Diederich College Appointment of John Pauly as Colnik Chair

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John PaulyJohn Pauly came to Marquette University in 2006 to lead the Diederich College of Communication, and we were deans for two years together — or at least next door to one another, as he was in Johnston Hall and I immediately east in the “old building,” as we in the Law School now call Sensenbrenner Hall. Then Dean Pauly became Provost Pauly in 2008, and so for five years I reported to him, although that phrasing does not convey all the support that Provost Pauly gave to the Law School and to me as dean. Throughout these years and his administrative positions, I admired the way John remained engaged in his discipline — journalism — in a way also integrated with the larger work of the Marquette University faculty. I remain particularly drawn to his substantial essay, “Is Journalism Interested in Resolution, or Only in Conflict?,” published in the Marquette Law Review in 2009 as part of a dispute resolution symposium at the Law School (introduced here by conference organizer, Prof. Andrea K. Schneider). There are other examples of his contributions, including a post last month on our blog concerning the study of political polarization conducted by Craig Gilbert, Washington Bureau Chief of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Law School’s Lubar Fellow for Public Policy Research last year.

In any event, for all these reasons (and for any additional engagement with the Law School that it might occasion), I am delighted that my colleague Lori Bergen, dean of the Diederich College of Communication, has appointed John Pauly as the college’s Gretchen and Cyril Colnik Chair in Communication. In making the announcement, Dean Bergen noted that Prof. Pauly’s research and teaching “in the history and sociology of the mass media, cultural approaches to communication, media ethics and criticism, communication theory and the theory and practice of literary journalism have brought him international distinction as a scholar.” This appointment as Colnik Chair is a signal and well-deserved honor for a much-respected colleague and reflects not just terrific judgment concerning John Pauly’s past contributions to Marquette University and the community of scholars but also a prediction of more such. Kudos and congratulations to all involved.

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Conference Probes the Depth and Breadth of Political Polarization

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Category: Media & Journalism, Milwaukee, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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“I believe in my heart that we have a lot more in common than we have differences,” said Tom Meaux, Ozaukee County Administrator.

But if you do the numbers, we have a dramatic amount not in common. And no one has done the numbers the way the Marquette Law School and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have.

The numbers – voting data, polling results, a wide range of demographic statistics – spell out the polarization that has become a dominant fact of politics in Wisconsin and especially in southeastern Wisconsin. A six-month fellowship at the Law School, funded by the Lubar Fund for Public Policy Research, allowed Craig Gilbert, Washington bureau chief of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, to collaborate with Professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, in producing an analysis of the growing political divide that offers remarkable depth and breadth.

The result was a four-part series in the Journal Sentinel and a conference Thursday at Eckstein Hall, sponsored by the Law School and the Journal Sentinel, that brought together Gilbert, Franklin, political leaders, and academic experts to discuss what unites us, what divides us, and what lies ahead, given the intense current divisions. Read more »

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Why Partisanship Bothers Us

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Red_state_blue_stateWith the Marquette Law School conference “Dividing Lines” approaching on May 15, it is worth asking why hard and determined forms of partisanship so unnerve us.

The immediate occasion for this discussion is Craig Gilbert’s study of political polarization in the Milwaukee metropolitan area, and its economic and cultural origins. Gilbert is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Washington bureau chief and this past year served as the Law School’s Lubar Fellow for Public Policy Research. Working with Charles Franklin, professor of law and public policy and director of the Marquette Law School Poll, Gilbert has documented in recent elections a strong and consistent correlation between voting preferences and race, ethnicity, education, and population density (the series to date appearing in the newspaper here, here, and here, with the final entry coming this Wednesday). Marquette Law School’s Professor David Papke has also commented on Gilbert’s research, noting how deliberately conceived public policies such as restricted covenants, exclusionary zoning, and easing of residency rules for municipal employees have contributed to the climate of divisiveness.

As a scholar of journalism and media, I want to probe more deeply the meanings Americans attribute to their experience of political division. Read more »

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In (Partial) Defense of Liz Cheney

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Cheney sisters

Is it possible to support a loved one’s life choices if you believe those choices should not exist? Consider the following hypotheticals:

Scenario #1: Your teenage daughter tells you she is pregnant from her no-good former boyfriend, and that she wishes to terminate the pregnancy. You are pro-life. Yet you realize that your daughter is the only one who can decide what to do (assuming she is not subject to parental consent laws, and perhaps even if she is). So you drive your child to her doctors’ appointments. You also tell her that despite your fundamental objections to abortion, you will do your best to make peace with her decision.

Scenario #2: You strongly believe children are entitled to information about their genetic parents. For this reason, you think sperm and egg banks should be allowed to work only with donors who consent to the disclosure of their identity and some basic information, and who agree to a minimum number of visits with any genetic offspring. Your sister has a baby conceived with sperm from an anonymous donor. You were beyond thrilled when she told you about her pregnancy, and you love your new nephew to pieces. Your views on the need for regulation of sperm and egg donor banks have not changed.

If these scenarios sound plausible, it is because our moral convictions don’t always dictate our personal interactions. Nor should they. The ability to appreciate that others may embrace values that are different from our own, and to react to their decisions with understanding and even respect, is a sign of maturity. Read more »

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Pulitzer Winner Calls for News Reporting Focused on Solutions

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Solutions journalism – what’s that? A leading advocate for this approach to news reporting told an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” audience in Eckstein Hall on Wednesday that it was, at the same time, a simple concept and an important change from the historic practices of most news organizations.

“The reigning myth of journalism is that we cover problems, and that’s all we do,” said Tina Rosenberg, co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network. ”The solution to the problem is not our business, someone else will come and take care of that.”

But, she said, “That model has failed. It’s not a good model for helping society learn what it needs to improve itself, which is what the purpose of journalism should be. Our view is that it is a perfectly legitimate part of journalism to cover, in addition to problems, what is going on to respond to those problem.” Read more »

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Milwaukee Area Divide in Voting Is Unusually Deep, Gilbert and Franklin Say

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Category: Marquette Law School, Media & Journalism, Milwaukee, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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It isn’t just that we disagree whether we prefer pepperoni or anchovies on our pizza. We disagree about what pepperoni and anchovies are. And we disagree in increasingly strong ways.

That’s one way that Charles Franklin, professor of law and public policy at Marquette University Law School, described the sharply partisan atmosphere of American politics. He spoke Thursday in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall in the first session of the 2013-14 season of “On the Issues with Mike Gousha.”

Franklin and Craig Gilbert, Washington bureau chief of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, presented some of the early findings of research the two are conducting on polarization in politics, especially in the Milwaukee area and Wisconsin. Gilbert is on a six-month leave from the newspaper to take part in the project, supported by the Law School’s Sheldon B. Lubar Fund for Public Policy research. Read more »

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Manipulation by the Media: Lessons to be Learned from Zimmerman v. NBC

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Category: Civil Procedure, Criminal Law & Process, Media & Journalism, Public, Race & Law
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George ZimmermanNow more than ever, journalism appears to be no longer about reporting facts or the search for truth, but instead about manipulating facts to maximize ratings. A case in point is the complaint George Zimmerman filed last December against NBC. The complaint alleges NBC’s use of edited 911 audio, as part of its coverage of Trayvon Martin’s death, was defamatory and an intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The transcript of the 911 call, released by the City of Sanford, begins as follows:

Dispatcher: Sanford Police Department. . . .

Zimmerman: Hey we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there’s a real suspicious guy, uh, [near] Retreat View Circle, um, the best address I can give you is 111 Retreat View Circle. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.

Dispatcher: OK, and this guy is he white, black, or Hispanic?

Zimmerman: He looks black.

Dispatcher: Did you see what he was wearing?

Zimmerman: Yeah. A dark hoodie, like a grey hoodie, and either jeans or sweatpants and white tennis shoes. He’s [unintelligible], he was just staring . . .

Dispatcher: OK, he’s just walking around the area . . .

Zimmerman: . . . looking at all the houses.

Dispatcher: OK . . .

Zimmerman: Now he’s just staring at me.

Dispatcher: OK – you said it’s 1111 Retreat View? Or 111?

Zimmerman: That’s the clubhouse . . .

Dispatcher: That’s the clubhouse, do you know what the – he’s near the clubhouse right now?

Zimmerman: Yeah, now he’s coming towards me.

Dispatcher: OK.

Zimmerman: He’s got his hand in his waistband. And he’s a black male.

Zimmerman’s complaint alleges “NBC saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so set about to create the myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain,” reported a “reprehensible series of imaginary and exaggerated racist claims,” and created a “false and defamatory misimpression using the oldest form of yellow journalism: manipulating Zimmerman’s own words, splicing together disparate parts of the [911] recording to create the illusion of statements that Zimmerman never actually made.” Read more »

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Celebrating Poetry

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wordsApril is National Poetry Month, which may be Marquette University President Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.’s favorite month.  And for good reason.  Poetry can sometimes say what we can’t; it can touch our hearts and our souls with its inspiration, its longing, its joy, and its sadness.

Last year, on this blog, several of us wrote about poetry, sharing our favorites, composing new poetry in both traditional and different ways, or exploring poetry in and about the law.  As student Gabe Houghton noted this post, there are some judges who compose opinions in verse.

As April closes, I just wanted to remind everyone that poetry should be celebrated all months and remember that there are many kinds of poetry.  Songs can be considered poetry set to music. There are also poetry slams.   My favorite in this last genre is Taylor Mali, teacher and poet.  You can see him perform his poem “Totally like whatever, you know?” here.  It’s a nice reminder for those of us who love language that what we say, as well as how we say it, matters.

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Some Thoughts on Violence in Israel and the U.S.

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I was part of the group of students and faculty that recently visited Israel. It was truly an amazing trip, and it reshaped my perception of everything from the Syrian civil war, to Biblical history, to the contemporary political dynamics that complicate efforts to secure peace between Israelis and Palestinians, to life in the United States. I do not purport to be an expert on anything pertaining to Israel, and my thoughts on the trip are still a bit scattered, but I thought I would share at least one major impression: Israel felt more secure than I thought it would. Having read about the country’s various security problems for years, I started the trip with some anxiety about traveling in what was for me unprecedented proximity to Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria. To borrow the title of an 1980s sitcom, I thought that anti-Western groups would be a little too close for comfort.

But I felt completely secure, and I think everyone else did, too. It appeared that Israel’s citizens manage to live normal lives in basic safety notwithstanding the various security challenges they face. Markets, tours, businesses, restaurants, and schools all operate without any apparent sense of danger. The external threats are serious, but none of them appeared to be terribly consequential on a day-to-day basis for the individuals who live there.  Read more »

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The “Feisty” Secretary Clinton—An Object of Media Bias?

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Category: Feminism, Media & Journalism, Public
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Regarding the recent Senate committee hearings on the September 2012 attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, several major media outlets described Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as, among other things, “feisty.” Strictly from a definitional standpoint, the media’s characterization appears unobjectionable. Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, for example, most relevantly defines “feisty” as “quarrelsome, aggressive, belligerent, etc.” and these words arguably capture at least some aspects of Secretary Clinton’s remarks.

A modest examination of American English usage suggests that “feisty” is commonly used to refer to the behavior or character of people in a group (e.g., “the candidates had a feisty debate” or “it sure is a feisty crowd”) or to an animal, particularly a small rambunctious animal (e.g., “that there is one feisty critter”). Indeed, the word’s proximate origins concern the temperamental nature of mixed-breed dogs, and its earliest origins concern the malodorous passing of gas—hence a “fisting hound” in late 17th-century England was an undesirably flatulent dog.

The term “feisty” can also be used, of course, to describe the demeanor or behavior of an individual person. When used in that way, however, it seems more frequently to describe the elderly (“feisty octogenarian” retrieved 17,200 Google hits), the relatively young, and—it appears—women, or at least certain women. Read more »

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Before the Sports Broadcasting Act: Professional Football Fifty Years Ago

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Warning:  This essay contains pure, unadulterated nostalgia for the professional sports regime of the middle third of 20th century America.

I remember watching the 1960 World Series on television, but the first year that I really followed major league baseball was 1961, the year of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle’s historic assault on Babe Ruth’s single season home run record. When the baseball season was over, my new-found enthusiasm for sports led me to become a pro football fan as well. Read more »

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Do We Need an Anti-Siphoning Act in the United States?

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The remarkable Milwaukee Brewers have now reached the second round of the Major League Baseball play-offs, but many Brewers fans have yet to have the opportunity to stay at home and watch the team play post-season games on television. The reason, of course, is that this year all first round play-off games as well as the second round of National League play-offs are shown only on cable television. Those who don’t subscribe to cable are shut out of watching the Brewers on television, unless they can make their way to Long Wong’s Sports Bar on Blue Mound Avenue, or some other similar establishment.

This was, of course, not always the case. Until 1996, all Major League Baseball post-season play-off games were on free television. That year, ESPN won the right to broadcast any first round play-off games not aired by NBC or FOX, then Major League Baseball’s primary broadcast partners. Since that time, the number of play-off games on pay television has been steadily creeping upward.

In Australia and in many European countries, the local equivalent of Major League Baseball’s playoff games would be required by law to be broadcast on free television. Called anti-siphoning statutes, these laws dictate that certain sporting events must be made available for broadcast on free, open-air stations, if they are broadcast at all.

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