Two guest speakers, one week of straight politics
Acclaimed polling expert Charles Franklin, starter of Pollster.com, and well known local broadcast journalist, Mike Gousha attended class with my political journalism class last week. Both now work for Marquette University Law School.
First, Charles Franklin spoke on the impact of polling during Tuesday's class. Right away he said the goal is "treating all the polls as serious indicators of something." After Pollster was sold to Huffington Post during the summer of 2010, Franklin said that is was his experience working with Pollster that helped him gain "a niche of expertise that is rare in the modern world."
One of the main topics discussed was the impact of media messaging and how biased polls can change results. Overall, Franklin said, we have to look at who is behind the poll as well as the level of public knowledge to understand how a poll will pan out. In the end he said the message is "not distorting results but selecting what goes out."
Mike Gousha, who also works for Milwaukee's local ABC affiliate, brought a different conversation to the table Thursday afternoon talking of new-school vs. old-school media. With new media Gousha said the interviews seem very opinionated and almost as if – in the example of MSNBC's coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting – journalists are trying to prosecute. Gousha said he is very much old-school and that there tends to be "a lot of fire and sometimes not so much light," on a given situation. Also, he made a point that many people do not want to be informed but instead affirmed on their decisions.
Overall Gousha said it's not really the medias job to be loved, which is also true for professional pollers like Franklin. It's like a never ending circle. The media doesn't trust the majority of public polling results and the people don't trust the media when it comes to hard politics.