Professor Sree Sreenivasan, the School of Journalism’s Marshall R. Loeb Visiting Professor of Digital Innovation. Sreenivasan kicked off the first virtual “My Life As” speaker series on Sept. 16.  RABIA GURSOY/STATESMAN FILE

Professor Sree Sreenivasan kicked off the School of Journalism’s Fall 2020 virtual “My Life As” Speaker Series with the first ever Marshall R. Loeb lecture, “What Comes Next? Lessons on Digital Innovation Six Months into the Pandemic” on Sept. 16.  

This lecture and visiting professorship in digital innovation and audience engagement was made possible thanks to the support and sponsorship of Marshall Loeb’s children, Michael and Margaret Loeb. Sreenivasan spoke about our evolving digital world to several Stony Brook faculty, students and alumni who tuned in to the event, which was live streamed on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. People attended the stream from places all over the world, including Vienna and Hong Kong.

While the original Marie Colvin lecture series features journalists who have reported internationally, the Marshall R. Loeb lecture is in partnership with Loeb Enterprises.Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis welcomed viewers and discussed how Stony Brook’s School of Journalism is dedicated to “pushing beyond the status quo” to better understand the complexities of the world.

“This incredible gift from Margaret and Michael Loeb will further enable the School of Journalism to realize its goals of promoting groundbreaking news, communication with integrity, and innovation in the world of journalism,” McInnis said.

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Sreenivasan is currently the School of Journalism’s Marshall R. Loeb Visiting Professor of Digital Innovation, former Chief Digital Officer of New York City and an expert on social media and technology. Since March, Sreenivasan has hosted a live streamed daily show on YouTube called “Sree’s Daily, Global Show,” where he discusses health, economy and race with various newsmakers, including experts who talked about COVID-19. 

The beginning portion of the event paid tribute to Marshall R. Loeb, an influential business journalist who worked as a managing editor for both Fortune and Money Magazine. As described by Sreenivasan, Marshall Loeb was “one of the most influential magazine editors in the industry.” 

Michael Loeb spoke of his father and his impact on the journalism world during an interview with Sreenivasan during the lecture. “My dad was ahead of his time when it came to being a journalist,” he said. “He loved his craft and he loved informing people.”

Throughout his lecture, Sreenivasan discussed the wisdom he has gained during the pandemic about both Stony Brook University and journalism. Some of the lessons he shared were about how online platforms have shifted the media landscape, including how the element of time has changed.

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“Time has slowed down dramatically and expanded dramatically,” he said. “I like to say 15 minutes in an online conversation feels like 25 or 30 minutes.”

With this information in mind, he advised the audience to keep things tight and simple to ensure you keep the attention of others.

Sreenivasan also talked about how everything and nothing has changed, explaining that while so many aspects of our lives have changed, we also learned we are set in our ways.

Another lesson Sreenivasan reviewed was about innovation. He displayed a slide which featured different Bitmojis, or customized cartoon versions of people, in order to show how companies have been using modernization to become active and to participate in recent events. The Bitmojis have been used to bring awareness to certain social issues, such as promoting people to wear their masks and socially distance in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sreenivasan stressed that he has seen both people and organizations be resistant to the changing digital landscape — and suffer because of it. He said that people need to innovate, otherwise they will not be ready when the next unpredicted change in society occurs, and consequently will fall behind with the times.

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Sreenivasan discussed how social media, a huge aspect of digital innovation and a great way to connect with one another, is also “killing us” through the circulation of misinformation.

“The amount of disinformation that is being spread everyday is painful to watch,” he said.

Sreenivasan reflected on how the presentation went and was thankful for the responses both in real-time and during playback.

“It gave me an opportunity to share lessons from in-depth interviews with more than 350 experts in various subjects this summer,” Sreenivasan said in an interview with The Statesman.

Stony Brook University students found his lecture motivating and eye-opening.

Sarah Beckford, a junior journalism major, thought that the lecture was refreshing and found his quote, “Your life is not your bio”, most interesting.

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“I find it so inspiring how he was able to adapt and create really meaningful, educational content through his shows and bring people together through his social platforms,” she said. 

Jamaira Saraguard, a junior journalism major, found the professor’s lessons to be captivating.

“Sreenivasan’s lessons have brought a great awakening in how the digital world is helping and hurting us at the same time,” she said. “I never thought about how the pandemic has impacted digital innovation on such a large scale.”

According to the University, the next “My Life As” lecture will be hosted virtually by Michael D’Antonio, a CNN commentator and presidential biographer, on Oct. 21.

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