bankruptcies and laundry list of controversial statements about all manner of people and groups be regular features of his media attention? How should Trump’s unique use (as compared to his opponents) of Twitter be covered?

Read the rest of the article here.

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Media Coverage and the 2016 Presidential Primaries (on Joy Cardin Show)

July 22, 2015 Leave a comment

I spent an hour on the Joy Cardin Show talking about media coverage in the 2016 presidential primaries today. We talked about the changing media landscape, Donald Trump, Gov. Walker, efforts from candidates to control their message, research dealing with how newspapers cover candidates they endorse, the hostile media effect and took some calls claiming the media are in the bag for both Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It was a fun hour – I got to quote Dan Rather’s (talking about Trump) “his chances are between slim and none and slim just left town.”

One goof I made was misspeaking about the years Joe Biden ran for president. I said 1988 and 2012, but of course he ran in 1988 and 2008. The line to rescind my Ph.D. forms at the right.

Listen here.

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Talking 2016 with Barry Burden of the Elections Research Center at UW-Madison

I was delighted to have my colleague and friend Barry Burden join me as I guest-hosted “A Public Affair” on 89.9 WORT in Madison. We talked about the Elections Research Center at UW-Madison (the center is new and Barry is the founding director), the 2016 presidential race, the 2016 Wisconsin senate race, poli-sci related nuts and bolts about elections, and took calls from listeners. Link is here.


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Will Scott Walker Be the GOP Nominee? Pathways to Yes, Obstacles to No (on Wisconsin Eye)

March 13, 2015 Leave a comment

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.


Ferguson to Madison: Covering the Tragic Killing of Tony Robinson

March 9, 2015 Leave a comment

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.

Madison is grieving.

Madison is angry.

Madison is engaged.

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.

Media Roundup: Gov. Scott Walker’s Presidential Ambitions

February 23, 2015 Leave a comment

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.

Walker’s Rising Presidential Ambitions (Feb. 20, 2105)

On Gov. Walker’s Inauguration Speech (Jan. 9, 2015)

Midterm Elections (Nov. 7, 2104)

Other outlets, like Mischiefs of Faction have also run excellent analyses of Gov. Walker’s potential candidacy for the White House here, here, and here.

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A Conversation about News Frames and National Security on WORT

December 30, 2014 Leave a comment

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.

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7 Strategies for Teaching Student Journalists to Cover Midterm Elections

October 31, 2014 Leave a comment

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.



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