As a part of the SUSI 2012 New Media (student exchange program for student leaders from South Asian countries) group at University of Oklahoma, I have enjoyed the pleasures of meeting a range of remarkable people. Each person left us with food for thought, and impressed on us the need for youngsters to be focused on goals greater than winning fistfights at parties gone wild.
Growing up, I believed success was synonymous with fame. Life lived up to its promise of being the best teacher, and I learnt there are things more important than being splashed across the cover pages of international power magazines. Our session with Carlos Toledo, News Director at Telemundo Oklahoma, and Kevin Perry, General Sales Manager of a range of legacy media channels, proved that true once again.
Carlos Toledo is currently the News Director of Telemundo / Accion Oklahoma, and prides himself in being a person who doesn’t allow the journalistic standards of his channel to be tampered with by any person or ideology. The channel caters to the needs of the Hispanic community in Oklahoma (and other regions in Central America) and is deemed to be the kingpin in its niche.
In his witty discourse, Carlos informed us that their 13-member news room shoulders the responsibility of being the major source of information for the Hispanic community in the region. Even more so when tornadoes strike as “tornado” is the only word a significant percentage of the Spanish-speaking population can make out from English news channels.
Armed with the findings of census.gov regarding news consumption trends among Hispanics, Telemundo reaches out to a community that otherwise finds itself alienated by mainstream English media. His Facebook and Twitter profiles are well known among Hispanic audiences and he claims to receive feedback and critique every so often through these channels.
Kevin Perry is a man whose list of associations would exhaust a post-it. He is responsible for the fusion of quality media production with generating an inflow of funds for more than 10 radio stations across Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Lawton, besides The Black Chronicle.
His animated talk covered the business of media, the challenges faced in landing commercial contracts due to existing latent racial discrimination, the importance of being fair and emphasizing the importance of regarding a media platform more as a business than an avenue for indulging in your passion.
Both these men exuded strong personalities with great character. Even though they are champions of their communities who strive to provide their people with the information they need, they were not clouded by ethnocentrism. The divide between justice and injustice would not differentiate between “us” and “them”. A Hispanic or African-American miscreant would not be exempted from condemnation.
Kevin also voiced out concerns that he thinks legacy media would phase out due to the technological advancements being made, and the need to be on your toes to survive in the industry. This concern is not shared by us South Asian students as legacy media is still a growing industry and new media would have to wait for technological reach to expand in our nations.
“Information is power,” said Carlos time and again, focusing on the need to provide accurate, unbiased information.
Carlos and Kevin shared with us the ways in which they use social media to receive feedback from their viewers / listeners and use the same to enhance the relevance and quality of their programs.
Every nation faces cultural diversity challenges in the field of media. The glitz of mainstream media is too lustrous to ignore, but it is for us to decide as to how we wish to employ our skills. Being the lighthouse by untried waters by pioneering quality media houses within your community is a leadership challenge that should be taken up. It is your definition of success that makes the difference.