Connecting through Storytelling
Over the course of 13 years as CEO of PBS Hawaiʻi, I’ve had ample opportunity to experience something very delightful about our viewers:
Many of them are every bit as compelling in communicating as our professional storytellers.
Good storytellers know their audience. They know how to connect with emotion and imagination. I think that’s why many of our programs evoke strong responses; and it’s why our viewers’ letters “get” to us.
In correspondence, some of our viewers relate family stories passed down through the generations, describing intimate conversations at pivotal times of history, such as the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, the Pearl Harbor attack and closely fought elections.
It’s a wonderful exchange – viewers writing to amplify something they saw in one of our programs, or to add context, or to riff on a related thought. Often they’re telling of their own experience, after a story that aired on PBS Hawaiʻi has struck a chord in their life.
Responding to PBS NewsHour coverage of the crackdown on immigrants seeking shelter and work in the U.S., a Honolulu viewer wrote that more immigrants should be welcomed: “My grandfather, who came from Japan, worked from morning to night for three dollars a day. I am third generation and educated … I will not work at a job where I get dirty. I will not work at a job where I get smelly. I will not work at a job that requires me to carry more than five pounds. I am a typical third-generation immigrant.”
Another viewer reached out after seeing the American Experience episode about the Pacific search for Amelia Earhart. Just as if she were having an in-person conversation, she noted that the investigation didn’t seem to include the hypothesis that the ocean had swallowed all trace of evidence.
“I think that is really what happened,” she wrote. “But empirical research is never really satisfied with a ‘nothing’ outcome. There has to be something ‘real.’ And more importantly, there has to be ‘closure,’ which may not be true.”
As author Annette Simmons said, “Story gives people enough space to think for themselves. The story develops and grows in the mind of the listener …”
We’re all the richer for connecting through storytelling.