Other media work
One of the easiest and most effective ways to help the media is to send to all newspapers and other media outlets in your area a list of experts. These are people in your area willing to be interviewed and talk about certain areas. Make sure you include their contact information, their areas of knowledge, and very brief background (one or two sentences) on each.
Public access TV is what its name implies: the public has access to give information. Activists can either make their own TV programs (we did an hour program as a TV interview in Connecticut and showed it on several local Public Access cable stations) or find videos that can be shown. For videos, see http://www.arabfilm.com but do make sure to get permission for airing from the copyright owners of the video. In fact, building a video library of things to show would be an appropriate venture. Once ready, simply locate contact information for local public access TV (found on the net or even phone books) and contact them. Having a team or a group do this is much more effective. Especially effective if local viewers work on local projects.
Get your local PBS station to air videos such as Mai Masriís excellent film "Children of Shatila" or Marty Rosenbluth's "Jerusalem: An Occupation set in stone." Go to http://www.pbs.org and hit the link for "find your station"
Keep an eye on scheduled visits of Israeli and other government officials and go to these events with banners and signs about the right of return. Media are usually there and thus you get good coverage.
Get onto the various chat groups and write about human rights. Get onto talk shows, call-ins, etc and always mention the right of return and refer people to such web sites as al-awda.org
Having recognized the value of media in influencing public opinion and eventually public policy was essential for the success of colonial Zionism in achieving the support from the West for its goals (good or bad). Similarly, a new transformation among Palestinians in diaspora and those who advocate human rights for Palestinians is taking place. However, recognizing the importance of media is not sufficient. It takes significant effort and work to make a difference. It does not take having degrees or experience in journalism. Most of these skills can be learned along the way and they do amount to basic common sense. Keys to success include being prepared, adaptability, learning from mistakes, humility, and being truthful and honest.
Strategic shifts in media strategy (but not our basic principles) must be adopted. We should be flexible and open to new ideas. Let me cite an example. As the US gets mired in the Middle East, the US people and government will start to rethink its strategy of support (diplomatically, economically, and militarily) for Israeli governmental policies and this support will become a more obvious liability to US interests. In our opinion, the support for Israel was never an asset to the US and has always caused problems and worked against US national interests. Since more and more of the US media follows Washington's line, the edicts coming from the White House and congress are faithfully reproduced in the media even when they criticize Israeli actions (to try and keep things under "control"). This opens up a window for us to capitalize on and show the hypocrisy and internal contradictions (e.g. criticizing Israel while funding it).
The irony, however, is that the very herd mentality that afflicts the media may very well play to our advantage. By this I mean simply that the US, unless it wants chaos and decades of war ahead -- in the Middle East and beyond, just has to find a solution to the conflict, and it has to do it soon. And so, as the State Dept issues harsh words against Sharon, the complying media follow suit and criticize Sharon. The important thing for us at this point is to make the most out of this, to take advantage of the space for debate that is opening up, and to inject in it a bit of rationality.
Media work is very time consuming but an essential and highly rewarding part of the grassroots activism. Besides the information provided above, general guidelines for dealing with media are available at these web pages:
Prime Time Activism - Media Strategies for Grassroots Organizing by Charlotte Ryan
South End Press $12.00, 295 pages, Copyright 1991
Media How-To Guidebook from Media Alliance, Call 415-441-4067 to order. $9.00, 95 pages, Copyright 1991 (Not sure if this is still available - good primer)
Let the World Know - Make Your Cause News by Jason Salzman from Rocky Mountain MediaWatch.
Call 303-832-7558 to order. $10.00, 74 pages, copyright 1995. This is a how-to-do-it book.
Strategic Communications for Nonprofits by Jossey-Bass Publishers Call 888-378-2537 to order.
$27.95, 188 pages, copyright 1999. A step-by-step guide to working with the media.
Living Media by Peter Wirth, GW Associates. Call 315-476-3396 $11.49 includes postage and handling, 60 minute audio cassette tape, copyright 1993, Hear from activists who traveled to Third World countries how they got their story in print on radio and TV. Journalists share what they look for in a story and how to work with them. Excellent resource for anyone working with delegations or speaking tours.
To find contact information for your media outlet, see one of these sites: