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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Students talk social media with Romney’s campaign directors

Colin Prenger
Tyler Besh / Arizona Daily Wildcat Students in Ricardo Valerdi’s “A Human Rights View of Social Networks and Social Networking” class, video chat with Mitt Romney’s press secretary, Gail Gitcho.

Students connected with presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s communications director and digital director via Google Hangout on Monday, to discuss the role that social networking and media play in political campaigns.

In order to give students real-world examples of the power of social networking, Ricardo Valerdi, an associate professor of systems and industrial engineering, contacted Romney’s communications director, Gail Gitcho. Both she and Zac Moffatt, Romney’s digital director, agreed to speak with students and answer questions regarding the use of social media in Romney’s campaign.

Gitcho leads communications for the campaign and deals with an audience of about 500 people, including reporters, producers and other media members. Moffatt’s team focuses on voters that the communications team is not able to reach.

Moffatt oversees the website, social media, online advertising and email marketing for the campaign. This campaign cycle, there are about 125 workers in the digital department, which shows how big it has become within the campaign, Moffatt said.

“[Moffatt] really is a pioneer in this field,” Gitcho said. “I think, more than any other time in the history of political campaigns, the digital front has made more of an effort in not only persuading voters to take a look at our candidates but also on the paid media front in raising money and making sure our message is getting out there.”

Both Moffatt and Gitcho answered a variety of student questions, ranging from which social media network best serves political campaigns, to how the Romney campaign differs from Obama’s.
Students cited the benefits of discussing election details with official campaign workers.

“This was a nice, light, brief introduction into how much work goes into a campaign because you’re trying to appeal to a lot of people,” said Hojin Seo, a biochemistry freshman. “It was nice to see the diversity in campaign strategies.”

Valerdi’s freshman honors seminar course, A Human Rights View of Social Networks and Social Networking, explores the formation of social networks and analyzes its role in a variety of fields.

“We’ve been talking about the role of social media, but we’ve just been talking about it within this circle of people,” Valerdi said. “I think talking to professionals is pretty important and seeing a contemporary topic like the election just bring[s] this to life and makes them realize that what they’re reading comes from real people.”

Some students were excited at the chance to hear from professionals who use social media in different fields.

“Despite what our political views are, it’s an exciting opportunity to hear how social media is playing a role directly with the campaign,” said John Danovich, a public health freshman. “We actually get the opportunity to see how these two people are using Facebook and Twitter specifically to target people to basically vote for their candidate.”

Following the video call, students discussed the impact of social networking and how some people are not aware of the role it plays in everyday life.

“This seminar is really interesting because it really goes into social networking,” said Felipe Moreno, a freshman studying philosophy, politics, economics and law. “We use it, but what we don’t think of enough is how much it really affects us and how much it’s making an impact on everything in the world.”

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