When Parents Lead, Children Succeed

Media Tells the Story, the Audience Parses the Meaning

Media Tells the Story, the Audience Parses the Meaning

Hosted By:
Elane V. Scott
Featured Guest:
Alexander Singer

Dear Stakeholder Leaders,

It’s easy, and quite common, in today's popular media roundtables and forum discussions to sit in judgment of how other leaders and professionals perform their work. But how often do we look inward to evaluate our own work?

On today’s program I talk with Emmy-winning director Alex Singer, who does just that. Discussing the media’s role as a major purveyor of culture and its significant educational impact, he speaks from personal experience as a director of some 300 episodes of one of the most popular, culture changing television series of all time, STAR TREK. What is the media’s responsibility to the public, if any? What are its opportunities? What was his role as director?

At the consumer level, how much is the public responsible for understanding how the media works before watching a TV program, going to a film or picking up a magazine? Before going to the doctor, we have a basic understanding of the doctor’s background – higher education, on-the-job training, perhaps we’ve researched specifics of his or her schooling and specialty training. But how much did you know about the director of the last movie you saw? Or the product placement terms he agreed to in order to finance the film? Or of the special lighting, shadowing, and airbrushing that went into making the cover model look flawless in the last fashion magazine you read? The ability to understand the motivations behind media creation, along with being able to discern the elements of its composition, is the basis of media literacy. It is also of concern to Alex, after so many years in the entertainment industry.

The benefits of being media literate are applicable to all areas of life and work. Within every economic sector there are leaders-vision holders-with their own motivations and bases for decision making that are relevant for followers and peer sector leaders to understand about one another. For example, media industry moguls may keep quiet on how much money a production costs, but the results of their decisions are evident for millions to view, or turn on, or buy. Have you seen a blockbuster movie lately? In contrast, on the political scene politicians use the media to distribute very tightly crafted messages designed to reveal a laser sharp message intended to move an audience immediately. Businesses put millions and millions of dollars into advertising that harnesses the power of how the brain works to absorb information, bypass natural resistance to input, and react differently. This isn't a criticism of those actions, but a further confirmation of how important it is to know more about the power of communication that comes to us electronically or on film, as individual consumers. For Mr. Singer it became overwhelmingly clear that young people who learn to apply critical thinking skills to what they see, hear, and read in the media, become better leaders throughout their lives, as critical thinking skills are regularly put to the test.

Not only can we learn from Mr. Singer’s insights about media literacy, we can also learn about the importance of human interaction and collaboration for success. Mr. Singer’s success as a director, and ultimately the success of his TV shows and movies, hinged upon his ability to work collaboratively with other people in a complex, everchanging environment. You can’t create a successful film over email, phone, fax, or webex, you must do it by simply spending many hours with other people working side by side to achieve a goal.

Often in our communities, the government or other sectors of society are the targets for answers to fix problems for us. But the large issues of today, whether they are economic, environmental, or workforce related, tend to all have global variables and an immense web of interdependence between sectors. The only way that the communities of our country can tackle the issues they face, is by coming together to work collaboratively for the long haul, just like Mr. Singer has done throughout his career.

Elane V. Scott