Seattle Times Reporter Speaks on Energy in Inner Mongolia

Marquette University’s Diederich College of Communication in collaboration with The O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism hosted a presentation entitled “Coal and Wind in China’s Inner Mongolia” Feb. 12, 2014 in Johnston Hall.

Seattle reporter and current O’Brien Fellow, Hal Bernton, along with a Diederich College graduate student, Zhu Ye, spoke about their trip to Inner Mongolia in December, where they witnessed the coal mining world and the carbon emissions that come from burning coal along with the alternative energy sources that are being explored.


According to Bernton, finding alternative energy sources, like wind, are important to China and Inner Mongolia. “There is a big effort in China to eradicate carbon emissions. It’s not always about coal use. The big issue is the coal soot that is causing problems in the lungs of people who are exposed,” said Bernton.


Gas flares from a recently built coal plant in eastern Inner Mongolia.

(Photo by Hal Berton)

At Marquette University, O’Brien Fellows spend nine months researching and reporting on large impact stories that they find interesting and believe have the potential to change people’s lives.

The research done by Bernton and Ye will contribute to a planned series of stories in The Seattle Times about the challenges of reducing carbon emissions in China and the United States.

Students, faculty and staff were welcome to attend the event.

The O’Brien Fellows work through the Diederich College of Communication, a college within Marquette University. Marquette is a Catholic Jesuit university located in Milwaukee.

For more information on the event and topic, please contact:

  • Hal Bernton: or at (206) 423-1898
  • Herbert Lowe, the college’s direct of journalism for social change: or at                    (414) 288-4068


Contact: Stephanie Ramirez

Public Relations Representative, Diederich College of Communication

(773) 414-9855


Communication Theories at Their Finest: Symmetry Theory

Symmetry theory is one of my personal favorites when it comes to communication theories. Symmetry theory was proposed by Theodore Newcomb, in association with balance or consonance theory, and suggests that people seek an attitude similar to that of those they are close to. People will agree or disagree with others, not only based on what they say, but also because of their relationship with that person.

Personally, I think symmetry theory is interesting because it tends to relate to people’s beliefs, and the values they are brought up on, while reflecting their personal relationships and the value they place in those relationships.

Symmetry theory is important to public relations writing because it requires research. Before a PR campaign can be launched, research must be done, and it would seem that people most agree with those around them, which could impact the message they are receiving.

Personally, if I am close to someone and appreciate their opinions, I am more likely to agree with them. If I do not like someone, and they come off strongly and in a negative light, I am less likely to agree with them if they present me with a topic I am on the fence about.

By doing extensive background research, public relations professionals can know what type of person would make the majority of consumers agree with them, making their campaigns more successful. This idea is already in play in a number of campaigns, like the P&G “Thank You Mom” commercial. If you tend to agree with your mom and have a positive relationship with her, you most likely agree with this commercial, which may prompt you to buy P&G products. If you do not have a close relationship with your mother and do not typically agree with her, this commercial may steer you away from P&G products.

Symmetry theory is very relevant in today’s world. By gaining an insight into consumers’ minds through research, symmetry theory can be a useful tool of persuasion.