George Mason University

News at Mason

RealNews forum gives students the real scoop

November 6, 2017

Veteran journalist Chris Matthews said that when evaluating if news is real or fake, seek out organizations that employ editors. "Having editors separates journalism from BS," he said. "You have to have someone checking your facts and sources." Photo by Evan Cantwell.

Veteran journalist Chris Matthews began his presentation with a question about how we get and process our news.

“Who do we trust to give it to us straight?” he asked. “Do we even want it straight? Or do we want to hear what we want to hear?”

Matthews, host of “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on MSNBC, was the keynote speaker at the ninth annual communication forum, #RealNews2017, put on by George Mason University’s Department of Communication and its Insight Committee, Oct. 24 in the Hub Ballroom.

His remarks included the “clear and undeniable truth” that there are numerous outlets to figure out whether news is real or fake, including “the president’s early morning tweets. So who do we pick?”

Matthews’ talk was just one aspect of the forum, which also included Kevin Hall, communications director and senior policy advisor to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.); Jack Speer, NPR news anchor; Peter Carson, who leads the public affairs practice at Weber Shandwick; and Roy Abdo, Gallup’s communications lead.

During a networking session, students chatted with industry professionals who served as mentors. A panel discussion explained the media’s transition to digital technologies, how stories are fact-checked and, of course, whom audiences can trust when it comes to understanding the news.

“Communication is a democratic society that needs to be a two-way street,” Matthews said. “It does no great good to have a First Amendment guaranteeing a free press if the great mass of people are not able to get what’s being printed and what’s being broadcast.”

“We used social media to track the Arab Spring, but when the president tweets, the line has been blurred,” Speer said. “Social media shouldn’t be your only source.”

One tip, Matthews told the audience of more than 300: Seek out news organizations that employ editors.

“Having editors separates journalism from BS,” he said. “You have to have someone checking your facts and sources.”

Beth Jannery, the Department of Communication’s director of journalism and faculty liaison for the Insight Committee, said the level of student involvement made this year’s event stand out.

“We talk about building and creating relationships with industry professionals before you leave Mason so you are positioned well, not only for job opportunities but to have a mentor. We all need them,” Jannery said.

Added Keirsten Robinson, a sophomore communication major: “The message Chris Matthews had was great. It was believing in yourself and going out and doing it, and having the ambition to go out and follow your dream.”

Students gather for networking sessions with industry professionals who attended the forum as mentors. Photo by Evan Cantwell.