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Thomas E. Patterson
Thomas E. Patterson

Staff report

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: LaDonna Sullivan, (405) 325-5406

NORMAN – Thomas E. Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, will deliver three public lectures on the theme “Feeding the Fire: The Media’s Role in Party Polarization” Tuesday, Oct. 22, through Thursday, Oct. 24, as part of the Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lecture in Representative Government series at the University of Oklahoma.

“Political polarization is one of the most serious threats to America’s influence at home and abroad,” said OU President David L. Boren. “Words from our Rothbaum Distinguished Lecturer could not be more timely.”

All of the lectures will be held at 4 p.m. in the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation Auditorium, Room 1140 in Gaylord Hall, 395 W. Lindsey St., on OU’s Norman campus. Patterson will discuss “The Broadcast Era” Tuesday, “The Cable Era” Wednesday and “The Networked Era” Thursday.

“Historically, the Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lectureship in Representative Government has taken on tough and provocative issues facing our body politic,” said Cindy Simon Rosenthal, director and curator of the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center, which sponsors the lectureship. “This year will be no different as Professor Thomas Patterson explores the role the media has played in party polarization.”

His most recent book, Informing the News, examines the declining quality of public information, the consequences for what people know and only think they know and what can be done to fix the problem.

“The rise of hyper-partisanship in national politics has come about at the same time that news reporting has morphed from the evening news to cable shouting matches to Twitter,” said Rosenthal. “There is no better analyst than Professor Patterson to help us understand these trends.”

Patterson has received numerous awards, including the American Political Science Association Graber Award for his book Out of Order (1993) and a Choice Award for Mass Media Election (1980. His book, The Unseeing Eye (1976), was named one of the 50 most influential books on public opinion in the past half-century by the American Association for Public Opinion Research. Other works include The Vanishing Voter (2003), which looks at the causes and consequences of declining electoral participation, and two general American government texts, The American Democracy, now in its 11th edition, and We the People, now in its 10th edition. The Carnegie, Ford, Markle, Knight, Smith-Richardson, Pew, and National Science foundations have funded his research.

“Professor Patterson is unique among political scientists in his career-long quest to connect the effects of mass media to the American political system,” said Joe Foote, dean of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. “He understands both fields extraordinarily well and will present highly stimulating observations and arguments as he delves into the causes of polarization of the electorate and of our elected officials.” Gaylord College is including these lectures in the Centennial Celebration of journalism at OU.

Patterson’s courses are based primarily on American politics, media and research design. Recently, he was honored with both the Harvard Kennedy School’s Teacher of the Year and Advisor of the Year awards, becoming one of the first faculty members to be given both honors.

The Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lecture in Representative Government was endowed in 1981 by Joel Jankowsky and his mother, Irene Rothbaum, in honor of her husband, Julian.

Rothbaum was an OU alumnus, a leader in Oklahoma civic affairs and a lifelong friend of the late Carl Albert, 46th speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. The lectureship, initiated in 1983, focuses on the role of representative institutions. Moreover, it deals with two principles significant to the honoree: the importance of the relationship between education and public service in a representative democracy and the importance of participation by private citizens in public affairs.

In addition to administering the Rothbaum lecture series, the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center sponsors several other civic education programs and houses one of the largest archives of congressional papers in the country. A nonpartisan institution, the center is devoted to instruction and scholarship related to the U.S. Congress.
For information about the lectures, which are open to the public at no cost, or for accommodations on the basis of disability, please call the Carl Albert Center at (405) 325-6372.


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