Archive for the ‘Wisconsin Interest’ category

New Media And The Capitol Protests

September 18, 2011

I like writing about media. This piece for Wisconsin Interest, the triannual political journal I help edit, examines how new media  drove the Capitol protests and its coverage. The piece begins:

The revolution came to Madison in February, but not the one you think.

Sure, Gov. Scott Walker’s efforts to roll back a half-century of labor legislation and the ferocious liberal backlash were earthshaking events. But the outcome of this epic struggle awaits a last act.

No such uncertainty marks the digital revolution. New media played a crucial role in both organizing the Capitol protests and in covering them. The digital future arrived on the wings of text messages, cell-phone photos, flip-camera videos, Facebook posts and Twitter tweets.

Several thousand words later, I end by saying that while  the mechanics of politics has been transformed by new media, the nature of the our politics hasn’t been changed at all.

The rise of social media has had little impact on the polarization of American politics. No middle-of- the-road, “third way” movement has been texted into public consciousness.

If anything, the new technology has been deployed in the revival of a grand old creedal fight. Surging conservatives are rolling back 50 years of liberal Democratic programs in Wisconsin and even challenging the Progressive and New Deal shibboleths of earlier generations. New media has been conspicuously agnostic in this war, equally available to the left and right.

The irony is that the epochal rise of digital media may wind up triggering Gutenberg-like changes in our culture and economy, in the transmission and creation of news, and in the very nature of our intimate communications. But in the substance of our politics — well, not so much. At least for now.

To read the full report,  please go here.

What’s black and white and bleeding all over?

April 5, 2010

I intend to post a few  stories I wrote before starting this online archive. This piece on the decline of the Wisconsin newspaper industry dates to March 2009 when it was published by  Wisconsin Interest.

It  cuts close to home. I’ve spent  my adult  life working in newspapers (save a post-college stint at a factory in Kenosha), including, The West Bend News, The Capital Times and Isthmus, plus a cup of coffee at The Janesville Gazette.

The story begins:

If you’re a deep-pocketed business executive in a flourishing industry, you gather at the richly appointed Fluno Center on the UW-Madison campus for your deep-thought conferences. More modest enterprises and nonprofits send their execs to the UW’s shop-worn Pyle Center for their soul-searching. This, of course, was the proper setting for a worried group of newspaper executives on March 28, 2008.

The good news was that they weren’t squirreled away in a dining room at Denny’s out on the Interstate. Given the parlous state of newspaper economics, this might have made more sense. Their papers might have split the cost of the $5.99 “Grand Slam” breakfast special.

“We’re in a time of decline,” Stephen Gray of the American Press Institute told the 60 or 70 people present. “It’s a time of fear, depression, even despair.” Yes, fear, depression, even despair. Nobody was shocked by Gray’s words, because everybody knew they were true.

Go here to read more.

My Life and Times With The Madison Public Schools

April 1, 2010

There’s nothing like parenthood for wiring you into education issues.  When my two daughters were in their K-12 years, I got a first-hand look at how the pedagogical fights in academia played out in my neighborhood schools.

This prompted a long essay in Wisconsin Interest in the winter  2007 issue. Given my previous post on the UW-Madison School of Education, this seems a good time to link to it.

Here’s how the story began:

Having kids is a lot like throwing dice. You never know how you and your mate’s genetic code will spill out. Snake eyes: The kid gets your mathematical obtuseness and your spouse’s fear of heights. Seven! The little tyke inherits your love of words and your spouse’s consummate sense of order.

Who knows how the dice will fall? It’s a crap shoot, so to speak. But that’s the nature component of spawning kids. The nurture element is another story. We try so hard to shape their environment to good effect.

How eye-opening, then, when I realized I had gotten it wrong with my older daughter….

Read here for more.


When ‘A’ Is For Average

March 31, 2010

Four or five years ago, a professor told me about the unusually high grade point average among students in the UW-Madison School of Education. I finally got around to checking out his tip for Wisconsin Interest. The story begins:

Lake Wobegon has nothing on the UW-Madison School of Education. All of the children in Garrison Keillor’s fictional Minnesota town are “above average.” Well, in the School of Education they’re all A students.

The 1,400 or so kids in the teacher-training department soared to a dizzying 3.91 grade point average on a four-point scale in the spring 2009 semester.

Read more here.

The Enigma in the East Wing

December 2, 2009

I’m puzzled by Jim Doyle. I’ve seen the governor speak  a couple of times, and his passion  for education, racial justice and environmental protection were palpable.  The guy fully embraced the liberal vision. Yet Doyle has  governed cautiously, almost defensively, and has even slammed the door on his political allies. In this piece for Wisconsin Interest , I try to explain the consequences of Doyle’s governing style. Read more here.

Walker vs. Neumann

July 22, 2009

The new issue of Wisconsin Interest magazine is out. Charlie Sykes and I interviewed the two leading GOP candidates for governor, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and former Congressman Mark Neumann.

We didn’t bill it as a debate but as a discussion of the issues. You’ll see though that differences emerged.

Check it out for yourself.


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