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Become Your Own RNC Media Outreach Team!

by kate perkins, NYC Indymedia Sunday, Aug. 29, 2004 at 7:54 AM

Traveling to New York for the RNC protests? Want the public to find out what's really happening in the streets and why people are out there? Become your own media outreach team. Here's how you do it. *Call your local paper. It’s best if you call in the morning before the late afternoon deadline crunch setsnin. If you’ve already sent a concise, well-written fax the night before, all the better.

Traveling to New York for the RNC protests? Want the public to find out what's really happening in the streets and why people are out there? Become your own media outreach team.

The RNC is going to be a major news story over the next week for media outlets across the country. Your local newspaper/radio station/television station will tend to follow the story line put out by leading national media (NY Times, AP, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, Fox, Time, Newsweek). However, at the same time, local media are often looking for the “hometown” angle to a big national story. This is important terrain inside the corporate media system that shouldn't go uncontested. But because most reporters are overworked and/or not inclined to think outside of the box, you need to take the initiative. Here’s how to do it:

*Call your local paper. It’s best if you call in the morning before the late afternoon deadline crunch setsnin. If you’ve already sent a concise, well-written fax the night before, all the better.

*Ask for the person who is in charge of news assignments. The titles vary—managing editor, assignments editor, news editor. In a small town, one or two people are often responsible for the whole news department. A larger urban newspaper will have a more extensive bureaucracy.

*Inquire about the paper’s plans for covering the RNC. If they don’t seem very interested, remind them (politely—haranguing won’t get you anywhere) that this is going to be one of the largest protests in recent U.S. history and that you and your friends will be right in the middle of it.

*Note: it’s also best to contact radio and TV stations in the morning as this is when the main assignment editor will be coming into work.

*If the editor you are speaking seems interested, then be ready to suggest story angles, one of her/his reporters could follow up on. If you're embarking with a group to travel to New York, that in itself could be a story for smaller papers. If you’re group represents a diverse cross-section of your community all the better. The mainstream press is wary of giving too much coverage to the attention-getting “antics” of “fringe radicals” but will show more interest when people other than the “usual suspects” are attending protests in large numbers. Another theme to emphasize is how Bush’s policies have hurt you and your fellow protesters (i.e. why you care) as well as your community in general. Avoid activist jargon. Imagine you are sitting across the breakfast table from someone who’s busy, who’s not intensely familiar with all the issues but would like to know a little bit more. Be concise and speak to people’s everyday lives.For example, if you are talking about the war in Iraq, tie it back to the 0 billion in wasted money that could have been spent on meeting people's needs as well as the thousands of lives that have been destroyed by Bush’s actions.

*Stay on message. Avoid long, meandering answers. The reporter won’t use all of it anyway and the part they do use may not represent what you were trying to say. If you are asked a leading question (such as, “what about reports of expected violent protests?”), turn back the other way (“it’s the police who are responsible for the overwhelming amount of violence at protests. We are deeply concerned that the police in New York won’t respect our freedom of speech and our freedom to peaceably assemble.”)

*Offer your cell phone number so you can be reached during RNC week. Likewise, don’t be shy about calling back during the convention week if you have been in the middle of events that are already sharing lots of press coverage. Radio stations love “on-the-spot” sound. If you can get a local station interested in the story, then your calls from the street could be highly attractive to them. Just remember to speak concisely as they may only use a single soundbite.

*Do a follow-up presentation in your hometown after the RNC is over. If the RNC turns out to be a highly controversial event, you might get some media coverage, though interest will taper off rapidly after the convention is over.

Good Luck!

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