Before You Head to the Polls…

Photo of James Steinbach, Director of Wisconsin Public Television

James Steinbach, Director of Wisconsin Public Television

When my daughters were in grade school, I took them with me to vote. Even young kids know the importance of voting, for their favorite singer or movie or where to go for a family dinner. It’s too bad that some of us forget when we get older.

I’m always a bit surprised at how elections unfold, at least those for statewide and national office. It seems like things get started earlier and earlier, stretched out longer and longer, and it’s just hard to stay focused for all those months. Then, all of a sudden — it’s time to vote! Across Wisconsin, people are thinking “Hey, what do I really know about these candidates? What’s my legislative district, anyhow? And how come voter turnout is so much lower in non-presidential elections?”

So, it’s no surprise that Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio’s shared election website,, has a little bit of traffic year round, a little bit more as campaigning starts, and then, WHAM! A few days before the election, there are hundreds of thousands of visits.

Election coverage and analysis is one of the most important things we do. In my view, there’s no better source than WPT and WPR. Viewers and listeners absolutely know for sure that we’re working with one purpose: to give you the information you need to make an informed decision. As Gwen Ifill says, “We answer to nobody but you”.

So, we have in-depth interviews on Here and Now and stories on the important issues from around the state. We give every qualified national and statewide candidate an opportunity to record a five-minute statement that we broadcast and share online. | Election News and ResourcesOur colleagues at WPR talk with virtually every candidate for legislative, judicial and executive offices on their talk shows. All that work, along with voting information, election resources and full news coverage is available at

And, we host debates, we listen to you for issues important to local communities, we truth check political ads and find the truth within complex messaging, and we go beyond election headlines to bring you substance and information you can actually use.

Our goal in all of this is to serve you, to provide perspective you perhaps hadn’t considered, to share the voices of other residents who may not otherwise be heard, to give you insights into issues you previously didn’t have, all in an effort to help create an informed electorate, and to cut down on the noise and clutter. So, how are we doing? We’d love to hear from you on this or any issue.

Oh, and my daughters? They’re both grown and out in the world, registered voters and part of our great democracy. Neither one of them has ever run for political office, but as their dad, I’m ok with that.

Remember to vote on Nov. 4, and take your kids.

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MAKERS Looks at Women in War

1943 LIFE cover: "Air Force Pilot." MAKERS "Women in War" airs 8 p.m. tonight on WPT.

1943 LIFE cover: “Air Force Pilot.” MAKERS “Women in War” airs 8 p.m. tonight on WPT.

In 1991, 41,000 women were deployed to Operation Desert Storm, making it the largest single deployment of U.S. military women in history. This deployment is just one example of American women’s increasing roles in war.

MAKERS “Women in War,” which airs 8 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, Oct. 21 on Wisconsin Public Television, looks at American women’s increasing participation in war as nurses, soldiers, journalists, diplomats and spies, beginning with the Vietnam War.

Linda Bray, the first woman to lead troops into battle, and Valerie Plame, previously a high-level spy, are among those featured in the documentary. War correspondents like Molly Moore and high-ranking leaders like General Angela Salinas and Vice Admiral Michelle Howard are also interviewed.

Tune in to take a look at women’s increasing presence in battle and examine how many are breaking through gender barriers against all odds. You can view the preview below.

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A ‘Sesame Street’ Renaissance

Sesame Street is a classic, and the work of Johannes Vermeer, James McNeill Whistler and other talented artists is widely recognized as classic art. So what happens when Sesame Street characters and classic art collide?

Why, this, of course.

Kermit’s Mother By LegGodt

And this.

Marquis de Rosita By RatbarSteward

And of course, this.

Cookie monster By Alena910

These images are part of a photo effects contest by the website, which describes itself as “the top creative contest site in the world.” These three images come from a contest titled “Sesame Street Ren 3: classic paintings with Sesame Street characters,” which encouraged users to submit their original entries combining classic art and their favorite Sesame Street character.

You can view all of the entries from this particular contest here. And, if you want to see more, check out photos from some of their other “Sesame Street Ren” contests here here and here

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, the internet throws a curveball. What’s your favorite entry?

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Best-Selling Author Steven Johnson Talks About How We Got to Now

On his new series, How We Got to Now – premiering with its first two episodes tonight at 8 and 9 on WPT – best-selling author Steven Johnson explores the impact of innovation on our modern existence by following the fascinating – and often surprising – paths of scientific discovery that shaped who we are today.

I could try to explain how Johnson traveled around the world – and back in time! – to find out how even the seemingly most simple endeavors changed the entire path of history, but it is much better to go right to the source.

We had the chance to do just that in September when Johnson visited Madison to speak to the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce. He sat down with us for an exclusive interview at the Monona Terrace and talked about his new book and PBS series, both which reveal the story behind the remarkable ideas that made modern life possible. Watch the conversation now.

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Catch Up with Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey seasons 1-4, airing 2 p.m. Saturdays on The Wisconsin Channel and 2 p.m. Sundays on WPT’s flagship channel. Click to see the full Masterpiece Classic schedule.

Downton Abbey Season 5 Premieres January 4 2015Way back, in January 2011, a brand-new series premiered on Masterpiece Classic on Wisconsin Public Television. It’s been a long time since viewers were first introduced to Downton Abbey and its fascinating cast of characters.

In four seasons, we’ve experienced the love story of Mary and Matthew, we’ve enjoyed the Dowager Countesses’s biting charm, endured the good and the bad with Anna and Bates, and thrilled to shocking losses and new beginnings. On January 4, 2015 the story will take new turn when a fifth season begins on WPT. But before then, enjoy an encore of the first four seasons, airing weekends on WPT.

From now until the Season 5 premiere on Sunday, Jan. 4, weekends are reserved for Downton Abbey. Watch every episode or revisit your favorite season. Season 1 begins Saturday, Oct. 11 and Season 2 begins Sunday, Nov. 2. After a brief hiatus for our winter membership drive, Season 3: Episodes 1-5 air Sunday, Dec. 21, with Episodes 6 and 7 airing the following Sunday. And on New Year’s Day, we’ll show the entire run of Season 4.

And if you don’t ration your excitement like the Dowager Countess does, you can always look to Amazon Prime and iTunes for on-demand viewing of Season 1-4.

Here’s a look at what’s to come on Season 5, which picks up in 1924. The United Kingdom has its first Labor Party prime minister, radio is the latest miracle and Downton’s traditional ways are besieged on all fronts.


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