November 26, 2012

University of Texas journalism professor Robert Jensen published an opinion piece about Thanksgiving last Wednesday that tied the holiday to genocide.

Simply put: Thanksgiving is the day when the dominant white culture (and, sadly, most of the rest of the non-white but non-indigenous population) celebrates the beginning of a genocide that was, in fact, blessed by the men we hold up as our heroic founding fathers.

Jensen told UT paper The Daily Texan the column dates back to 2007, when he confronted his discomfort with celebrating the holiday. “I wrote that piece, in part, for people that were struggling with the same practical problems that I was,” Jensen told David Maly.

The professor, Maly notes, also drew fire for a 2001 column that attempted to put the 9/11 attacks in context of past United States actions abroad. Former UT president Larry Faulkner wrote a letter to the Houston Chronicle after that column calling Jensen a “fountain of undiluted foolishness on issues of public policy” but wouldn’t engage with the Austin Chronicle’s Lee Nichols in what he called a “detailed debate” about what that meant.

One of Jensen’s three UT sites links to lots of other pieces, including an exhortation to talk politics at Thanksgiving and — perhaps more controversial given his ZIP code — a piece about hating college football.

In an email, Jensen says he teaches a course called “Critical Issues in Journalism” as well as media law classes. “I have the best job in the world,” he wrote earlier this year about his tenured position. “I get paid a salary that allows me to live comfortably and give back to the community. To earn this salary, I am asked to spend my time thinking, reading, writing, and talking, all things I enjoy doing even when not being paid.” He’s been at UT since 1992.

He has written extensively about pornography and produced a documentary about the activist Abe Osheroff. He maintains a busy speaking schedule and on his site provides links to his political activities.

Before becoming an academic, Jensen worked as a reporter and copy editor for a number of papers, including the Poynter-owned St. Petersburg (now Tampa Bay) Times and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Jensen also emailed Poynter a statement about his teaching philosophy, which calls for him to occasionally “step out of the role as a conveyor of information or surveyor of ideas to make an explicit argument to students.” Students, he writes, “are capable of responding to [that role-switching] as critics, not passive receptacles of information.”

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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