Watching the Watchers: Politics and the Press

Three Wednesdays, October 13, 20, and 27, 6:00–7:30 p.m. | The Briar Club, 2603 Timmons Lane at Westheimer (Parking lot across Timmons Lane from the club)

October 13: American Politics: Funny or Unfunny and Why?
One of the healthiest aspects of American politics has been the press’s ability—and the people’s willingness—to laugh at political leaders, thereby keeping our democratic roots refreshed. But what kind of political humor is healthy and what kind dangerous? When does joking about the nation’s leaders become an idle pastime rather than a stimulus to better governance? Professor Roderick P. Hart will explore this theme and enable us to examine the effect of infotainment on our own political outlook.

October 20: Scandalous Presidents: Scoundrels or Strategic Penitents?
If reports in the media are any indication, political scandal is ubiquitous. But, how common are political scandals and are all scandals alike? Do politicians accused of scandal react the same way to each scandal or do they vary their strategy? Although presumptions abound that politicians all lie to the media in such events, not all scandals cause the president to “stonewall” the public—in many instances, presidents “come clean” and admit all they know about the details of an alleged untoward event. In this lecture Professor Brandon Rottinghaus will focus on presidential scandals and discuss the personnel, duration, and strategy of a White House confronted with accusations of wrongdoing.

October 27: Are the News Media Biased? Does It Matter?
The news media have tremendous power in setting cultural guidelines and in shaping political discourse. Professor Daron Shaw will examine the political science literature for insight into the potential for bias in the news media—conservative bias (corporate ownership) and liberal bias (the personal partisanship of reporters). He also will examine how the rise of cable television has affected political reportage in the U.S.

Roderick P. Hart is the dean and the Allan Shivers Centennial/Cronkite Chair of the College of Communication at the University of Texas, Austin, and also director of the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation. He is the author of twelve books and has lectured at more than seventy colleges and universities. His published works include Political Keywords: Using Language That Uses Us (Oxford University Press, 2005). Professor Hart has been elected to the Academy of Distinguished Teachers at the University of Texas.

Brandon Rottinghaus is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Houston. His work on the media, public opinion, executive-legislative method, and the presidency has appeared in several academic journals. His book, The Provisional Pulpit: Modern Conditional Presidential Leadership of Public Opinion, is forthcoming from Texas A&M University Press in May 2010.

Daron Shaw is an associate professor of government at the University of Texas, Austin. He serves on the editorial board for American Politics Research and on the national decision team for Fox News. Professor Shaw is a member of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the National Election Studies Board of Overseers, and the Advisory Board for the Annette Strauss Institute. His books include Unconventional Wisdom: Facts and Myths about American Voters (Oxford University Press, 2008).



Upcoming is Spring 2018! 

West Side Story: Leonard Bernstein at 100
Two Wednesdays, March 21 and 28, 6:30-8:00 P.M.
Private residence directions to subscribers
A few seats available


Farming Wonders in Richmond, Texas
Saturday, March 24
Details to subscribers
A few seats available


What's on Lisa Falkenberg's Mind
Tuesday, March 27, 6:30-8:00 P.M. | Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion, Hermann Park, 1500 Hermann Drive, 77004


Gorbachev: His Life and Times
Monday, April 16, 6:30-8:00 P.M. | The Junior League, 1811 Briar Oaks Ln, 77027
Co-sponsored with World Affairs Council of Houston


Behind the Pages: A Conversation with William Middleton 
Tuesday, April 24, 6:30-8:00 P.M.


For additional information about any of our courses, to register offline, or to add your name to our mailing and/or email lists, please contact our adminstrator at  or phone 713.666.9000.