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Working with the media

Melino Maka with Tonga Media Council on CCE July 29 2013Working with the media includes some hard tasks: If you wish to help community leaders to engage, design your own plan for representatives who want to communicate better.

Only embark on this strategy if the group involved in prepared to pursue it all the way through and then is prepared to persist and maintain the access it has achieved. If the group is not willing to commit, don’t launch the project.

Expect some groups to be ignored by mainstream media

Some groups are ignored by mainstream media, particularly when vocal community pressure groups seek to portray their activities as harmful or unhelpful in the community, notably when economic /political advantage is at stake.

Use a multi faceted strategy to gain a respected voice

Some groups must use a multi-faceted strategy to overcome the hurdles they face in gaining a respected voice in community affairs, by working with and through the media.

Use carrot and stick approach

In other words, groups need to use both a carrot (pro-active approach, including providing well-researched and well-written articles, and ensuring they always have accessible spokespeople) and stick approach (utilising media law and regulations, due process and various administrative options).

Be consistent and persistent

The underlying rule, if they want to achieve a breakthrough and become an accepted media source of information and comment, is that they must be consistent, persistent, unrelenting and unbending.

Are the media uninformed about how you live and work

Media often are unaware of the structure and leadership of some groups, unaware of how to approach it, contact it or even what response they will get.

Take the initiative – and persist over a long time

The group will have to take the initiative if it wants to gain media exposure and acceptance – and persist over a long period of time.

Address the full range of issues

It must ensure it addresses and responds to the full range of issues affecting its interests; in other words taking up and responding to:

  • national and local news stories in all forms of media;
  • national and local feature articles that impinge on its interests;
  • even respond to letters to the editor and radio talkback; and
  • if your interests are affected by the outside world, take your message to relevant international media

Engage with editors and media managers as necessary

The group must also, as necessary, engage with media managers, editors, owners to ensure its point of view is both heard and properly represented.

Understand the media

Concerned groups must engage on the basis of understanding the media, its interests and requirements, the laws that governs its actions, the requirements imposed on it by law and regulation for balance, fairness and timeliness. It must also use the (well disguised) iron fist in velvet glove – but only when essential.

Prepare for building relationships

Only by understanding the interests and processes of the media, and understanding how to use the operating rules that control them, and by persistently applying them, will a group build a working relationship that allows it to have its views, perspectives and point of view properly reflected in the media.

Do nothing – and the majority culture will prevail

The alternative? Don’t start the hard process of change.

The result of not starting the hard process of change – it will be the current media mix, reflecting as it does the majority culture and virtually nothing else.

Negative stories plague minorities

An analysis of non-majority news coverage in media will show that groups usually only appear in negative stories and almost never in “oped” pages. An OpEd, or opinion/editorial – a newspaper article opposite the editorial page – is an article in which the author states their opinion. It may consist of a position, some evidence, and a call to action.

Working with the media is a briefing by journalist Anthony Haas, based on the experience of members of the New Zealand Parliamentary Press Gallery and advocacy groups, prepared for the 2013-2014 Pacific Islands Citizenship Education Capacity Building Programme

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