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Stepping Outside our Comfort Zone to Become one of the ‘Responsibles’

Voice of San Diego's Scott Lewis stressed the importance of authenticity regardless of the source of information.
Voice of San Diego’s Scott Lewis stressed the importance of authenticity regardless of the source of information.

As a public relations professional who works with media on a daily basis, the shifting media landscape is a topic I’m well versed in discussing. But, the recent LEAD San Diego IMPACT session on contemporary media provided an eye-opening look at how this shift is proving to be both a powerful tool and a cautionary tale for our region’s leaders.

The cohort began the day discussing how organizations and thought leaders are now competing with media outlets by creating and distributing their own content rather than relying on these traditional sources to share their stories.

While the appeal of self-generated content is strong, Scott Lewis from Voice of San Diego warned this powerful medium can blur the line between objective reporting and blatant self promotion, creating serious authenticity issues. He stressed we need our information sources to be just as transparent about their motives and agendas, as we need traditional outlets to remain objective in their reporting.

A cautionary theme that served as an undertone for the day was a warning to look at how we use these different “news” sources to inform ourselves and the potential pitfalls of not taking a critical eye to the source of the information we’re absorbing.

Nathan Fletcher, senior director of corporate development at Qualcomm, cautioned it’s all too easy for us to “self select into camps that reinforce our own beliefs,” which may prevent us from understanding the big picture.

Dennis Morgigno from Cox California echoed the sentiment saying, “It is detrimental to retreat to the sources with which we philosophically agree.”

Qualcomm's Nathan Fletcher encouraged the cohort to explore beyond information that reinforces our current opinions and beliefs.
Qualcomm’s Nathan Fletcher encouraged the cohort to explore beyond information that reinforces our current opinions and beliefs.

In order to truly understand an issue, we need to look at it from all sides, not just from the perspective that makes us the most comfortable. We occasionally need to step outside our comfort zone to be sure we are adequately informed and understand the full story, not just the one we want to hear.

This notion struck a parallel for me as I begin to reflect on the LEAD San Diego IMPACT experience. For the last 10 months, LEAD San Diego has served as a catalyst for helping the IMPACT class of 2013 step outside our day-to-day lives and introduce us to the complex puzzle that is the San Diego region. We have been given the opportunity to look at our region from all sides, and while it wasn’t always comfortable and we may not have always agreed with what we heard – it forced us to view our communities from a new perspective.

From exploring social issues such as homelessness and discussing the impact of sequestration on San Diego’s military families to touring a high-security detention center, we’ve definitely explored the uncomfortable. But each of these experiences allowed us to understand the full story, not just the little microcosm of our neighborhood or professional industry, and because we’ve been able to stretch our understanding of the issues San Diego faces, we’re all better equipped to become leaders in our communities.

As one of the participants said, “We are now one of the responsibles.” We have a responsibility to share our knowledge, apply our new perspectives to the work we do in the community and encourage others to explore beyond what’s comfortable.

After working alongside this ambitious and passionate cohort for the last nine months, I have no doubt the group will happily take on the role of the “responsibles,” and then some.

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