Dealing with Media - For Activists

Flower Child & Zephyr (
Mon, 23 Nov 1998 08:40:45 -0700

For all of us Rainbow & HPN activists, here's good advice on
making the most of interviews and media exposure offered to us.
Forwarded incidentally from the good folks at Buy Nothing Day
(don't buy anything on this Friday, November 27th, if you're in
the U.S.A.):

-----Original Message-----
From: <>
To: <>
Date: Monday, November 23, 1998 5:14 AM
Subject: [bnd-list] For use and comment - Dealing with Madia

Dealing with the media.
The main reason for bnd is to get messages out, not just to spend
a day not
spending. Thus the media is a potentially useful tool.
However, we have a paradox in todays media. BND was created to
gain media
attention through a sort of shock value, because, apart from when
you have
vast quantities of money to run a wide ranging media campaign
which becomes
snowball-like in its collection of media coverage, the unique,
confrontational, or violent subject is the one which will make
them take
notice. Well argued ideas, debates, and serious topics are
assured media
So like them or hate them, there's a need to deal somehow with
A few tips (mainly aimed at phone interviews, live or taped):

1) Some interviewers treat the interviewee as a potential source
controversial opinion. Interviews are often set up with 'this
side vs that
side' in an adversarial approach. The interviewee then baits each
side to
get the ball rolling and the juicy quotes rolling, while
appearing as the
neutral middle person.
2) A one on one interview often puts the interviewer in a
position of
power. They ask and you answer. But there's no reason not to ask
questions too, particularly when the questions really get
obnoxious or
personal. Or just tell them its time to get back on track.
3) Some interviewers have planned how they want the interview to
go. They
want to get certain replies from you, and steer you in a
direction where they then metaphorically crucify your arguments.
In a sense
it is not an interview but a forum for the interviewers ego and
own point
of view. Your role is to provide specific answers for them.
Consider this
before each interview. If you are aware of this, you have more
chance to
take things your way rather than theirs.
4) Personal - interviewers will often try to personalise a story.
This is a
trend in all media, even most serious or documentary areas. Work
with the
issue but make it personal because viewers want that personal
angle. But
loss of the story, of the real issue is often the result. So be
on the
lookout for this personalisation when its not appropriate. Either
ask the
question back at the interviewer ("So is that what you think?"
"what do you
mean by that?") or point out to them that the question is not
for the topic and perhaps they would like to rephrase it.
5) Interviewers will also often phrase a question in a vague or
manner in order to get a different take on the subject. Often the
they are dredging for are not the ones you would give if you were
asked the
question straightforwardly and you fall into the trap they set by
them angles of attack. If you are uncomfortable with a question,
make them
ask it more precisely, or rephrase it and then give your answer.
6) If you can, treat the interviewer as an equal in terms of
about the subject (in fact you may have much more knowledge on
7) One technique of interviewers is the "drawing silence" - this
involves allowing a pause after the interviewee thinks they have
finished a
point. Most people interpret this as meaning that the listener
wants to
hear more, and they tend to fill the gap, often with rambling,
which may
reveal imprecise argument that the interviewer can grab hold of.
Don't be afraid of that silence. It is the interviewer's job not
to have
silence, so they will eventually fill it, and it will weigh on
them rather
than you - after all, it is their programme.

8) Postmodernism postulates that all information is personally
(that's a definition of mine, anyway). Statistics can be pulled
out of a
hat to support almost any argument. So try to be confident with
information. Use credible sources. Don't be drawn into issues you
unsure of. And be aware that there will always be an opposing
view (that
may be argued well or badly depending on the person presenting
9) And don't be afraid of admitting you don't know something or
consider a point(unless its your central argument!) rather that,
losing yourself in babble. Imagine listening to yourself on the
blundering through a bad argument, and try not to let it happen.

10) If you are to be interviewed on a station you don't know
well, have a
listen beforehand and get an idea of how they might angle the
subject. Get
an idea of their on-air personality to see how they might address
11) Listen in for =BC hour before you are on. Maybe the topic is
similar or a
similar argument is used (or a completely opposing one). You may
be able to
refer to this during your interview, which may help bridge some
both with the subject and the interviewer. It may bolster your
own argument.
12) Maybe you can even start with a light-hearted comment or joke
with the
interviewer - you'll become a little more human and warm to them
and their
13) Try not to rely on notes unless you are very good at reading
But cue cards with particular points written clearly can be very
helpful as
your mind blanks down during a question.
14) This stuff can be incredibly manipulative, conniving and
So much so that politicians pay lots to be trained to respond in
ways. The counter-argument is that most of us doing grassroots
have no training at all, and are liable to sound amateurish and
less well
informed when we stumble or argue limply because of nervousness.
So my
feeling is, use these ideas to help you sound confident, but
don't set out
to crucify the interviewer or outfox the audience. Rely on good
facts and

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