It’s not often that I get to interview anyone from mainstream media, let alone the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing officer of CNN Worldwide.
I lucked out: I was asked to moderate a panel on Jews and pop-culture for Limmud Southeast, a one-day conference of the finest Jewish minds that the Atlanta Jews could find. I found myself sitting next to Scot, asking questions about the media, the “cool Jew” phenomenon, Jewish super heroes and the merits of Sarah Silverman. The guy didn’t flinch: he has a kind, chill hippie vibe that blends with his “People of the Book” scholarly persona.
So I yanked a business card and emailed Scot for an interview. Expecting, “nice try kid, go play Guitar Hero with your friends,” Scot set up a time for us to talk. Finally, a chance for me to learn all about the inner working of the Jewish media mafia!
Scot’s the first Jew I’ve ever met who didn’t complain about his childhood. “If…you were lucky to grow up culturally Jewish, you are already somebody who is curious and focused on what is going on in the world. That’s a huge advantage for success.” It’s that cultural “predisposition” toward “the sense of curiosity, love of reading and writing, art and media” that lead Scot to a career working with journalists. Scot recalled being a kid in an environment that pushed him to be very aware of the world around him, to have an “appreciation for media and all forms of art.” It’s all about family, because “Jews enjoy and get a kick out of their families and community…its just how lively the conversation is and the thinking is.”
Safon joined CNN in 2002. His marketing and promotions teams launched successful campaigns for The Situation Room, Anderson Cooper 360°, the re-launch of CNN.com and CNN’s continuing election coverage. Before that, Safon was in charge of marketing for TNT, where he developed and ran campaigns supporting the network’s signature original films and miniseries including George Wallace, Door to Door, James Dean, Pirates of Silicon Valley and Gettysburg.
Scot Safon appears zen-like, in person and on the phone. But this masks a Jewish sense of anxiety that fuels his passion. In the Jewish community, “an artfully formed question can get you praise. I’m surrounded by that every day…journalists are like that. It’s not the kind of field that draws people who want [to be] quiet, peaceful, contemplative.”
For Scot, it’s all about being, “very in touch with the things that you enjoy. Don’t feel that you have to follow a specific path.” I like it when successful people say things like that, because in a bad economy and with college students committing suicide over their loan payments, it’s nice to know that all it takes to be successful is passion and endurance.
I asked Scot for his thoughts on the young Jewish media a la Heeb, Jewcy and…ahem…PunkTorah. Scot is, “thrilled with some of the audacity. If my parents had seen such a thing they wouldn’t know what to make of it.” Scot commented that he happens to love “all media that is geared toward passionate people…seeing that highly targeted, insider voice.” I got a kick out of Scott saying, “if I was a kid in high school, I would be curious about PunkTorah.”
Success! And as an epilogue to this interview, the Facebook reluctant Scot friended me yesterday.
Interested in what CNN has to say about PunkTorah? Click here.