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Rogue Scholars Roundtable V:
Communication, Action, and Policy
Panel Proposal submitted to the Applied Communication Division
for the 2002 annual meeting of the National Communication Association,
New Orleans, November.
Robert R. Zimmermann
Educational and Management Resources
"Getting Out the Word: Communicating Good Research, Producing Good Public Policy"
Stephanie J. Coopman*
San José State U
"Politics, Policy and Research: The Case of Medical Marijuana"
"Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: Congress, Selective Science,
and the Destruction of Low Power Radio"
Ted M. Coopman
"The National Citizen's Committee for Broadcasting:
Resurrecting a Media Reform Movement"
U of Utah
"Whether Washington, Wabash, or the Washroom: Everyday Politics"
Joy L. Hart and Shirley Willihnganz
U of Louisville
*contact person: Stephanie J. Coopman, Dept. of Communication Studies, San José State U, San José, CA 95192-0112; firstname.lastname@example.org
Rationale: "Rogue Scholars Rountable IV" is the fifth in a series of panels and other forums designed to bring scholarship out of academe and into the public discourse. As Betsy Bach (1997) noted in her presidential address at the 1997 Western States Communication Association Convention: "[W]e must make our written work available and useful to those outside the academy. . . . Those of you who attended the Rogue Scholar's Roundtable on 'Out of the Tower and Into the Streets' yesterday afternoon heard a similar rallying cry for increased accessibility to our academic writing" (p. 340).
This panel is a public discussion of scholarly research. Presenters write 3000-word papers in a style accessible to the general public. The moderator/discussion leader facilitates audience-panelist interaction. Papers will be available on the Rogue Scholar website one month before the NCA conference for all presenters and potential audience members to read. The panel format is short presentations (5-7 minutes) followed by discussion among panelists and audience members.
In this panel, the Rogue Scholars examine "action" in terms of communication research, politics and policy. Robert R. Zimmermann is our moderator and discussion leader. Stephanie Coopman begins with her analysis of what communication scholars do (and don't) to get out the word on their research. Xeno Rasmusson critiques the media's role in (re)presenting research on medicinal marijuana. Ted M. Coopman charts the course of Low Power Radio legislation and the strategies powerful interest groups used to counter scientific evidencečand what communication scholars can do to change that course. Beth Fratkin's case study of the National Citizen's Committee for Broadcasting demonstrates pragmatic tactics for communication scholars to effectively advise and influence public policy. Last, Joy Hart and Shirley Willihnganz detail the ways in which communication research informs politics and policy in everyday life.
We believe this panel fits well with NCA's 2002 convention theme, "Communication and Action" and with the Applied Communication Division's focus translating our scholarship into practice. First, we suggest a way of disseminating communication scholarship to those who can use this information. As Judy Pearson (2001) notes in her call for papers, "we need to recall that words, too, comprise action as our words allow us to influence change" (p. 5). We write in plain language. We make our information available on the WWW. Second, we examine the ways in which communication has both fallen short and significantly impacted public policy. Third, we offer specific strategies for presenting communication research in public and political arenas. Fourth, we represent diverse and divergent viewpoints, including political communication, media studies, organizational communication, communication law, and health communication. Fifth, we bring our interests together under the umbrella of applied communication's contributions (and potential contributions) to politics and policy.
Summary for convention program: This panel is a public discussion of scholarly research; we encourage and welcome audience participation. In this panel, the Rogue Scholars examine communication scholars'/practitioners' roles in politics and policy, both in promoting sound policies and changing unsound policies. Essays span the discipline, including political communication, media studies, organizational communication, communication law, and health communication. Panel papers will be available online at www.roguecom.com/roguescholar one month prior to the convention to facilitate panelist and audience discussion.
Bach, B. (1997). 1997 WSCA presidential address: Putting an end to arrogance: Tips for climbing down from the ivory tower. Western Journal of Communication, 61, 338-342.
Pearson, J. (2001). 2002 Call for Papers. Spectra, (37)12, 5.
Getting Out the Word: Communicating Good Research, Producing Good Public Policy
Stephanie J. Coopman
Communication scholars have begun to realize that "getting out the word" about the discipline's research is no easy task. The strategies we find effective in the academy often prove ineffective in the larger mediated world. Successfully influencing policy and politics requires two elements: (1) sound research, and (2) effectively presenting findings to the public and policy makers. This essay examines specific examples of four intersections of communication research and getting out the word: (1) poor quality research and poor quality presentation to the public/policy makers; (2) poor quality research and high quality presentation; (3) high quality research and poor quality presentation; and (4) high quality research and high quality presentation. Although the latter situation is the ideal, communication researchers can design studies that speak directly to policy issues and explain the results in a public- and policy maker-friendly way. Some may call this heresy; others argue that communication scholars must contribute in meaningful ways to politics and policy development. The essay concludes with specific strategies for getting out the word to the public and politicians so our research and theories successfully inform policy decisions.
Politics, Policy and Research: The Case of Medical Marijuana
Although we often think of research as "pure" and "objective," particularly experimental quantitative studies, forces outside the immediate research situation impinge on the process and the product. Research concerned with the medicinal uses of marijuana is not immune from pressures from political groups, funding sources, and university administrators. Moreover, these groups also play key roles in what and how data are presented to the public. In this essay, I first outline the historical and political discourse associated with medical marijuana. I then examine two high-profile medicinal marijuana studies, analyzing the resulting publications in academic journals and the studies' (re)presentations in the media. I offer a critique of the media's role in interpreting research, arguing media portrayals of marijuana research are often flawed, incomplete, and uncritical. I further demonstrate how media (re)presentations of medicinal marijuana research contribute to discussions of public policy. I conclude by suggesting ways in which communication scholars can contribute their expertise to the discourse about medical marijuana research.
Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: Congress, Selective Science,
and the Destruction of Low Power Radio
Ted M. Coopman
After a protracted six-year battle, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) bowed to grassroots pressure and created a Low Power Radio Service. This was done over the objections of incumbent broadcasters, represented by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and National Public Radio (NPR). These two powerful lobbies then turned to Congress for relief. Through selective and deceptive uses of science and technical studies, the NAB and NPR convinced Congress to overrule the FCC. This was the first time Congress overruled the FCC on a technical issue in its 66-year history. A critical analysis of the technical issues reveals how these lobbies managed to convolute scientific and technical realities to further their agendas and crush neighborhood radio. Based on the analysis, I suggest strategies for communication researchers to more clearly articulate their research and findings in the political arena.
The National Citizen's Committee for Broadcasting:
Resurrecting a Media Reform Movement
Change is in the airwaves. Since the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, citizens from all over the U.S. have formed grassroots organizations devoted to media reform issues. New channels of communication accessible via the Internet have spurred the development of forums for the exchange of information among like-minded individuals and organizations. The environment during the late 1960s and early 1970s was also a period when citizens of this country were considering fundamental reforms to the most basic structures of society. One media reform group, the Citizen's Committee for Broadcasting, headed by former FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson, took advantage of the social climate. The NCCB was effective not only in raising the level of public discourse, but also served to unite citizens who were questioning the media status quo. This paper examines the successes and failures of the NCCB so that contemporary media reform groups can incorporate knowledge gained from an earlier era when media democracy seemed like a reachable goal.
Whether Washington, Wabash, or the Washroom: Everyday Politics
Joy L. Hart and Shirley Willihnganz
With NCA's recent move to Washington, DC, the discipline's ability to influence policy and politics has increased dramatically. Yet, whether in Washington, Wabash, or the washroom, communication scholars/practitioners should have insights into the political workings of human interaction. In this paper, we extend on Judy Pearson's third caveat in the 2002 Call for Papers: "Our actions, which include our messages to others, affect our own lives as well as the lives of others" (p. 5). Thus, we explore the everyday political aspects of human life. Both established theories (e.g., behavioral decision theory) and newer perspectives (e.g., valuing dissensus) guide the discussion. Examples from a variety of life contexts (e.g., interpersonal, family, organizational, and mediated) are employed to illuminate our analyses. The paper also addresses the means by which these political workings are translated to become "policy," either in explicit (e.g., written) or implicit forms.
Stephanie J. Coopman
Department of Communication Studies, San José State U, San José, CA 95192-0112; 408-924-5366; email@example.com
Ted M. Coopman
Rogue Communication, 2501 Friesland Ct., Santa Cruz, CA 95062; 831-477-7780; firstname.lastname@example.org
Dept. of Communication, U of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT USA 84112; 801-585-7799
Joy L. Hart
Dept. of Communication, U of Louisville, Louisville, KY USA 40292; 502-852-6976; email@example.com
Department of Human Development, CSU, Hayward, Hayward, CA 94542; 510-885-3599; firstname.lastname@example.org
Dept. of Communication, U of Louisville, Louisville, KY USA 40292; 502-852-6976; email@example.com
Robert R. Zimmermann
Educational and Management Resources, 813 Lyons Ave., Lansing, MI USA 48910; 517-372-3902; firstname.lastname@example.org