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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI assembles panel of pros to discuss public relations in politics

KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 9, 2001 -- A panel of veteran public relations experts and seasoned newsmen will discuss the strategic use of communication in politics and its impact on the outcome of political campaigns at the University of Rhode Island during the second annual Manning Selvage & Lee Distinguished Newsmaker Lecture Series. The event, free and open to the public, will be held on Wednesday, March 28.

Moderated by Tony Silvia, chairman of the URI Department of Journalism, the event entitled "Spinning an Election: The Public Relations of Politics" will be held at 7:30 p.m. in URI’s University Club. The panelists will reveal how political messages are created and reflect upon the recent presidential election.

"Elections are all about communication. Whoever gets out the most information effectively wins," said Lonny Unger, a 1977 URI journalism alumnus and managing director of Manning Selvage & Lee. The panelists are:

• Lawrence Haas, the senior vice president and director of public affairs for Manning Selvage & Lee, one of the top five public relations firms in the country headquartered in New York. He is the former communications director and press secretary for Vice President Al Gore. Haas will recount his experiences crafting strategic messages and serving as Gore’s spokesman overseeing media interviews, speeches, and announcements. Haas is also an award-winning journalist and has spoken before hundreds of trade groups, served as guest lecturer at the Government Affairs Institute and Legislative Studies Institute in Washington, D.C., and appeared on CNN, CNBC, FNN, C-SPAN, National Public Radio, the BBC, and hundreds of local TV and radio shows.

• Mike Ryan, the executive vice president of Narragansett Electric and a member of the Board of Governors for Higher Education, will discuss his years serving as the political director for former U.S. Senator John H. Chafee in two successful statewide campaigns from 1986 to 1994. Prior to this experience, Ryan served almost 10 years in the executive branch of the Rhode Island state government – first as a legislative assistant to the lieutenant governor from 1974 to 1976 and later as the special assistant and press secretary to Governor J. Joseph Garrahy from 1977 to 1984. Ryan was also the public relations manager for AT&T Communications from 1984 to 1986 during the period of that company’s divestiture.

• John M. Geddes is a 1974 URI alumnus and currently the deputy managing editor of the New York Times. Geddes spent 13 years with the Wall Street Journal and was the chief executive officer of BIS Strategic Decisions, a marketing research company. He joined the New York Times as a business/financial editor in September 1994, and has assisted in managing its websites, new ventures, and ongoing negotiations.

• Scott MacKay is a political writer for The Providence Journal who has spent 16 years covering current politics for the state of Rhode Island. He was also a political reporter for The Burlington Free Press of Burlington, Vt. for six years. MacKay is also a panelist on Channel 12’s Newsmakers Show with Jack White and a commentator for the radio show One Union Station on WRNI.

The series aims to create an educational link with the University and help inform students and the public about the field of public relations.

URI’s Journalism and Communications Departments are coordinating the event, which will be followed by an informal reception. For more information, call Tom Zorabedian at 874-2853, Tony Silvia at 874-2196 or Stephen Wood at 874-4030.

For Information: Jan Sawyer, 874-2116, Keith Marshall, 874-2116

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