Communication
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Martin O’Malley, Mark McKinnon Delivered Message of Hope at Mason Communication Forum Despite Chaotic Election Season

by Laura Wingfield

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PRSSA members work the check-in desk in front of Dewberry Hall in the Johnson Center.

FAIRFAX, Va. -- Former Governor Martin O’Malley and “The Circus” producer Mark McKinnon shared with George Mason University students that they are hopeful for the future of American politics at the annual Communication Forum on Tuesday, Oct. 25. The theme of the forum was political and policy communication.

“This [election] will serve as a mirror of what values unite us,” said O’Malley during the opening keynote. “We have to acknowledge where we are to change where we’re going.”

McKinnon repeated this sentiment during a panel discussion. “Hopefully this [election] will be a springboard,” he said with regard to the high levels of activism he has seen this campaign season.

The panel, moderated by New York Times White House Correspondent Michael Shear, also included SAP Senior Vice President for Global Affairs Torie Clarke, Politifact Staff Writer Linda Qiu, GAMA Holding Board Member Arzu Tarimcilar, and Mason Political Communication Professor Emily Vraga. The main topics of discussion were fact-checking and presentation of politicians in news media and how the parties might unite after the election.

“We don’t care if you’re Democrat or Republican,” McKinnon said. “We just want some problems solved.”

The panelists focused on honesty as a high value of political communication. “Put a big spotlight on what you’re doing,” Clarke said. “Place a huge emphasis on truth and transparency.”

 “Be honest – be honest to yourselves, be honest to your clients,” Tarimcilar added.

The panelists finished the discussion by providing their best hypothetical advice to the future White House communications director. “Communicate the facts better,” was Qiu’s advice. But ultimately, the panelists’ attitudes about the future of American politics were upbeat.

“This has been a great wake-up call,” said Clarke. “We can get past this.”

The forum concluded with a closing keynote speech by McKinnon and a speed mentoring opportunity for attendees moderated by NBC4 Anchor and Reporter and Mason Alum Angie Goff. Students were able to network directly with the panelists and 11 other industry professionals.

The Mason Student/Industry Communication Forum is an annual event sponsored by the Insight Committee of the Department of Communication. The Insight Committee seeks to enhance relationships between the communication department, the students, and the larger community of practicing communication professionals and focus the department’s research and teaching efforts.

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