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Point Park University's 'Talkback Series' features trio of media innovators

| Tuesday, July 11, 2017, 10:03 a.m.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
Jasiri X gives a spoken word performance Monday, April 20, 2015 during an event announcing the line up of this year's Three Rivers Arts Festival.
Christopher Ruddy, CEO of NewsMax
John 'The Professor' Clayton, an NFL football writer and reporter for ESPN, stands on the sideline during an NFL football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Point Park University in September is starting a new speaker series at the Pittsburgh Playhouse in Oakland that will give audience members a chance to interact with a trio of accomplished communicators.

Hip-hop artist and activist Jasiri X, Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy and NFL writer and commentator John Clayton will be the first guest speakers in the university's Talkback Series. Each speaker has ties to the Pittsburgh area.

“We wanted to find people who are media innovators in some way and people who also had a meaningful connection to Pittsburgh,” said Andrew Conte, director of Point Park's Center for Media Innovation. “For each of these people, they are at the forefront of their field in terms of communicating.”

Jasiri X will kick off the series Sept. 19 and will discuss his anti-violence group, Pittsburgh-based 1Hood. Jasiri X's discussion will also touch on another Playhouse production, Scottsboro Boys the Musical, and the social issues that are covered in the show.

Ruddy, a former Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter, will continue the series Nov. 8, speaking on the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump's election to the presidency. Ruddy is a close friend of Trump and is frequently quoted in media coverage about the president, Conte said.

John Clayton, a Braddock native, will wrap up the series March 19 with a discussion about the role of media in sports. Early in Clayton's career, he discovered violations committed by the Steelers that caused the team to lose its third-round pick in the 1979 draft. Clayton later worked for ESPN for more than two decades.

The series is co-produced by the Pittsburgh Playhouse and the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is a sponsor of the event. Other sponsors are Herbein + Co., Talk Radio 1320 WJAS and the McGinnis Endowment.

The Talkback Series aims to engage audience members with the speakers with the help of moderators including Conte and KDKA-TV sports anchor Bob Pompeani.

“We really hope that it's more of a discussion among everyone in the room and not a one-way experience of someone at the podium talking at the crowd,” Conte said.

Tickets for all three shows are on sale. A three-speaker package costs $150, and a two-speaker package costs $125. There are 30 VIP packages available for $250. The VIP package includes a ticket for a seat in the first three rows for each speaker, pre-show food and beverages and a meet-and-great with the speakers. Because of space limitations and the exclusivity of the speakers, ticket inventory is limited. Tickets are available online at or by calling 412-392-8000.

Emma Curtis is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7822, or via Twitter at @EmmaCurtisPGH.

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