Visiting law professor Charles Franklin speaks to JOUR 4953 seminar about the opportunities and challenges associated with polling.
While preparing for our journalism seminar on elections and campaigns this spring, James Scotton and I quickly wanted Charles Franklin, a visiting professor of law and public policy at the Marquette Law School, as a guest speaker. But upon telling the class recently that Franklin's visit would happen yesterday, at least one student wasn't feeling it. At least, not initially. See, Franklin is a nationally recognized expert in polling and voter analyses.

"What could be so interesting about polls?" Tessa Fox, a sophomore journalism major, wrote in her weekly blog post. "I thought I got into journalism to stay away from math and numbers. However, after reading some background material about Professor Franklin and the polling process, I realized polling is actually pretty interesting."

Franklin, who told the class that he did his first poll when just a sixth grader, talked about his role in directing a comprehensive, independent survey of voter attitudes in Wisconsin while at the law school. The visiting professor also discussed the opportunities missed now that fewer news organizations can afford to do their own polling.

The students prepped for Franklin's visit by watching, during its last class before spring break, his hourlong "On the Issues With Mike Gousha" presentation on the law school's poll. They also had to review related material for journalists using polls – The New York Times Polling Standards, A Quick Checklist for Using Polls in the Paper and Understanding and Interpreting Polls – and other Web pages focused on the Marquette poll, including Likely Voter Crosstabs and Obama Leads GOP Field as Santorum Surges in Primary.

In her subsequent blog post, Fox said the guest speaker inspired her: "He said he would love to survey people about life in general. More specifically, how they live, how much time they attribute to various activities and the importance level of different material and non-material things. As someone who is very interested in cultural anthropology, I would be very interested to see this poll actually conducted and analyze the results."

Well said. Maybe in the future she won't sigh when I tell the class that someone special is coming to visit.


Courtney Perry
09/04/2012 1:06pm

Goes to show you never can judge how interesting something will be based off of a job title! I'll admit, I've been guilty of doing the same thing once or twice. But, it's best to give everything a chance, you could learn a great lesson.

Ethan Niquet
09/04/2012 8:57pm

How insightful! It is nice to see that Tessa was able to gain a positive experience out of what she initially thought was boring. I think that is a major part of being a good journalist: maintaining a positive attitude and keeping an open mind allows us to discover interests we never knew we had.

Alexandra Whittaker
09/05/2012 11:59am

I think that being open to new ideas and people is an important part of being a journalist. You aren't always going to be passionate about what you cover, but keeping an open mind allows for journalistic growth. I think by pushing herself beyond what she thought she knew & liked, Tessa bettered herself as both a journalist and a person.


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