Kathleen Jamieson may have been surprised to find herself on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno last Thursday. Usually, she watches "Nightline" at that hour. But there she was, sitting on the couch next to actress Kim Basinger and singer James Taylor, chatting it up with late night host Jay Leno. The dean of the Annenberg School of Communication lectured to her largest audience ever, in an effort to pitch her forthcoming book Dirty Politics: Deception, Distraction and Democracy. "I have a peculiar area of expertise because I look at campaigns," Jamieson explained to Leno, the audience and millions of viewers. "I study debates, advertisements, speeches and news. Every four years the journalistic community -- some of whom are in your audience -- descend upon whatever university I am at, and I feel very popular. My self-esteem goes way up, and then they all go away on election day." Jamieson used her airtime to educate the audience in the same way she teaches classes at the University. Using a video monitor, she ran clips of advertisements from past presidential campaigns. "It was like teaching a class full of 'C' students," Jamieson said Friday. "At Penn I will have a class with mostly 'A' and 'B' students, so I had to keep the lecture simple on television." The University's name did not come up during the late night gab fest, although Annenberg was mentioned several times and Jamieson was introduced as the dean of the Annenberg School of Communication in Philadelphia. During the 15-minute segment, Jamieson used advertisements to illustrate that lack of substance and deception in advertising are not recent developments. The ads, which would be no surprise to students who have taken Communications 226, included one of the 1952 "Eisenhower Answers America" ads, in which Republican presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower answers what seems to be an impromptu question from an audience member. In the commercial, a woman asks: "The Democrats have made mistakes, but aren't their intentions good?" Eisenhower responds, "Well, if the driver of your school bus runs into a truck, hits a lamp post, drives into a ditch, you don't say his intentions are good. You get a new bus driver." But as Jamieson told the audience that the ad was edited together and that Eisenhower's clever retort was scripted. But although Eisenhower's response was prepared, Jamieson said Leno's response was surprisingly impromptu. Leno dug into his political memory and recalled that one of Eisenhower's opponent, Adlai Stevenson, picked Estes Kefauver as his running mate. Leno noted that Kefauver came from Tennessee -- the same state as Al Gore, Bill Clinton's recent vice presidential pick. "He was right on, and that was something he could not have been prompted on," Jamieson said. "The only thing he got wrong was that Kefauver was Stevenon's runningmate in 1956, and the ad I showed was from '52." She also showed ad that used debate footage from the 1960 John Kennedy campaign, mixing Richard Nixon's worst moments with Kennedy strongest. Jamieson said Republicans cried foul over the ad, but reporters did not investigate the charges. Even in 1988, journalists failed to check now-famous Willie Horton and Boston Harbor ads, she said. Jamieson credited reporters with being more skeptical this election year. · This is truly Jamieson's busy season. She provided commentary for Cable News Network during the Democratic National Convention and has made appearances on "The Today Show." She said she also briefed the foreign press corp Sunday and appears on British Broadcasting Corporation at least once a month. Jamieson's new book will be released by the Oxford University Press next month. In the fall, Jamieson is teaching a University course in which undergraduates who performed well in one of her other classes will do research on the campaign up until the election. Students will mirror Jamieson, who will produce weekly spots on the Public Broadcasting System. Jamieson said students might even get a production credit if she uses material generated by the class.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.