Chuck Todd and other communication panelists sound off on social media

Chuck Todd speaks at the "Taming the Communication Beast" forum (Photo by John Irwin).
Chuck Todd speaks at the "Taming the Communication Beast" forum (Photo by John Irwin).

On the morning of Oct. 22, the Communications department faculty and students packed Dewberry Hall to participate in “Taming the Communication Beast: a University and Industry Forum,” headlined by keynote speaker and NBC Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd. 

The event was sponsored by the Insight Committee of the Department of Communication, a group that creates and builds relationships among the department, faculty and students in communications. 

In his speech, Todd talked about a “great disruption” in journalism, a reference to the growing impact of technology in the news. He discussed the various ways that the digital age has allowed anyone to become their own kind of journalist, citing innovative and entrepreneurial start-ups, such as Politico and Buzzfeed,. 

“You are entering a time where it has never been easier to make an impact and to have some influence [in the media] very quickly.” Todd said. 

Todd also discussed growing negativity on social media, specifically Twitter, calling the platform, “the text messaging style of communication for the world.” 

“Social media right now feels like a very negative feedback forum and we have to change that over time,” Todd said. In order to fix this problem, he felt the public would need to work to police it better..

Todd spoke to the importance of a being informed on every side of an issue, stating that growing negativity over social media has “trickled up” into politics,. 

“The thing I feel concerned about in our ‘politics’ is that we self-select how we watch news...we’ve never been seeking out information and been less informed,” Todd said. 

Todd closed his speech with a message to college students interested in political journalism. 

“It’s a depressing time to cover politics and yet you get the feeling that after 24 years of a divided country and polarized politics that there is this force that will force Washington to change and it’s all in the hands of you guys, for better or for worse. So don’t screw it up.” 

The forum continued discussion with guest panelists from many fields of communication, including former White House press secretary, Mike McCurry, and diplomatic correspondent for the Washington Post, Anne Gearen. 

The panelists discussed numerous topics, most notably about how to apply social media and communications to most every career interest. 

Gearan specifically discussed the importance of journalism in every career field, stating that people should learn how to be some form of a journalist by always striving to present honest information. 

McCurry sees social media as a way to “unite people in the [political] center,” hoping that media is “the key to helping end bipartisanship.” 

The discussion concluded with a round table, question and answer session between panelists and students. Junior communications major, Amanda Magill found the session most beneficial as she had the ability to ask the panelists about their experiences ‘getting their foot in the door,’ landing internships and ultimately, a career in journalism. 

“[That information] can help us for internships and potential job opportunities,” Magill said. 

While the forum focused largely on the development of social media, Todd reminded listeners not to forget about the importance of human communication when entering the work force. 

“The thing that matters the most [in communication] is the personal human element,” Todd said. “The most successful people will be those that can be social, physically and emotionally.”

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