Public Policy Professor Takes ‘Road Less Traveled’ with New GMU-TV Show

Posted: February 28, 2011 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: February 25, 2011 at 7:29 pm

By James Greif

Public policy professor Michael Fauntroy interviews his colleague, Susan Tolchin. Image courtesy of GMU-TV

“The Forum” is a new public affairs interview show on GMU-TV hosted and co-produced by Michael Fauntroy, associate professor in the School of Public Policy. The half-hour show features interviews with experts from Mason and other schools and organizations in the D.C. area.

A frequent guest on local, national and international television and radio news shows, Fauntroy wanted to create a television show that takes the time to discuss important issues instead of shifting from topic to topic and reducing everything to a quick sound bite.

Taking a cue from the public television and radio shows he admires, Fauntroy designed the show to focus primarily on the conversation between the host and guest, and the set features a sparse black curtain background and a round wooden table that brings to mind PBS’ “The Charlie Rose Show.”

Fauntroy, who joined Mason in 2002, teaches courses in civil rights policy and American government and specializes in race and politics. Previously, he was an analyst at the Congressional Research Service, providing research and consultations for members and committees of Congress.

From 1993 to 1996, he was a civil rights analyst at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, where he conducted research on civil rights issues such as voting rights and fair housing. Fauntroy is also the author of “Republicans and the Black Vote” (Lynne Rienner, 2006).

Directed and co-produced by GMU-TV’s Heather Bailey at their studios in Innovation Hall, the show airs Mondays at 7 p.m., Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m., Fridays at 7 a.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 8:30 a.m.

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Fauntroy answered questions about the new show.

Why did you want to do a television show?
I’ve always been fascinated by smart conversation. That’s a great way for me to learn, so doing the show combines two things that are important to me: conversation and learning.

What are your goals for the program?
To bring to the attention of the public issues and people who have something interesting to say. It seems to me that the same people are on television saying the same things. That road has been plowed. I’m interested in taking the road less traveled and I’m glad to know some pretty smart and experienced people whom I can call upon to discuss important issues.

Who’s been on the show so far? What did they discuss?
We had an interesting mix of guests. My uncle, Walter Fauntroy, served 20 years in Congress representing the District of Columbia, and we spent two shows discussing his life in politics and the civil rights movement. Two of my colleagues in the School of Public Policy, Jim Pfiffner and Sue Tolchin, came on to discuss torture and political patronage, respectively. We’ve also had journalists, civil and human rights activists, and authors enter “The Forum.” I really enjoyed talking with Nicole Lee, the president and CEO of TransAfrica Forum, and Johnny Barnes, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of the National Capital Area.

What topics do you hope to tackle?
My background and academic training are based in politics and governance, so I’m looking forward to dealing with the upcoming political and electoral season.

How do you pick your guests?
At this point in the evolution of the show, I pretty much call on people I know. Thankfully, we are in an area that is chock-full of people who can deal with the issues I have in mind. We don’t have the resources to pick guests who require travel, so we can’t broaden our targets as I would like.

How did you come up with the name, “The Forum”?
It just sort of popped into my head. I had a bunch of other names in my head, none of which really worked. I think the name really captures what I am trying to create: a forum for serious and interesting discussion on important topics.

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