The Madison Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists hosted a daylong workshop to set the stage for political coverage of Wisconsin’s 2012 elections. The workshop, following a volatile year of political activity, drew more than 40 print and broadcast journalists from around the state. The workshop was held at Capital Newspapers in Madison on Saturday November 12, 2011.
This page contains links to the audio file recorded from each presentation (click on the title of the presentation to listen or download audio file). There’s also a slideshow of the day’s sessions.
Session 1 – “Politics in the Badger State: An Overview of Wisconsin’s Political Landscape” with Steve Walters, senior producer for Wisconsin Eye and former capitol bureau chief for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“They’re in such a foul mood [in the legislature] that I don’t think they’ll be back in session this year. It’s amazing to see such tempers, such volatility…I’ve covered these people since 1988, it amazes me how polarized we are…This is going to be a full employment opportunity year for lawyers on both sides…This is going to be a long dance which may end up in the Supreme Court, which will prolong the election year.”
Other observations from Steve Walters: January 3rd is the deadline for presidential candidates to register for the Wisconsin primary, which is April 3rd. The primary for the fall election has been moved from September to August 14th.
Session 2 – “Reading Opinion Polls: What Journalists Need to Know About Polling and Why Campaigns Do It” with UW-Madison political science professor Charles Franklin.
“I would be stunned if either party wins over 50 percent of the vote next year.” When comparing turnouts between large population counties and small population counties, look at the margins, not just the size of the counties.
Session 3 – Lunch roundtable with current and former political reporters: Sam Martino, formerly of the Milwaukee Journal, United Press International, and the Minneapolis Tribune; Jessica Arp of WISC-TV 3; and Mary Spicuzza of the Wisconsin State Journal.
“One of the joys I had when I left the Milwaukee Journal was to throw my pager in the lake. This business consumes you. At some point you have to begin to prioritize.” – Sam Martino
Session 4 – “Campaign Finance: Using Databases to Uncover Who is Giving to Whom” with David Julseth of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
Session 5 – “Voter ID and Election Law: What You, the Voters, and Local Clerks Need to Know” with Reid Magney of the Government Accountability Board.
“We don’t care who wins, we just want to make sure it’s done the right way…We took no position on the voter ID law but we did work to improve it. As a result of that I think the law has been improved…Your picture on the ID doesn’t have to look exactly like you, it just has to look somewhat like you…With 1850 municipal clerks Wisconsin has the most decentralized election system in the country.”
The Government Accountability Board will be rolling out a statewide information campaign on the new voting law starting in January using all forms of media. There is also a state law which allows political parties to choose poll workers. “The parties have rediscovered this law and we’ll see it in use in areas that are more partisan.”
Session 6 – “Social Media and Elections: How Campaigns Are Aggresively Turning to Social Media to Win Over Voters, Solicit Donations, and Spread Their Message” with Graeme Zielinski of the Wisconsin Democratic Party and Andrew Welhouse with the offie of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
“If you’re not playing in this landscape you’re falling behind.” – Welhouse
“You have to know what you’re doing when you’re using this tool or it will blow up in your face.” – Zielinski
Thank you panelists and attendees for your participation.