The Surprising Sree

By John R. Gagain Jr.
Partner at Infinity Media

So it’s early 2012. I’m in an Ivy League looking ballroom filled to the brim with 500 eager Social Media-maniacs at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. It was Social Media Weekend. It wasn’t your average academic conference. Suddenly, the conference’s leader (named “Sree”) screams, “Everyone, everyone, we are ‘trending’ in New York!” (Note for you non-Twitterites: Sree was referring to the countless number of Twitter messages we were collectively generating with hashtag #smwknd, which garnered us the junior G-Man “trending” badge in Twitterlandia).

It was my first encounter with Sree Sreenivasan. And before I could say more, this wasn’t the only time that he would interrupt a panelist, speaker, fellow colleague, or presentation. Sree took free reign to interject, correct, or opine. Honestly, he was getting under my skin. I was annoyed. I thought to myself, I must get away from this guy. I thought this would be my last dosage of the Sree-man.

Fast forward 15 fifteen months, 3 conferences, and 100+ hours of reading later; and I can tell you, my perspective has changed. I now need my frequent dosage of Sree. All of my partners do.

What changed?

I realized that Columbia University’s Journalism Professor Sree Sreenivasan was using technology to teach the 500 journalists on-hand (not to mention, thousands more who followed the conference live on twitter and other Social Media). Sree’s interruptions were his teachings. If you don’t believe me, just ask anyone present at the conference about his whiteboard at the front of the ballroom turned 500-person sized classroom.

This past Social Media Weekend 2013, I had yet another chance to witness Sree in action. I admire his passion. He annoyingly interrupts for the benefit of the journalists and participants who share his passion for digital technology in education. If you watch closely, Sree is a dedicated professor who possesses a hunger for Social Media and technology that drives, not only journalism; but also Columbia University, under his tutelage, where he now reigns supreme as the Gran Poobah of anything “digital”, thanks to university Provost John Coatsworth conferring upon Sree the exalted title of Columbia University Chief Digital Officer in July 2012.

It wasn’t until this year’s Social Media Weekend that I stuck a video camera in Sree’s face and said, “tell me your story”. I imagine all of you fellow journalists would have liked to have done the same, or at least have been as curious as I was, as to who is this man named Sree.

Who is Sree? Where does he come from? What is his story? What is his secret? If I were to tell you: Sree is an ex Communist, turned capitalist; turned journalist, turned multilingual global citizen, “brown baby” that his father and mother could not mistaken in the maternity ward window of one of Tokyo’s finest hospitals; I wouldn’t be lying. Listen here for yourself.

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John R. Gagain Jr.

Partner at Infinity Media

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John understands the complexities of political systems and how they impact elections. He has extensive experience working with elected officials and knows what it takes to win elections. Read my full bio.
Infinity Media USA LLC

Infinity Media is a story-telling firm specializing in the creation of compelling stories and communicating them digitally with multiplatform technologies and Social Media channels.