[Air-L] The Washington Post piece

Hernando Rojas hrojas at wisc.edu
Tue Dec 18 07:13:04 PST 2007

Those of us who make a living of observing others shouldn't be so sensitive
when we are "observed." This journalistic piece (as any piece for that
matter) can/should be criticized, but I wonder if "we" are experiencing a
hostile media phenomena more than anything else...


Hernando Rojas - Assistant Professor
Life Sciences Communication
University of Wisconsin - Madison
(608) 262 7791 - www.lsc.wisc.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org
[mailto:air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org] On Behalf Of Alexis Turner
Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2007 8:50 AM
To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
Subject: Re: [Air-L] The Washington Post piece

The picture being painted here is far too simplistic, and as long as we
on doing this, the public and media will continue to paint academics as
Must we really give them more ammunition?

I'm sure you're a great guy.  I tend to enjoy most of the people on this
list on 
a daily basis.  But the attitudes that make academics' reception with the
so squirrely are deeply entrenched and not even noticed half the time, and
the AoIR bastion of cross-fertilization and collegial hospitality rarely
to the public.  It's frustrating as hell, because the group otherwise has so

much going for it.

1) "Monica Hesse, by contrast, is a 'staff writer' who as a result has
articles with titles..."
I am sure that belittling peon staff writers who write obnoxious and 
brainless articles for retarded members of the public who are too stupid to 
remember to put their pants on before their shoes is the first step in
our image and working towards good public relations with those outside the 
academy.  Especially if that peon has been invited to read the discussion on

this list and is quite possibly lurking here right now.  Do *I* want to read
article entitled "Refrigerator Stuffed too Full?"  Not usually.  But why on 
earth would I give two shits if someone else wants to read that article?
their business.  I won't make fun of them for reading about refrigerators,
and I 
can only hope they won't make fun of me for reading about the history of 

2) "For what it's worth...only a wayward few...."
If no one can understand what you are writing about, you're writing it 
wrong.  If you don't believe that people can or want to get it, then why on 
earth are you a scholar?  So that you can write articles for other scholars?

Because you're too insufferable to exist in the real world with real people
might really kick your ass?  Or because your work has potential importance
society and can help make sense of this insane world we live in and
impact peoples' lives in a positive way?  Only you can answer this question,
you should know that a person's behavior will *always* lead people on the 
outside to make assumptions about the answer.  The assumptions may or may
not be 
correct, but the people making them are only working with the primary
they have been given. 

If you are truly concerned that the media and journalists, and by extension
public, misunderstand what you do, then it is your job - it is your 
*responsibility* - to do everything in your power to make sure they get it.

You're human, so sometimes you will fail at this.  But being an academic is
hell of a lot more than merely sitting in a room with a bunch of books and 
cranking out research that the hungry public will lap up like dogs because
just. so. brilliant.  It also involves teaching.  And not just in the 
classroom.  Figure out who your audience/students are at any given moment
present accordingly.  If necessary, ask them to repeat back what you just
in their own words so you can verify that they understood what you just
Express interest in what is being written and try to gauge what the
angle will be.  This can be accomplished so, so easily merely by being
with the reporter and actually giving a crap about them as a professional
fellow human being.


On Tue, 18 Dec 2007, Joseph Turow wrote:

::Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2007 08:28:38 -0500
::From: Joseph Turow <jturow at asc.upenn.edu>
::Reply-To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
::To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
::Subject: [Air-L] The Washington Post piece
::It *is* mortifying to see the results of a (presumably) serious set of
::interviews turned into what is fundamentally an anti-intellectual
::article.   I have to say that every time I talk to a journalist I worry
::that I won't end up sounding like a fool-even if the quote is correct.
::The best people to talk to are beat reporters  who really know the
::territory.  Monica Hesse, by contrast, is a "staff writer" who as a
::result has written articles with titles  that range from "Identity
::Stolen: Steel Yourself" to "Refrigerator Stuffed Too Full" and "...Can
::Modern Love Survive a Tale of Two Chairs?"   
::For what it's worth, I see articles such as the one about Facebook as a
::callout about the importance of a topic and people related to it.  When
::I worry about such pieces, I tell myself that my nonacademic friends
::(and the PR folks at my University) will  be impressed that I was quoted
::and mostly forget what was said;  that most of my academic friends will
::know how this works and shrug off what sounds silly; and that only a
::wayward few will parse each quote to understand its deep meaning.
::Joseph Turow 
::Robert Lewis Shayon Professor 
::  and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies 
::Annenberg School for Communication 
::University of Pennsylvania 
::3620 Walnut Street 
::Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104 
::215 898 5842
::The Air-L at listserv.aoir.org mailing list
::is provided by the Association of Internet Researchers http://aoir.org
::Subscribe, change options or unsubscribe at:
::Join the Association of Internet Researchers: 

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