Focusing on the Facts

October 01, 2012

Sound bites and bumper stickers. Spin and nuance. During an election year, it can be difficult to sort through the political rhetoric to find the facts behind the most important issues facing the United States today. To offer a remedy and help draw citizens back into the public square, philanthropist Edward Scott, Jr. made a $1.5 million gift to Columbian College’s School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA) to launch Face the Facts USA.

“The issues that really matter in our society are not black or white, they are mostly grey,” said Scott. “Allowing the American public to become lackadaisical and uninvested with the way we think about our country’s most pressing issues would be a dangerous mistake.”

A multi-platform, non-partisan initiative from The GW Center for Innovative Media at SMPA, Face the Facts USA presents a new fact each day leading up to the election. These facts are meant to re-engage Americans in the political process, using the facts behind the major challenges facing our country as the basis for civil conversation, consensus building, and consideration of potential alternatives and solutions. Frank Sesno, director of SMPA and former CNN Washington bureau chief, is heading up the project.

"Ed Scott sees the need for the country to have more and better information, appreciates the impact creative new media can have, and is confident GW can help fill that role,” said Sesno. “Working with Ed has been a delight. He has become a great friend of SMPA and the university."

An experienced and successful business executive, Scott spent 17 years as an executive in the U.S. government, which included service under seven Attorneys General (Republicans and Democrats) and three Secretaries of Transportation. After leaving the U.S. government, he became involved in software development and founded BEA Systems, Inc., one of the largest software companies in the country. In addition to founding the Center for Global Development, the Center for Interfaith Action on Global Policy, and Friends of the Global Fight, he is an active supporter of a number of philanthropic initiatives in the U.S. and around the world.

 “GW is the perfect place for an initiative like Face the Facts,” Scott noted. “The university is quite well known as a setting for interesting and complex political discourse, and having someone like Frank Sesno drive the initiative is a tremendous resource. He brings a lot of experience, energy and creativity to the project and has recruited extremely bright people to work with us.”

 Almost a dozen GW undergraduate and graduate students have served on the staff as researchers to help present each day’s fact, which are available on the project’s website or via a daily e-mail. It’s estimated that more than 500,000 Face the Facts USA impressions are made daily via media partners that include Huffington Post, McClatchy-Tribune, and the Journal Register newspapers.

 “The idea behind Face the Facts is to force people to get into the habit of understanding the facts and getting involved in public debate,” said Scott. “The importance of that won’t change after November.”