The Medium, the Message, and the Human on the Other End

Last week, ELI Talks released a new video unique to the catalogue. A young woman who had struggled with Tourette’s syndrome all her life told her story of being (fairly literally) ejected from the Jewish community. Finding her way back in including a little inspiration from a biblical hero, a lot of great work by one Jewish camp, and a healthy dose of improv comedy. Her talk is funny, touching, and packs a great punch.

The video hit over 10,000 views in 5 days.

YES!!! I squealed, as any self-respecting program director would. This is it! Pam’s talk is going VIRAL! WOOHOO!! It’s amazing content, it’s hitting at the right time, we’ve got a huge network of people really invested in her voice and in the cause of inclusion in the Jewish community…slam dunk. L’chaim, l’chaim!

Then I got an email from a contact at RespectAbility USA.

You have a fantastic video on inclusion in the Jewish community. But there is a big problem – the captions are wrong, which means that people with hearing impairments are getting the wrong words. Can you fix this? It’s free to do. Here’s how.

We would like to really push this video, but can’t do it when part of our community is excluded. Frankly, you should put captions on all your videos. Again, it’s free to do.

Please let us know if/when you fix these so we can push viewership of the video more.

For a moment, my heart sank. The video about inclusion was not, in itself, inclusive. Anyone who had watched it with the captions may have had no idea that Pam was talking about Tourette’s and not “to rats” (though, thank you, YouTube, for the comedic effort).

There are probably a few ways one could react to this situation, but I chose the only one that made sense to me: I sat down then and there and edited the captions on the video (it really is free and easy).

I sent a message back to RespectAbility letting them know, and they thanked me and started sharing the video.

Working in social media, it’s really easy to get caught up in the medium (the tech). But that can’t come at the cost of losing the message. They both have to go hand-in-hand for our work as do-gooders to be effective and meaningful. In this case, I had missed the mark on inclusion and needed a course correction. I’m so grateful to the team at RespectAbility for calling me out.

Our job as communicators is to remember that there’s a human on the other side of the screen. And if it’s true that every act of communication is really an act of translation, then we need to think about how our messages are getting translated (or not). Done right, our media should embody the messages we’re trying to send.

Author: Miriam Brosseau
  • Audience
  • Inclusion
  • ELI Talks
  • Video
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