Get Lucky or Get Lost: Takeaways from Chris Matthews’ #RealNews2017 Keynote Speech at George Mason University

(Kane Reinholdtsen)

By Mohammed Michael Harfoush

True to journalistic form, the communication forum dubbed #RealNews2017, didn’t bury the lead and hold off on what many considered the event’s main draw but, instead, after a few brief words from sponsors and organizers, put MSNBC’s “Hardball” host, Chris Matthews, front and center on stage, and from the audience’s resounding applause, the event seemed to be kicking off in a grand fashion.

Being a political commentator, an author, a talk show host, as well as a former speech writer with experience serving in the Peace Corps, Matthews brought a unique perspective to the forum as he doled out personal insights about the business to tomorrow’s future journalists.

Starting out, Matthews, in an obvious attempt to connect with his largely local George Mason University audience, decided to rhetorically fumble out of the gate and quote, not the man for whom the university he was speaking at is named, but for some inexplicable reason that must have seemed like a good idea in his “Hardball” mind, quote another famous Virginian by the name of Thomas Jefferson, stating, “… were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

One can forgive the obvious rhetorical faux pas, given the nature of the event but, although the quote was technically relevant, given the context of the forum, it still seemed like a negligent slap in the face to another founding father and drafter of the original Virginia Declaration of Rights — the basis for the United States Bill of Rights, in his own house.

Matthews continued on by making the point that access to newspapers and media is of paramount importance, but even more important is the general masses’ ability to interpret and understand what they are being told by the media.

Matthews then went on to list a series of newspapers and media outlets by name, in what seemed like a transparent attempt to stretch his keynote speech to a length permissible to forum organizers, before making an antagonizing reference to our president’s primary means of communicating with the public (Twitter), and asking the audience how they could possibly know where to go for, and what to take as, truth.

Continuing with his flawed approach to connect with his audience — this time with the youth — as an elderly, wealthy, white male, Matthews decided to explicitly paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson, and ask the audience, “What’s in your brain?”

Matthews went on for a few additional minutes asking a series of half-hearted rhetorical questions such as, “Who do we trust, when knowing the truth requires judgement?” for which he gave no clear-cut answer, but given his having a show on MSNBC, one can safely assume that he’d like his own program to be where the audience attending goes for said answers, if for no other reason than a quick boost in his ratings.

“We cannot automatically trust our leaders to give us the facts,” said Matthews, followed by a quick, what seemed to be, pandering recommendation list to the youth, of today’s most popular left-leaning political satirists.

Matthews then, in a blatant disregard for the environment in which he was speaking, asked his audience consisting of media professionals, college professors and journalism students, in a skeptical and condescending tone, “Do you really want to get into this world of media?” Further showcasing his speech’s out of touch and tone-deaf messaging.

Matthews wound down his speech by stating, “[In this business] you can push like mad, and you still need breaks.” He went on to confess that all the work he’s put into his career over the years, probably wouldn’t have gotten him as far as he’s made it if he didn’t catch multiple breaks along the way, due to pure luck — disheartening words for the future journalists in the room that have spent thousands of dollars, and were likely to spend thousands more, to get a leg up and be successful in a business that Matthews says, comes down to a few lucky breaks, if you’re fortunate enough to stumble onto them.


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