February 24, 2011

The Badger Herald writes about last night's teach-in on the Wisconsin budget bill and completely misrepresents what Prof. Donald Downs said.

Here's the Badger Herald.  Here's Professor Downs's response — which was cc'd to me:
I write in response to Grant Hermes reporting on my comments at the Law School Forum Wednesday evening. Hermes wrote that I "alluded to the idea that the governor’s proposed bill may have long-term negative effects on political areas outside of labor disputes, such as taxes and the rising cost in higher education." This is a complete misrepresentation of what I said and meant. I was talking about the crisis of debt, and how higher education is part of this crisis because we cost so much. Walker has had nothing to do [with] having caused this problem; indeed, his measures are designed to at least address the crisis of public debt in a forceful way. At no point in my discussion of this aspect of the problem did I implicate Walker's plan as a source of the problem. The cost of higher education has skyrocketed at twice the skyrocketing rate of medical care costs over the course of the last twenty years, and we are the source of this problem, not Walker.

Donald Downs
Meiklejohn Professor of Political Science, Law, and Journalism
Maybe the reporter had trouble hearing a professor imply that Scott Walker might be doing something good.

ADDED: The boldface is mine. Here's the last 2 1/2 minutes of Downs's talk.

58 comments:

Dust Bunny Queen said...

But but but.....the Badger Herald was able to intuit what Prof Downs was thinking in his secret heart.

The mind reading powers of the left are LEGENDARY. Just ask any of the leftist posters to your blog.

They always seem to know just exactly what we are thinking at any moment in time.

I bet they even know what I'm wearing right now /wink

gloogle said...

File this under "dog bites man".

You really expect anything different from the Madison press??

Donald Douglas said...

Whoo hoo!

Yay, political science!

MadisonMan said...

My Dad, who was a Dept Head, always hated being quoted by the local College paper, because he was always, always, misquoted.

Hagar said...

You hear what you want to hear.

Chip Ahoy said...

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former law student said...

Wow. I was going to put in my diary that Prof. Althouse criticized a right-wing institution today, only to learn from wikip (supported by their last several editorials) that the Badger Herald is now liberal.

Oh, well.

PatCA said...

I'm sort of amazed they published his letter!

That's how low my expectations are.

Ann Althouse said...

"I'm sort of amazed they published his letter!"

Did they?

I'm sure they will, but I'm publishing it from his email copy to me, not from the Herald.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

My Dad, who was a Dept Head, always hated being quoted by the local College paper, because he was always, always, misquoted.

It is systemic to the entire newspaper industry and evidence of either a total lack of journalistic ethics or the stupidity of the reporters. I say both.

We get misquoted in our local paper EVEN when we submit a written press release and ask that it be printed as submitted. They STILL change the wording, leave out pertinent parts, misspell words (I can do that just fine without their help) and insert their own speculations about what we (our CSD) is trying to say.

Buffoons and clowns.

Marshal said...

Hermes decided on the the article's substance before the event. He attended to learn a few details he could use to create a believable atmosphere. Not only did he distort Down's comments, but he manged to slip in the required leftist activist to ensure his liberal readers knew which side of the issue they were supposed to take.

He has a future at the NYT.

Lincolntf said...

Good for Professor Downs. Now if the readers of the Badger Herald would just imagine the same phenomena occurring in every single article they read, no matter what the topic, they'd see why smart people wholly distrust the MSM.

Alan Jay Weisbard said...

Professor Downs made a number of quite complicated points in a very brief amount of time. (This was also true of several other speakers, whose often interesting and informative views were not reported on in this story.)

The reporter got this piece wrong, but I think it is fair to say that Professor Down's articulation published in Althouse (and now posted on the Badger Herald website) may be a bit more clear than what was said last night. In addition, Prof. Downs needed to leave early, so there was probably little or no opportunity to check quotes with him.

I am no stranger to being misquoted in the press, or in student academic papers purporting to quote my lectures or interviews. Sadly, this goes with the territory.

I would not be so quick to ascribe ideological motivations to an error in reporting in this case.

Professor Emeritus Alan Jay Weisbard
UW Law School

Trooper York said...

Why would you go to a newspaper to get an accurate report about what happened?

The only thing worse than a journalist is a lawyer.

Trooper York said...

Oh the old "He is stupid not evil defense."

Well the press is both stupid and evil. They can multitask.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I would not be so quick to ascribe ideological motivations to an error in reporting in this case.

Ok. Just stupidity then.

Ann Althouse said...

"I would not be so quick to ascribe ideological motivations to an error in reporting in this case."

Do you thinking it's "ascrib[ing] political motivations" to a person to guess that they mishear something because it's what they expect to hear? That is, a UW student expects to hear a professor attack the conservative governor and misreports it. Where is the ideological motive?

Lincolntf said...

The 100% rate at which "accidents" in the media favor that day's Democrat/Liberal theme is a statistical anomaly that deserves serious research.

I'll take a 100K grant for starters.

Ann Althouse said...

I mean, why wasn't there someone on the panel who presented a forceful defense of the approach Walker is taking? What does it say about our university and our law school that Downs's statements -- which are almost painfully moderate -- read as conservative here -- indeed they are misread because even these painfully moderate comments are too conservative not to be flipped into something more liberal?

Alex said...

Walker is a radical bagger, 'nuff said.

PaulV said...

When Joe Namath was asked by sportwriters what his major was Journalism because classes were easier.
WV: unons, taking the "I" out of unions

iftheshoefits said...

Alan, I'd give the "honest misinterpretation" defense a bit more credence if they ever missed in the opposite political direction.

In other words, mis-interpreting comments in a more conservative manner than they were intended, or mis-reporting in a way that makes the conservative individual or point of view look better than it really should.

That never seems to happen, though.

LordSomber said...

"Now if the readers of the Badger Herald would just imagine the same phenomena occurring in every single article they read, no matter what the topic, they'd see why smart people wholly distrust the MSM."

Also known as the "Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect."

Journalists have only themselves to blame.

WV: feses

Exactly.

Henry said...

Do you thinking it's "ascrib[ing] political motivations" to a person to guess that they mishear something because it's what they expect to hear? That is, a UW student expects to hear a professor attack the conservative governor and misreports it. Where is the ideological motive?

The problematic word here isn't "ideological." It's "motive."

In a profound way that is really subverts both the academy and the media. Their motives are so pure they don't know how ideological they are.

MayBee said...

Professor Emeritus Alan Jay Weisbard
UW Law School-

What is your opinion on Walker's bill and the Democratic walk-out?

Class factotum said...

It is systemic to the entire newspaper industry and evidence of either a total lack of journalistic ethics or the stupidity of the reporters. I say both.

The Journal Sentinel wants to do a story on couples who disagree on this issue. My husband, who has been to Madison twice to protest (he is an engineer in the private sector but was indoctrinated by his union professor father because PhDs need those union protections! especially at a fourth-rate school!) and I are in a mixed marriage. He wants to be in the story and I do not because I absolutely do not trust the reporter/paper to cast me in a bad light.

Class factotum said...

He wants to be in the story and I do not because I absolutely do not trust the reporter/paper to cast me in a bad light.

Oops. I don't trust them not to cast me in a bad light.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@ Class....

Do NOT do it. There is no way that you will be portrayed in a good light or even fairly.

Expect to be shown an unreasonable conservative bitch who bites off the heads of kittens for fun.

If you value your marriage...do not do it.

Fprawl said...

The 2 comments after Dr. Downs' response at the link are hilarious.
Honey Badger Herald Don't Give a Shit.

Hagar said...

Condoleezza Rice tells an anecdote from when she was very young and had just got her PhD.
She was invited to a symposium on current politics, or something like that (she thought, because she was the only registered Republican with a PhD in the San Francisco Bay area), and did her valiant best to hold up the flag for Republican principles.
However, after the talk-fest, a nice elderly couple came up to her and warmly commended her bravery for standing up against that terrible Reagan Administration, especially considering her youth and age.
They had not heard a word she had said.

Dust Bunny Queen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
former law student said...

I mean, why wasn't there someone on the panel who presented a forceful defense of the approach Walker is taking? What does it say about our university and our law school ...

If you invite a bunch of labor supporters to speak, you might not hear management's side. The time to rectify the balance was before the forum. But if the professor can make a case for stripping workers of their collective bargaining rights, I'm sure that would still be timely

But I want to know why do we never hear from GBLTQ folks who oppose same-sex marriage? I am sure they are legion.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

They had not heard a word she had said.

However, they could see that she is a Black woman and therefore she MUST be a Democrat.

Indoctrination and pre conceived ideas. The same as the mindset of the reporter at the Herald.

(Holy Typos Batman!!) Fixed..I think

Trooper York said...

Don't do it Class. They are lying sacks of shit and will lie and distort everything you have to say.

You don't want to put your marriage at risk to help out some douchenozzle reporter.

edutcher said...

The Left tends to filter the world through the prism of its own wishful thinking.

Add to that the fact that youth tends to filter everything through the prism of its own passion (or hormones in overdrive), it's a wonder they saw he was there.

Lincolntf said...

I'm sure the interview will be fair and professionally done.

"Mr. Factotum, when you look across the breakfast table and see a brown-shirted Corporatist bent on destroying education in America, what are your thoughts?"

PatCA said...

Oh, they didn't publish it? I spoke too soon; formerly high expectations of the media now dashed back to realistic level.

Ann Althouse said...

Downs added his letter as a comment over at the site, but there's no correction appended to the article itself, and it remains to be seen whether the paper copy of the paper will have the letter in it.

Embarrassingly, the photograph at the article has misidentifies the person depicted.

Thorley Winston said...

Seven hours ago in the comments section, someone posted that the person in the photograph was misidentified.

Two hours ago someone posted a copy of the text of Professor Downs’ email that the article completely misrepresented what he actually said.

The online article says that it was last updated Thursday, February 24, 2011 1:55:23 a.m. but neither of these things were corrected.

Trooper York said...

"Embarrassingly, the photograph at the article has misidentifies the person depicted."

Why would they be embarrassed?

They live to lie.

The only thing worse than a journalist is a lawyer.

bagoh20 said...

Well, I want to thank Prof. Downs for that honest assessment, which it seems adds him to the people who need to be lied about by the media. We'll be seeing a Hitler mustache on him very soon.

I also want to apologize for implying that such a point of view would be completely absent, although in actuality I only asked if it would be, but what I expected was not the case, at least as far as Mr. Downs is concerned. Good for him.

Rick67 said...

Well yes and maybe no.

Reporter probably biased toward the left and against Walker and is inclined to misinterpret or misrepresent what Prof Downs says to fit his own biases and preconceptions.

Let me suggest - just to be overly generous - a possible defense.

Back in my Cornell undergraduate days I was president of the university pro-life group. (No kidding.) On one occasion we brought a speaker from University of Chicago law school who (a) would speak against elective abortion from a legal *and* a Jewish perspective and (b) happened to have a son at Cornell so it was a nice chance for him to visit.

The Cornell Daily Sun got it completely wrong in their report the next day. The reporter took what the law professor was arguing *against* as what he was arguing for. The professor tried to explain, "This is the Supreme Court's argument in that case", and then respond to it. But sometimes us undergraduate rubes can't follow the nuances of an academic presentation - we mistake "they say" for "now let me tell what I think". One of my friends in the group had precisely the same misunderstanding as did the reporter. It was an honest mistake.

But the Daily Sun did not print our letter clarifying the misunderstanding.

Do I think this Wisconsin reporter made an honest mistake? No. But it's possible.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

former law student said...

But I want to know why do we never hear from GBLTQ folks who oppose same-sex marriage? I am sure they are legion.

I don't have links handy, but they're out there. If you include ones who take the libertarian approach (get government out of the marriage business), they may even qualify as legion.

Marshal said...

“I know that the higher education here in Wisconsin is being threatened by this bill,” Rickman said."

The reporter managed to find this quote parroting the leftist position. No similar summary of any other position is included. How can this be honest? Even if you're so biased you think this is self evident, which is probably true, he can still count to two can't he? Two sides, two summaries?

So I admit, this could be the result of honest error if neither the journalist nor the entire editorial staff can count to two.

t-man said...

I just have to say Fprawl, that your comment made me laugh. Thanks.

TosaGuy said...

I am sickened by these reactionary public unions who use the force of law to confiscate the fruits of the labor of the people; people who have no freedom to work at their job without being in unionized bondage. Unionism without employee freedom is slavery!!

David said...

Ann Althouse said...
I mean, why wasn't there someone on the panel who presented a forceful defense of the approach Walker is taking?


Professor, you are in the best position to answer that question. I can think of several possibilities. (1) There was no one on the law faculty willing to make such a defense out of fear of ridicule or punishment. (2) There was no one on the faculty who was willing to make the defense because they found it ideologically repulsive. (3) A willing defender was excluded.

None of these possibilities reflect well on the University of Wisconsin.

paul a'barge said...

Honestly, I listened to the guy ramble and had to shut down the video.

I feel for the reporter.

What ever the professor was trying to say, he should have written it down on a white board. Speaking in person, the guy is a blow hard and pompous. Like most professors.

JorgXMcKie said...

I see that the usual suspects are every bit as incompetent as the "boy reporter" is. [Actually, I think Jimmy Olsen would have gotten it right, but that was back in the day when "reporting" was a craft and not an attitude and narrative learned in "Journalism". I'm pretty sure journalism is the last recourse for those about to fail out of "[insert interest group] Studies" or the College Of Education". Not that anyone has ever actually failed out of an Education major.]

It's kind of calming to see how little some things change.

Mark said...

I don't "oppose" gay marriage; I just don't care one way or the other because even if it becomes legal, I have no plans of taking advantage of it.

The biggest benefit I see is Social Security survivor money. Since there will be no such thing by the time I die (even if it's just next year), I see no point in being "married", which carries a lot of contextual baggage that does not apply to me.

I AM LEGION! (couldn't resist, sorry)

Synova said...

"But sometimes us undergraduate rubes can't follow the nuances of an academic presentation - we mistake "they say" for "now let me tell what I think". One of my friends in the group had precisely the same misunderstanding as did the reporter. It was an honest mistake."

I think that might have been what Althouse was getting at by saying it wasn't a matter of *motive* but of ideology... or something like that.

People make honest mistakes, but we tend to make mistakes of a certain sort, particularly when it comes to interpretation, according to our prejudices. We tend to hear what we expect to hear.

If nothing else, wouldn't a student (or other person in attendance) be sorting the speakers in their head (which leads to other sorts of mistakes) and have wondered "who is arguing the other side" and have at least noticed? (Even if it wasn't the *other* side at all, in this case.) If someone isn't actually *looking* for which presenter is offering the alternative opinions, isn't that a problem too?

Intellectual diversity indeed.

rcocean said...

Whats the big deal? The reporter just did what they all do. They all write the story BEFORE they get to the event and then get quotes that support their pre-written story line.

In this case, the reporter just quoted the wrong professor. Why? Maybe, he was still awake when Professor Downs was speaking.

Fen said...

I'd give the "honest misinterpretation" defense a bit more credence if they ever missed in the opposite political direction

This.

Fen said...

Why would you go to a newspaper to get an accurate report about what happened?

I got interviewed by the NYTs during the Florida recount.

The "journalist" quoted me 3 seperate times as 3 seperate people. He added a southern dialect to the 2nd quote in a way that made it sound ignorant and uneducated. For the 3rd quote, he dressed me in a "hooded shirt", I guess to evoke the KKK.

So I always get a kick when people insist that the MSM doesn't deliberately lie.

Fen said...

Oh, I grew up in Bermuda. What little accent I have left is British.

chr1 said...

'I'd give the "honest misinterpretation" defense a bit more credence if they ever missed in the opposite political direction'

I'd argue he's doing what all people do, especially young people as their experience is more limited:

THey are slowly and subtly affected by those around them, internalizing their deeper values and often being taught to think alike is more important than thinking differently.

former law student said...

people who have no freedom to work at their job without being in unionized bondage.

They can always move to Alabama.

Or, if they prefer harsh winters, Nebraska is also a right-to-work state.

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