Jerry Bader Lecture: a Student Journalist’s Response

Since it is my job as a reporter to tell you the truth, I have decided to rewrite an event piece and tell you about a very unsettling experience I had last week.

I was asked to cover a lecture on conservatism and the Republican Party by talk show host Jerry Bader. In fact, I was the one who suggested we cover the event. As a student, I am always looking for ways to learn more about the things I know little about, the GOP being one of them.

With pencil in hand, I strode into the lecture room with hopes I would leave with a better knowledge of conservatism and the people involved.

“We asked him to come and speak because personally he’s my favorite radio talk show host, and he was an accessible speaker with a moderately large audience,” said Nicholas Burns, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point College Republicans president. “I’m hoping students gain a little more knowledge about the conservative movement and the Republican Party. Hopefully they see that not all Republicans are the established Republicans; not just old, white guys.”

Remember these words, readers, for the irony of this statement will soon be revealed.

“Institutions of learning are our thought factories, and if you’re a conservative here, you’re behind enemy lines, for you are largely outnumbered,” Bader said. “I’m not just talking about the student body, although there’s proof to that as well. I’m talking about the faculty and administration.”

Bader went on to tell a story of the civil rights pilgrimage he went on with his daughter, which entailed a tour of civil rights landmarks.

“A famous liberal said the truth is just liberal,” Bader said. “The media is not biased, they tell the truth and the truth is just liberal. Isn’t that dumbest thing you’ve ever heard?”

He said the group sat down to discuss an academic paper from a “flaming feminist.”

“Her argument was that all white males have an advantage because they’re white,” Bader said. “She said even if you don’t think you’re sexist, even if you don’t think you’re racist, you just have this built-in advantage. One subset of the population, white guys, has everything.”

Bader explained why he thought this argument was ludicrous and I agreed. I believe if a person works diligently and has unwavering faith in him or herself, they will prove to be successful despite their race or gender.

“Not all white guys are created equal,” Bader said. “If you sat me next to Bill Gates, we wouldn’t be the same.”

Throughout the lecture, Bader gave reasons why Gov. Scott Walker would make the ideal presidential candidate, why students need to stand up for their beliefs and the preconceived notion of the privileged white man. I actually enjoyed his lecture and continued to listen with an open mind.

Then came the question and answer portion.

An anonymous gentleman from the crowd posed this question:

“How do the Republicans and we the people ever defeat the media? I get calls from telemarketers constantly, and I always say this phrase: ‘I will not donate because your money goes to The Milwaukee Journal or to this or that network. They’re totally against us. They’re the hardest ones to defeat, worse than the Democrats. How do we get them to be fair or call a good game?”

At this point I laughed under my breath, expecting Bader to call this fellow on his dramatic performance.

“The short answer is we can’t. The media gets its people from the same thought factory that I talked about earlier. How do you tap into that?” Bader asked. “How do you break that cycle when they attended journalism school and got a liberal doctorate?”

I immediately thought, wait a second, I can attest to the fact that not all journalists are liberal.

“By the way, newsrooms are just the way I described institutions of higher learning,” Bader said. “I’ve got some friends in the media who don’t see it, and I want to say to them, ‘you know you’re full of crap, right?’”

This was the moment I almost walked out.

I fully understand some journalists let their political views overshadow their work, but to say all journalists are liberal and full of crap? That is a blanket statement which is completely inappropriate and irrelevant.  How was I supposed to learn from a man who is blatantly disrespectful toward an entire group of people based on their profession?

“The problem is it’s not a conspiracy in their mind; they really think they’re being fair,” Bader said. “When they start comparing themselves to me, I say, ‘wait a minute.’ I admit what I am. I am not an objective reporter. Now you’re comparing what you do to what I do? I give my opinion for two and a half hours. You’re going to sit here and say you’re not biased?”

As a journalism student, I am taught to reveal the truth. However, I am also taught how important it is to remain unbiased. My professors explain how difficult this can be and teach the best ways to separate personal views from news stories.

“We need to infiltrate the institutions they now own,” Bader said. “Are we going to change the hearts and minds of the people that are there now? No, we got to get new blood in there.”

I watched in awe as he motioned to the crowd as if these new, unbiased journalists may be sitting in our very presence. The Republicans who want to break the stereotype of being “old, white guys” just inflicted the same prejudice against all journalists.

As offended as I was, I was not about to inflict the same judgment against all Republicans because I had a bad experience with one. This is how I hope Republicans view journalists.

Call on the ones who did you wrong, but don’t classify them all as biased liberals.

I approached Bader at the end of the lecture. I introduced myself as one from the media he seemed to be so fond of. At this point he was very polite. I decided to ask him one more question.

What did he hope students would take away from the lecture?

“Speaking to a college campus, I wanted to talk about the challenges that conservative students sometimes face when they feel like they can’t challenge what they think is an ideology,” Bader said.

Well, Mr. Bader, thank you for giving me the opportunity to challenge someone else’s ideology and exercise my freedom of speech. I wound up learning something after all.

 

Sophie Stickelmaier

Reporter

sstic520@uwsp.edu

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