The Solution to Finding Real News


By Claire Underwood, Staff Writer

George Mason University recently hosted #RealNews2017, its annual communication forum focused on finding the truth in modern media, on Tuesday, Oct. 24.

Located in the HUB Ballroom, the event featured panelists and professional communicators working in the corporate world. They shared their skills and gave advice about getting jobs, as well as offered criticisms on the way media is handled today.

Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC’s Hardball evening news program, delivered the keynote address. In his speech, Matthews focused on how to find reliable media sources. His most notable message was about fake news, and how this is not a term that should be used carelessly.

“Fake news means that what was said was deliberately a lie,” Matthews said. “A mistake is not fake news. Fake news just means something that President Trump disagrees with.”

He used this example to teach a lesson about how important it is to look at various news sources. Every panelist following the keynote agreed that media consumers should not look at only a single source that fits their own personal opinions.

“There are so many places to find news these days, you can’t focus on just one,” said Richard Levick, the event’s moderator.

Although there were some disagreements among panelists about when and where to find reliable news sources —  social media vs. traditional outlets all agreed that people should look at multiple sources to find all sides of a story to form a well-informed opinion.

After Matthew’s keynote speech and the panel discussion, the audience split into small groups to have discussions with mentors who work in the communication field. Students asked questions and had conversations about their academic life and goals with media and communication professionals.

These mentors included people from a variety of work backgrounds including reporters, communication advisors and company managers. This wide variety helped inform students about ways to immediately connect and network with future employers.

“Find a mentor as soon as you can and work with them to meet people and get job advice,” said Levick. Other mentors advised student to include the use of social networks to locate professional contacts.

The panelists this year were Jack Speer of NPR, Roy Abdo of Gallup Inc., Peter Carson of Weber Shandwick, and Kevin Hall, communications director for U.S. Senator Mark Warner.

The annual fall event is organized by the Insight Committee, within Mason’s communication department. The event is primarily intended for students and faculty in the communication department, but anyone interested in media and the news are welcome to attend. Lake Braddock Secondary School students were in attendance, for example.

Student involvement in planning the forum has increased since previous years. Students had a hand in social media campaigns, promotional materials, and other public relations tactics.

“I’m very pleased that the Society of Professional Journalists had a greater role in planning the event, and that journalism will continue to be emphasized at the forum,” said Lauryn Cantrell, President of Mason’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The communication forum theme changes each year to reflect a relevant subject in the communication field. It is an opportunity for students to learn from and market themselves to their future employers.

Photos Courtesy of Nicolas Macotto and Tisha Herrera