Political Analysis in Broadcast Media

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    • 00:00

      [MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 00:13

      REPORTER: Do you want to watch inside?You can.So I'm a political analyst at GM.

    • 00:18

      REPORTER: Oh, I knew that.OK, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.OK.

    • 00:21

      CREW: Stand by in the studio, please.Five, four, three--

    • 00:26

      PAUL LISNEK: Hi, welcome to Comcast Newsmakers.I'm Paul Lisnek.Many of us grew up here, born here, live here.But there's also a lot of people who live herewho have very strong ties to Indiana, our neighboring state.I'm Paul Lisnek and I am the political analystat WGN TV based here in Chicago.So my job is to appear on all of our newscasts--

    • 00:47

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: the morning newscast, which is the number oneshow in Chicagoland, and also our middayshow, our evening shows, to talk about politics.Scott Yonover is the president of the Indiana Societyof Chicago.In addition to that, I host a show called Newsmakers, whichis a five minute show that appears on headlinenews every hour or so and it is an interview

    • 01:07

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: with a political or social or sports or entertainment figure.I also host a nightly live talk show called Politics Tonight.That airs on CLTV, which is WGN TV's 24-hour news partner.On there I tackle the political issuesof the day, where I serve not as on-air analyst, but as hostof the show asking questions of political figures

    • 01:28

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: and other social issue kinds of peopleas things arise on a daily basis.I also do fill-in work on radio, sometimes WGN Radio.For four years I had a radio show on WVONwhich allows me to do a lot of live political interactionwith guests, but it also lets me expand a little bitand do some entertainment work, which I also love.

    • 01:50

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: And I host a show called Broadway in Chicago BackStage which allows me to sit with the castand creative teams in front of a large live studio audiencedoing an inside and in-depth look at shows thatwill be longer running here in Chicago,like Book of Mormon or Kinky Bootsand all the big shows that come to town.So my career is pretty varied.Concentrates on politics, but lots of entertainment pieces,

    • 02:13

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: as well.I'm also an author, so I have written 13 booksand I'm in the process of writing my first fictionbook and lots of other things that sort of interestme from time to time.I think careers and life can be varied and expandinto a bunch of different areas.Many years, public housing in Chicago

    • 02:36

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: created perhaps an image that we weren't terribly proud of.What does housing look like in Chicago these days?Well, you're about to get a good view from my next guest.Meet Eugene Jones, he's the acting CEO for the ChicagoHousing Authority--When I think back to how I even got interested in politics,I'm not really sure.As a little kid I remember being fascinatedby the role of government, and presidents especially.

    • 02:59

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: President Kennedy was assassinatedwhen I was just a little kid, I don't reallyhave much of a memory about it.But I know that it happened and kind of remember it a bit.I know that as I got into school Igot to know my congressman a bit and went to Washingtonon that seventh grade trip a lot of high school kidsgo on and got to go sit with my congressmanand have lunch with his staffers.And I remember running around Capitol Hill trying

    • 03:21

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: to meet different senators and congressmen, whowere like celebrities to me.But, of course, they are approachable because they'rejust doing the people's business.So that's when it started as a little kid.The next step in my head was I alwaysthought I would actually run for office.That was the plan, that I would go to law schooland become a judge one day or become a politician.

    • 03:41

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: It's just that the more I learned about what politiciansdo-- I know that sounds like a setup for a joke--but the reality of it is that a politician, especiallywhen you're in Congress, you get elected one dayand the next day you start two years of fundraising.It's about raising money all the time,and so there was no glamor in this.

    • 04:01

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: There was no real excitement to what the actual life was.I wanted to work on legislation and argue things.What's the vision now, when we lookat people who aren't of means, but in termsof what kind of living situation we want them?In time I found that it was more interesting to meto ask questions about laws and bills and legislation

    • 04:24

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: than it was to actually be one of them.I wanted to talk to them but not be one of them.

    • 04:41

      MAKE-UP ARTIST: We just need to clean up your [INAUDIBLE].

    • 04:44

      PAUL LISNEK: When I was in college in the late '70s, early'80s, there wasn't-- cable was just starting.It was the major NBC ABC, CBS-- that was it.So the notion of becoming a broadcaster,that wasn't going to happen.There were the famous people like Walter Cronkite and allthese, but it was a very closed, small club.In the mid '80s, when actually I had been practicing law--

    • 05:07

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: because my education includes a law degree and a doctoratein communication-- I don't have broadcasting backgroundor training, strangely.But after I practiced law I became a law school assistantdean at Loyola Law School in Chicago.And while I was doing that I got a phone call from a friend whosaid we are going to be starting this local political talk show,live show at night.Do you want to audition for it?

    • 05:27

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: I thought, yeah, that would be great.Now it was a very local, very small thing but I went forand I thought, well I'm going to get this because my friend isthe producer.I didn't get that gig.I didn't get it because-- maybe because my friend wasthe producer, I don't know.They hired somebody else.But he only did like one show, and Iguess he wasn't very good.Because I then got a phone call saying, hey, listen.

    • 05:48

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: The host is going on vacation.Can you fill in?And I never left.So it started as doing this weekly piece.In the mid '90s, I got a phone call from NBCwhen O.J. Simpson had been accusedof killing a couple of people, and I alsohave part of my career is working as a jury consultant.And so my office was actually working in the O.J. Simpson

    • 06:08

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: case.I agreed to stay out of the case, the jury selection piece,and work for NBC.So throughout the course of the Simpson case,I actually appeared on The Today Show and NightlyNews and Geraldo and anything tied to it to NBCor any of its affiliates.I would appear on-- almost daily-- talking about the O.J.Simpson case as the jury expert.Well, that's when the bug bit.

    • 06:29

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: Because when you've got limos taking you everywhereand the makeup's being put on and you're sitting and talkingto Katie Couric or Bryant Gumbel or Matt Lauer or these peoplewe watch on television, that got to be a lot of fun.And so that's when it really started, when I came backafter the O.J. Simpson case.I've written some books, so I would do a lot of appearanceslocally, nationally.But I guess part of it is having,

    • 06:51

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: I suppose, a natural ability to be OK on camera.So I would get called a lot-- CNN,Anderson Cooper-- do all sorts of shows, and I loved it.Well anyway, where the real job hitwas back in the 2008 presidential electionwith Barack Obama.WGN TV, essentially, one of the morning anchorswhose name is Larry Potash, who'sa good friend and a very popular anchor,I would be on the air with him.

    • 07:11

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: And he said, we don't have a political analyst.Why aren't you doing this for us?And that's how it started.And so from that role I became known very quickly--because WGN is a big station-- as the political guy,and continue to do that even though I stilllike Broadway and theater in my background, too.

    • 07:34

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: I spent early years teaching at the University of Illinois.And so I would teach communications skills,legal communication.And so when the TV role started for me,I've always viewed my work on televisionas education tied, as well.I always view-- whether I'm on-air as an analyst explaining

    • 07:55

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: things, or even as a host interviewing others,I always, in my head, see my mission, my goal,as to explain things to people.To teach viewers about whatever it is I'm talking about.So if a guest when I'm in my host roleuses the term or something that immediately strikes meas something that, you know, viewers probablydon't understand this, I'll take a step back

    • 08:15

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: and say, let's explain that.What is that?What are you talking about?What does that mean?As an analyst role, I do that automatically.I might refer to a political conceptand say, what that means is-- and so that's reallythe way I view my role.So in the past when we've had these developments,

    • 08:37

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: it was city produces all sorts of problem with them.Talk a little bit about who's building things now.It's very important to me that viewers see mein my analyst's role as neutral as I can be.And that's why I'm called analyst and not commentator.If I were a commentator I would be fightingfor one side or the other.There's enough of that on MSNBC and Fox

    • 08:57

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: and all the channels where people do that.And there are enough people who take those roles,to say I'm clearly here for one party or the other.But that's not my job, because being the political analystfor WGN TV-- if I were seen as being a bleeding heart liberalor die hard, right wing conservative,I lose half the viewership.And what I have always said is, if the Democrats are

    • 09:18

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: arguing one thing, I then say and Republicansrespond this way.Even when the anchors on a news program ask me for my position,I don't give it to them.You can ask any journalist whether they'reRepublican or Democrat, they won't respond to you.Journalists cannot say that they are one side or another.We don't vote in primaries.We lose our credibility once we do that.And so whenever I am asked, you know, hey,

    • 09:40

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: should so-and-so drop out of the race?My answer would be, well, that person's party would say thisand the other side would say this.That's my best way of appearing neutral.For me, the greatest moments are when I get an email-- again,we live in an age where viewers can reach youfairly simply now, and they do.And they'll send an e-mail, sometimes times a complaint.But oftentimes it's a contact email

    • 10:01

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: that just says, hey, thanks.I really understood that.I'm interested in politics now.I didn't know who to support.I'm having a sense of which direction to go nowbecause you've helped explain some of these conceptsand that's been real helpful for me.Viewers, and part of my background teaches me,they will see me the way they want to see me.And so they'll either think I'm with them or against them.I always get emails plus negative,

    • 10:26

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: you know, pro-con from viewers all the time.People who have said words I won't evenuse as I respond to this question.But people who get very angry-- I'm never going to watch again.Any time you come on, I'm changing the channel.Because they have heard me as taking a position.Of course, with technology the way it is today,I always respond to these people.

    • 10:46

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: And usually when I respond by saying,I'm an analyst not a commentator.So you may be hearing me in a certain way,but it's really about your worldview.But let me tell you what I said.When I'm promoting who's on my show or something,I'm going to do it on Facebook, and I know Twitter picks it.I just find for me, I get more out of Facebook.And if somebody sends me an email or something on Facebook

    • 11:06

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: where they can yell at me or whatever at leastI can understand it.On Twitter, there's somebody who just, one morning-- Idon't know, whatever it was, but she sent three or four--and I think she's crazy, but three or four Twitter commentsthat made no sense to me.Now whether it was just because I don't get Twitter talkor whether she's crazy, I don't know.But I'm on there and do all that kind of stuff.Somebody actually Stole my identity on Facebook,and I guess this happens to Tom Skilling a lot,

    • 11:27

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: so I was happy to be in his category.But they became me.They didn't hack my account, they became me.And they started reaching out to my reporters and friendsand saying-- and then when I walked in the studio that day,people were like, why are you friending me?We're already friends.What are you talking about?And it turns out, so the IT people stepped in and said,here's what's happened.So they took my Facebook page and made a fan page

    • 11:47

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: and then I created a separate personal account.But the reality of it is, anytime I'mtalking about what a Democrat might say,I will often follow it with and Republicans wouldreply this way, or vice versa.That's how I keep the balance.Sure I have my own views, everybody has their own viewsand maybe sometimes the truth leaks out.Once in a while I will admit that Ido have views that are pretty strong,

    • 12:09

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: I just think it's sort of the right thing.I'll give you a recent example.I don't have a lot of room in my being for bigotry.And so I will admit that people who sound bigoted to meor take racist positions or bigoted positions,that's when my view will leak out.So a recent note, the same sex marriage fight and all of that,

    • 12:29

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: it was pretty obvious that I was in favor of same sex marriageand in favor of equality of rights, constitutionallyprotected.That's something that arguably I should notbe saying on air in any way.But truthfully, just when a social issue positionis really strong in me, I'm willing to just put it

    • 12:49

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: on the line for it.And in comes the hate email, but that's OK.But the reality of it is I do my bestto keep a focus on just covering both sides of an issue,let the viewers decide for themselves.It's how I get to call myself a teacher.

    • 13:12

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: You are the Director of Patient services,talk to me about some of the things we can do.Our patient family services team which I work with-Clearly, there are networks-- let's name them--Fox, MSNBC, others-- where there is a clear politicalleaning to the station.You're a right winger?Turn on Fox and have a good time.You're a bleeding heart liberal?Put on MSNBC, enjoy yourself.

    • 13:35

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: There's no doubt about where some of those networksstand and they carve out an area for themselves.The same is true in radio.I mean, there are certain networks where you'reknow you're going to listen to that station,these people, because you know exactly where they stand.And so how media has impacted views,I think it's both positive and negative,and maybe more negative than positive.

    • 13:55

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: In the old days when you watched the news,you got as close to neutral reporting of things as onecould get.Now there's lots of studies to show that things weren't alwaysthat way.Back during Vietnam, for example,when Walter Cronkite began to reporthow bad things were going for America,President Johnson was once quoted as saying,I've lost Walter Cronkite.I've lost the war.So media has always been influential

    • 14:17

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: and it cost Johnson his job back then, most would say.But currently because of the stronger rhetoricyou use, the more television time you're going to get,I think it emboldens people out there who have extreme viewsto find support in their view of the world--whether it's related to reality or not--

    • 14:37

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: it gives them strength, it lets them go on.And then they have outlets.They have Facebook and Instagram and Twitter,and all sorts of things I can't even think of.Snapchat-- we can keep going-- with all the different waysthat can put their views out.Sometimes it's a very negative thing,sometimes one might view it as positive.It all depends on their worldview.But the bottom line is, the way the media situation

    • 14:58

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: is today and the way that the networks-- all of the cablestations work today-- I think it gives people great energyto be able to not only spew their views, whatever theymay be, but find support for it in so manydifferent directions.So it's changed the landscape big time.I don't think we ever turn the clocks back

    • 15:20

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: to the days of Walter Cronkite.Get rid of the vacuum.So while you can guide the development of these new areas,you still have to worry about the resources available, right?Analysts-- commentators, as well--

    • 15:41

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: influence policy because people watch and people listenand people read.When someone has a strong voice, be itRush Limbaugh on the right or Chris Matthews on the left,you know, the reality of it is, it may notbe the senators and congressmen whoare watching all of these shows, but their staffers are.And so you can be sure that when these folks give

    • 16:02

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: some kind of editorial, take some sort of position,that information is getting back to these politicians.And so they're making a difference todaythat, in the past, media could never make before.Again, while I'm an analyst and nota commentator, once in a while I will state my viewabout things.So in Illinois, I was always really bothered and bugged

    • 16:24

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: by the fact that our state of Illinois has no money,we're broke, and yet we have like 14 airplanes,so that every politician gets their own airplane.I'm being a bit facetious, but it's sort of like seriously,do we really need this?And I would bring that up on my showand I would do comments about it.And I would bring it up when I was questioning people.And all of a sudden it became an election issue, because who

    • 16:45

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: knew about airplanes except that I was talking about it?And then all of the sudden the democratic governor beganto put several planes on the market for sale-- which did notsell.He lost the election, and then the current governor eventuallyannounced he sold some airplanes.I guess I can't take credit for all of that,I suppose other people were thinking about it.But I'd like to think that I played some role in making

    • 17:07

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: an issue that wasn't terribly public,putting it on the public agenda and forcing politiciansto then take some action or do something about it.That's what analysts, commentators,people in the media can do.They can highlight something, theycan blow a scandal wide open.Arguably Richard Nixon lost the presidency over media inquiry.

    • 17:28

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: Arguably Bill Clinton-- you can go on and on-- every politicianthat finds themselves in a huge mess and they're in trouble,it's usually the media that finds a little somethingand says there's something there.Sometimes media goes in the wrong direction.But when they get it right, things change.

    • 17:56

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: We're going to chat.

    • 17:57

      MAN: [INAUDIBLE] the Indiana Society.

    • 18:00

      PAUL LISNEK: OK, so I have not heard of it.I know Ellie's talked to you about it.My day begins when I wake up-- 7:00,8:00 o'clock in the morning-- dependswhat time the dogs get me up.I go into my home office, my big screen TV comes on,and I'm essentially flipping from news channelto news channel all morning long.I read newspapers, I actually love to still read

    • 18:22

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: the local newspapers.And national newspapers, so I haveseveral that I subscribe to.Now all of my producers, I should say,are much younger than I am.They're in their early to mid 20s.So when I talk about what I saw in the newspaper,the response is, hello, that's yesterday's news.I get it, but I like it.Then I'm online looking at what might be breakingnews, what's happening.

    • 18:42

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: The truth is, breaking news I'm going to catch onand most of the stations, as well.But I flip back and forth between right and leftand center in terms of all the stationsto make sure that my views are getting skewed in onedirection or another.Again, I always have personal views,but I do my best to keep everything in balanceby understanding how all sides would

    • 19:03

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: respond to a particular event that might happen.You pick any political event and there'stwo sides to that story.So that's what I do for the morning.Usually around 9:30 or 10:00 I send an emailto my producer that says, here's whatI'm thinking about for the day, the topics that interest me.And she gets in to the studio about 11:00and then I will hear from her, sometimes before that.

    • 19:23

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: Basically, I agree with you.Or, well, wait a minute, there's also this stuff going on.Because she's younger and a little bit more savvy in termsof the internet stuff.Sometimes she knows about things I haven't heard about yetso she'll tell me, and then it's a little negotiationback and forth about what it is weshould be covering that night.As a producer, it's her job to make the ultimate decisions,I think, about, here's what we really need to do.

    • 19:43

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: And she lines up the guests and she makes those phone calls.Once we've agreed upon what our topics are going to be,the rest of my day is spent preparing my questions,preparing my issues, what it is I want to talk aboutand getting that all together.I don't script myself, I don't have-- sometimes maybe a listof points in front of me because Idon't want to forget anything.But I don't script myself, because as soon

    • 20:04

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: as you script your questions-- 1,2, 3, 4-- when your guest says somethingthat is off the mark, off the page, well, you're stuck.You're half not listening to it because you'relooking at the next question, and then your half saying,well, we can't go there.I've got another question to ask you.And I want to do that.I want to listen to what somebody saysand be able to go, well, wait a minute.Wait a minute.You just said this.

    • 20:25

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: Is that a yes or is that a no?Whatever it may be.I want to be able to push it, and I can't do thatwith a script in front of me.So I'll have key words, but that'swhat happens when the show's off the error,process starts all over again.A lot of people are scared of dying, but I'll tell you,

    • 20:47

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: there's one disease that I consider to be a fate worsethan death, ALS.If you don't know much about thisyou're about to learn a little bit about it.It's kind of scary, but the good news iswe're working to do research and cure people and get them--The change in society happens, sometimes from the bottomup, the grass roots campaign.Sometimes from top down.When does it matter?How do you know which one should take effect?

    • 21:09

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: Well, here's what I do know.I know that when you're trying to bring societyalong kicking and screaming before it's quite ready to gothere, but it's necessary that it goes in a certain place,the change has to be from the top down.And in our society, that generallymeans Supreme Court on down.So in recent issues, whether it is same sex marriageof recent note, whether it's civil rights back in the 1960s,

    • 21:31

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: whether it's desegregation of schoolsand getting black and white kids to beable to go to the same school-- watch old films, old newsreels.And, at least from my perspective,it's sometimes stunning to see the level of a bigotryand racism that still is in this country,but that really was in this country back in the 60s.You want to talk about your mission agenda today?

    • 21:53

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: Or you tell me what you want to talk about.

    • 21:55

      GUEST: We want to talk about wherewe have on this plan for transformation.

    • 21:58

      PAUL LISNEK: OK.

    • 21:58

      GUEST: Where we started and where we're headed to.

    • 22:00

      PAUL LISNEK: OK, so fill me in a little bitso I know where we're going.I mean blacks and whites had separate water fountains?You couldn't drink the same water,you couldn't sit at the same lunch counter.Asked Rosa Parks.She couldn't sit-in the front of the bus, right?So sometimes it takes the Supreme Courtto force a society to realize, you know what?All rights are equal, deal with it.

    • 22:20

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: And you can see, I mean the most recent issue being same sexmarriage, that is really tough for some people.I suppose the second amendment as wellis tough for a lot of people.So the Supreme Court forces it and then all sorts of thingshappen in society as, essentially, it'sdragged, kicking and screaming along with it,until one day, many years or maybe decades later,kids look back and just go, seriously?

    • 22:41

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: There was an issue with that?That was a problem?But the answer is, at the time, there was.Sometimes things have to start at the grass roots level.And I mentioned Rosa Parks.Sometimes it is the work of a Rosa Parks,of a Martin Luther King, of somebody who says,this is wrong and something has to change.And they have a charismatic voicethat leads people to follow them, believe in them,march with them.

    • 23:01

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: In Martin Luther King's instance nonviolent efforts,even though things were not always not violent.The bottom line is that when it takes the people to stand uptogether toward something that is right,that sometimes pushes politiciansto make something happen and the court,ultimately, to deal with it.You'll notice it, starts at the court, it starts at the people.For me, it's always Congress that

    • 23:23

      PAUL LISNEK [continued]: seems to lag behind everybody.They're always behind.Eventually-- sometimes they catch up.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Political Analysis in Broadcast Media

View Segments Segment :

Abstract

Political analyst Paul Lisnek describes his work and how he found his way into broadcast journalism. He explains that he sees his role as a teacher, and the importance of maintaining neutrality. He also talks about the role of journalism in prodding government to act.

SAGE Video In Practice
Political Analysis in Broadcast Media

Political analyst Paul Lisnek describes his work and how he found his way into broadcast journalism. He explains that he sees his role as a teacher, and the importance of maintaining neutrality. He also talks about the role of journalism in prodding government to act.

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