George Mason University

News at Mason

NBC’s Todd Leads Discussion about the Future of Communication Jobs

October 24, 2013

By Laurie Jacobs

Chuck Todd, NBC-TV

NBC-TV Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd speaks to communication students about changes in the profession. Photo by Alexis Glenn

To read the headlines, the news about the news business is bleak. Jobs are cut, newspaper circulation is eroding and digital publications find it difficult to stay in business. But is it all bad news?

On Oct. 22, George Mason University’s Communication Department hosted an industry forum called Taming the Communication Beast; the panel discussion was moderated by Chuck Todd, political director and chief White House correspondent at NBC News and host of “The Daily Rundown” on MSNBC.

Students, alumni, professors and communication professionals filled George Mason’s Dewberry Hall on the Fairfax Campus for the event that would explore changes in the communication field and give attendees a better understanding of the effects on future occupations caused by these changes.

Todd’s well-received, hour-long keynote address detailed his opinions as to where the media industry is headed, the importance of communication in politics and a movement referred to as the “great disruption” in the journalism field.

Todd challenged students to gain a solid journalism foundation and become responsible journalists or writers when creating, distributing and reading content. He also discussed the effects of social media — Twitter, Facebook and others — and the need for civilized interaction. For instance, he asked, “Would your mother follow you on Twitter?”

Chuck Todd speaks to Communications students

Communications students listen to panelists at the Taming the Communication Beast forum. Photo by Alexis Glenn

Following his address, Todd facilitated a panel discussion among communication professionals from corporate, government and nonprofit entities who explained how vital are communication skills to their industries and what to expect in the future. The panel also discussed a wide range of topics, including the significance of social media, strategies on how to be successful when pursuing a career in communication and notable trends underway in the industry.

The panelists included Mike McCurry, former White House press secretary; Anne Gearan from the Washington Post; Andrew Bleeker, former director of Internet advertising for both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns; Maureen Knightly, director of communications at the U.S. Peace Corps; Scott Murphy, associate director for social media at McGarryBowen, an international advertising agency; Lindsey Spindle, chief communications and brand officer of the nonprofit Share Our Strength; and Lauren Green, manager of social media at Northrop Grumman Corporation.

Advice from the panelists included remembering the main goal of communication and public relations, which involves bringing people together as well as telling your organization’s story. They also stressed that even though these goals can be achieved through the use of the media it is important to have face-to-face interaction with others. “Social media is not social,” Spindle said. “Shake a hand. Have a conversation with someone, and do not use email to solve your problems.”

The forum ended with a fast-paced “speed mentoring” session, which allowed students to network and speak with the different panelists. The panelists rotated among small groups of students at tables of 8 to 10 students; each mentoring round lasted 10 minutes and allowed students to inquire about job or internship search strategies and industry advice.

“I attended the event to learn more about the media landscape,” says Helena Okolicsanyi, BA Global Affairs ’13. “As a Mason alumna and a consumer of news, I am always interested in what people have to say about media — both from those following it, and those in it. It was a nice mesh of different aspects of the media.”

The Insight Committee of Mason’s Department of Communication sponsored the event. This volunteer advisory board features leaders from area firms and was formed to create relationships between the Communication Department, the students and public relations and communication professionals in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The annual communication career forum is one of many outreach programs offered by the committee.

“I hope that this event gives students an employment strategy,” says Mason professor Michael Dickerson, director of outreach for the department. “It is not a career fair but a chance for them to get a handle on the job field.”