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Live Blog of “Journalism, Ethics, and Sensitivity” forum

March 4, 2010


Berquam is wrapping it up. Smathers tells the Hillel director the Herald will begin reviewing their ad policies tonight. Smathers then says any changes will be deliberate and not imminent. Berquam responds that she wants transparency from the Herald with any changes that occur.

At times, this looked like the lynch mob the forum appeared to be a set up for, but it could have been much worse. I don’t think much was accomplished overall, and if I was to guess I would say that all the attacks may harden the Herald’s position. We will see.

This did convince me that the Herald did this in no way as an attention-grab though.


Another student yelling at Smathers, not asking a question, followed by cheering. And I thought the Millenials wouldn’t be the next wave of town hall lunatics.


This is honestly embarrassing. The most vitriolic and personal questions and statements have all come from students. The students here are the loud ones, yelling people down and trying to tip the conversation away from a civil one.


Its a DC and BH throwdown. First, Brace continues with this theme about making sure the people he works with feel safe based on his decisions.

Then the DC advertising director asks from the audience why the ad wasn’t originally caught. BH advertising director stands up and says, we run a lot, a lot, of ads. We missed this one.


Now Journalism professor Shwack (?) has the mic. I believe he is the only J-school faculty member supporting the Herald. He asks, where is the harm, and the people being recruited from this ad?

Schweber answers: This has strengthened Smith, and I have no doubt has helped his recruiting. (applause from the 50-60 students here)

Another J-school prof answers: This has given Smith’s ads legitimacy. This makes it harder for the MN Daily or other student newspapers to turn him down.


Downs gets the mic…man is a genius:

Smith has crossed a line from free speech to harassment with his recent spamming and emailing campaigns.

Downs then brings perspective to the importance of bringing unpopular and disgusting views to the light of day (there is the justification for running the ad the Heralders should have cited all along). This should not be underestimated.

He then asks Brace to say what ad they denied last night. Brace won’t say other than it was run by a local business who advocated underage drinking.


Q to Berquam: What do you and the administration want to see in the future?

A: Create a more thoughtful process in the future for determining what ads will run.


Penzenstadler said Smith’s message doesn’t rise to the level of the KKK placing an ad. A group of students went nuts. They missed the point, but most people yelling at a forum do.


Q: Why run the ad in the first place? What is the justification?

Penzenstadler: Puts him out there to be shouted down. That is better than ignoring him, allowing him to continue.


Nick Penzenstadler (runs advertising) and Kevin Bargnes, both of the Herald, were just called to the stage to answer questions about the process of vetting the ad originally. This spontaneous addition of new panel members was definitely the most exciting event so far. Penzenstadler is doing the talking.


Live Blog later of “Journalism, Ethics, and Sensitivity” forum

March 4, 2010

Tune in for live updates of the forum moderated by Lori Berquam and featuring Smathers, DC Editor Charles Brace, journalism profs Lew Friedland and Stephen Ward and ASM Chair Tyler Junger later today.

A reliable source informed me that the J-school faculty have been pretty much unanimously opposed to the BH”s running of the holocaust denial ad, with one notable exception. From this list, I don’t see anyone included on the panel that would be supportive of Smathers position, though I don’t know what Junger’s take is.

I have a seminar until 4:25 and the forum is supposed to start at 4, but I should be giving live updates once I make it to Bascom.

What to make of these sexual assault reports

March 2, 2010

I meant to post on this yesterday in conjunction with the story run by the Herald (which should have been featured more prominently online), but I am currently without a laptop. There is so much to cover here, but I think 4 specific things deserve mention.

1. As Jack mentioned yesterday, the report cited included some disquieting statistics on the disparity between occurrences of actual rape, and actual reports filed. These stats are outrageous, and the barriers faced by victims which can be controlled need to be addressed.

The estimated number of rapes outnumbers reports of sexual assaults on UW System campuses and at the flagship UW-Madison by a margin of 17-1. With reporting levels so low, nearly all rapists go unpunished, whether by schools or the criminal justice system.

2. Sexual Assault is a much bigger problem than almost everyone thinks. In fact, based on these numbers, it is probably the single greatest threat to a womans safety while on campus.

How many rapes or attempted rapes are occurring on Wisconsin campuses?

National surveys of college women are the most accurate way to estimate campus rape, researchers say. An oft-cited federal National Institute of Justice study in 2000 estimated 35 rapes per 1,000 students each academic year.

At a school the size of UW-Madison, with about 21,600 women in 2008, national statistics suggest there could be 750 rapes or attempted rapes a year.

3. Victims of sexual assault are no more dishonest than any other victim. Fact.

Research suggests rapes are no more likely to be falsely reported than any other crime. Yet advocates say a cultural double standard creates a powerful barrier to reporting.

4. Lori Berquam: You f*cked up!

In her response to the article release by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Lori Berquam neither mentions, nor acknowledges any of these obvious points. No promises of reform, or emphasis on recent changes, or even an acknowledgement of just how much of a problem this is (she calls sexual assault a “public health concern”), just a pat on the back and an exercise in self-preservation of her bureaucracy.

Kudos to the Herald for running the article, even if it wasn’t crafted by their writers.

Alleged Sexual Assault: “UW…acted with deliberate indifference”

February 25, 2010

This will be big news tomorrow, and going into the future. From a report released on the website of the Center of Public Integrity:

It took nine months in 2005 and 2006 for the University of Wisconsin at Madison to contemplate, then reject filing disciplinary charges against a crew team member accused of rape.

Enough time for the accused student to start his fourth year at the university, compete in another rowing season, and glide into another spring as a celebrated college athlete.

Enough time, too, for an enraged encounter with his accuser, Laura Dunn, at a fraternity party. “He started threatening me,” said Dunn. “When he hit the wall, he used his whole forearm, and just slammed within inches of my head.”

The story:

Laura Dunn was a member of the crew team, too, during her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin. She left the next year after the alleged rape by two teammates, she said, made the already-slender athlete lose weight and sleep. But even as her crew career fell apart, she didn’t report anything to campus authorities for more than a year.

The Universities response:

The university said a police investigation and the alleged victim’s objections to one of her investigating officers accounted for the delay. The criminal investigation, too, ended without charges against the accused student, who said Dunn willingly participated in sexual activity.

The early assessment:

“UW … acted with deliberate indifference,” wrote former Security On Campus, Inc. legal advocate Alice Purple. “The harassment that Ms. Dunn was forced to undergo was so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it deprived her of educational benefits by forcing her to quit the crew team and causing her grades to fall.”

I just wanted to get this up for now. More commentary to come tomorrow.

Campus sexual assault story about to break?

February 25, 2010

From a statement just released by Dean of Students Lori Berquam:

Members of the UW-Madison community,

In coming days, there will be a great deal of media and online coverage of sexual assault in our community and around the UW System.

Reading these stories reminds us of the importance of the work we are doing to try to prevent these horrible acts, to respond in victim-centered ways and to seek accountability from those who would perpetrate them.

Is there a big campus sexual assault story that is about to break? It would only make sense that a statement like this would be released in the midst of an accompanying scandal.

A Brothers battle rundown

February 24, 2010

The three questions that I see as especially relevant in the Brothers controversy:

1. Are there any attempted justifications for the Universities use of eminent domain?

Most commentators have responded pretty negatively to what appear to be the Universities heavy-handed tactics with the Fortney brothers, a couple UW alum. Emily Mills, in her post yesterday at the Daily Page, seems to offer the best attempt at a justification for the Board of Regents choice to renege on the deal that the Fortney brothers claim was negotiated between themselves and UW and WARF.

But it’s a money grab, plain and simple. They [the Brothers owners] bought the property knowing full-well that it would be a short-term investment and something they could wave in front of the university as a bargaining chip when the music school plans went forward. Put up a stink, ask for a whole lot more money than you paid for it, and then claim, loudly and publicly, that you’re getting screwed so as to stir up support for your cause.

I’m not generally a fan of eminent domain, but I can’t say I entirely blame the UW for wanting to use it in this case. The alternative smells very much like blackmail.

2. Does that justification work?

I think not. As Emily notes, the Fortney brothers acquired the property by outbidding the University for it. If the University had plans for the property, it should have outbid the Brothers owners for the property in the first place. The Fortneys’ purchase of the property, even if it was done with the intentions to sell it to the University later, just seems like good business, nothing else (and certainly nothing bordering on illegal).

3. This PR campaign…WTF?

Since the Brothers owners decided to drape that two story banner declaring, “No UW Music School,” on the side of their building last week, more and more locals have begun to see this campaign as one employing a condescending attitude toward the importance of a new music school.

Yesterday, I argued exactly that point in the Herald, pointing to further incriminating evidence in the form of their actions on Fox News, as well as those infamous full-page open letters to the anonymous donor who has pledged $15 million toward a new music school. Today, the Herald made Mr. Sam Clegg’s column containing an apparent disagreement with my conclusion the feature of their Wed. opinion section. Clegg wrote:

Sweeping generalizations are often more to the detriment of their authors than their intended targets. In an interview with Eric Fortney, the co-owner of the bar apologized profusely for any potential offense the sign may have caused, saying he and Marc are not, as was implied in yesterday’s article, opposed to the existence of a music school building.

The accusation of the use of sweeping generalizations is bogus. But, regardless of what the Fortney brothers intentions were, or what they say they were, the campaign itself as of late has had an almost completely transparent, and certainly arrogant and condescending, anti-music school message. They are now saying they aren’t opposed to a music school, and that is a good thing. But until their campaign reflects that fact in the future, previous actions should guide our assessment, not them saying “woops.”

Check out the comments section of yesterdays Brunch Links if you want to see a back and forth between Sam and I on this with a good helping of snark.

The Journal Sentinel opines on ‘sexting’?

February 23, 2010

I am posting this partially because it is just funny to read (not that it can’t be a serious issue). I can just imagine the JS ed-board sitting around thinking up intros like this:

You have a boyfriend, and he wants you to prove your love for him by sending him a racy photo. You think about taking a picture.

They seem to want to call sending “racy photos” sexting, I disagree. Deferring to the experts, Urban Dictionary vindicates me:

v: the act of text messaging someone in the hopes of having a sexual encounter with them later; initially casual, transitioning into highly suggestive and even sexually explicit

No mention of photo ops. Seriously though, who is the intended audience here, the underage kids who read Journal Sentinel editorials? Weird.

Anonymous Comments strike elsewhere

February 19, 2010

At least the Herald doesn’t have to worry about this.

Apparently, a committee at Virginia Tech really hates anonymous comments, of all sorts, and they are willing to go the distance to shut down all campus media if they aren’t removed all together.

A Virginia Tech committee has threatened to recommend that the university cut funding to all student media on campus if the student-led newspaper, the Collegiate Times, continues to allow anonymous comments on its Web site, according to documents released by the newspaper’s parent company Friday morning.

So what is the committee’s reason that is important enough to outweigh student speech?

“The consensus of the Commission has been that the commenting system is irresponsible and inappropriate because it lacks accountability resulting in, among other things, countering the Principles of Community,” Michelle McLeese, the commission chair, wrote in a letter to the media company on Monday.

What the hell does “…countering the Principles of Community,” mean? I wonder what the real story is here. The student paper is claiming this is retribution for content decisions made by the paper’s editors. Seems like a more reasonable explanation.

Another relevant campus story, this time about frats,  after the jump…


Mayor Dave plays hardball with Scott Walker

February 17, 2010

As has been widely reported, Scott Walker has publicly opposed the JFC’s acceptance of more than $800 million (not $8 million Herald) in federal stimulus money to be invested in high-speed rails between Madison and Milwaukee, and Milwaukee and Chicago. And Mayor Dave is pissed about it.

Although Cieslewicz praised Doyle’s support on securing the funding, he criticized Milwaukee County Executive and Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker’s disapproval of the project.

“If you’re a friend of labor or anyone who wants to work in the economy, you’ll understand Scott Walker just doesn’t get it,” Cieslewicz said.

If it is the case that the only stop in Madison ends up being at the airport, I’m not sure approving the funding is as obvious as the Democrats want to make it seem. Without a stop in downtown Madison, a high-speed rail between Madison and Milwaukee could end up actually being a “rail to nowhere,” becoming more of a burden than a benefit to the state in the long run.

Whats going on behind the scenes at the Olympics?

February 15, 2010

Apparently, a lot of sex.

From a somewhat infamous article on the subject.

I am often asked if the Olympic village – the vast restaurant and housing conglomeration that hosts the world’s top athletes for the duration of the Games – is the sex-fest it is cracked up to be. My answer is always the same: too right it is. I played my first Games in Barcelona in 1992 and got laid more often in those two and a half weeks than in the rest of my life up to that point.

Some stats and quotes already coming out of the Vancouver games.

Vancouver health officials are providing 100,000 free condoms during the Games while Safe Games 2010, a group of health organisations, will be handing out 20,000 packages that include condoms and information on Canada’s sex trade.

Former Olympics snowboarder Crispin Liscomb also believes that of those 100,000 condoms, few will be left over. “I can imagine those condoms being used pretty quickly and pretty often.”

Can you imagine an Olympic version of the shout outs?