U forum to focus on political advertising

The discussion will be Tuesday at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

Emily Kaiser

In the Centennial Hall courtyard, presidential campaign signs are abundant.

While some political student groups and campaigns target undecided voters, University sophomore John Harris said he thinks voters have made up their minds.

“I don’t think any advertising is having any effect at this point,” Harris said.

Harris and University sophomore Ted Willems wore Bush/Cheney stickers while registering voters near the residence hall Sunday. They had not encountered many undecided voters, they said.

While political advertisements on campus are hard to miss, their effects are still yet to be determined.

News representatives, campaign organizers and professors will discuss political ads Tuesday at a free forum at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

The event is sponsored by Minnesota Compact, a coalition of news organizations and voting groups, and is organized by the League of Women Voters of Minnesota Education Fund.

Minnesota Compact created a set of advertising codes that it said it hopes to make politicians follow to make their advertising fair, said Judy Duffy, former president of League of Women Voters of Minnesota and chairwoman of the Minnesota Compact.

“Nasty campaigns are nothing new, but I think our attempt in this is to show that campaign ads can be done in a way that helps the voter make a distinction between the candidates,” Duffy said. “They can do that in a way that doesn’t mischaracterize their opponent.”

The standards suggest candidates take full responsibility for the content of advertisements, and discourage manipulating opponents’ images and speeches.

Ronald Faber, a University journalism professor, said one piece of negative advertising is as effective as five pieces of positive advertising.

“I think what’s different now is the amount of negative advertising, and the way it is introduced has gone beyond the news media’s ability to cope with it,” Faber said.

The most interesting part of the 2004 campaign is how the news media are covering campaign advertising, Faber said.

He cited the 1964 Lyndon Johnson campaign ad, “Daisy Girl” as an example of how the media can create a buzz. The ad played once on TV in Texas, and was removed from the air.

The ad’s controversy made it one of the most notable political ads, Faber said.

Whether advertising is news and should be covered by the media is an important issue, Faber said.

“I think people have different views of what the news media’s responsibility is,” Faber said. “Is it news? Well, in a sense, but partly it’s been manufactured.

“The ads have gotten coverage and therefore people are talking about it, so in some sense it’s important,” he said.

Sarah Janecek, a Republican consultant, lobbyist and co-publisher of Politics in Minnesota, said she loves political advertising. The term “negative advertising” is misused, she said.

“I think one party’s issue ad is another party’s attack ad,” she said.

Janecek said the ads released by smaller political organizations, such as MoveOn and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, made news in this year’s presidential campaign.

“I think that this year perhaps more than other years, the messages in ads running by outside groups are going to have a greater impact,” she said.

Willems said the ads that smaller organizations create often don’t focus on important election topics.

“They may not be about the important issues, but they have a right to their opinion,” Willems said.

Because the ad codes created by Minnesota Compact are voluntary, they hope candidates will abide by them, Duffy said.

“Our biggest attempt is to get citizens aware of the codes and hold the candidates accountable,” Duffy said.