Dealing with media muggings
As part of Faith Connection’s Media Month, Joe Sinasac and Sara Loftson held a workshop and discussion on dealing with media on May 29, 2007 at the Pastoral Center on 1155 Yonge Street. Joe is editor of The Catholic Register and Sara is the paper’s youth editor.
Joe outlined how certain stories can be reported factually and then gradually, if they push peoples’ hot buttons, these stories get picked up by others and turned into opinion pieces that can distort the facts. Also, headlines can twist a story and send out a more inflammatory message than the story calls for.
Reporters can get the story right, for example World Youth Day was covered very well. When they get it wrong, it can be for many reasons: the tight deadlines which sometimes prevent careful background preparation, the complication of the issues, the drive to keep stories simple and the temptation to highlight the conflict or the personalities involved.
Using the new media
Sara explored the ways people can be heard on the web. She demonstrated how comments can be sent in to, say, CBC, and showed how many comments were logged following one particular story on infertility. She shared her own story of voicing her opinion on radio and how empowering that felt.
Both she and Joe encouraged participants to get involved with both the new and old media: that both ways had an impact and would be heard by many people. Joe encouraged participants to read and see more media, to advocate – taking part in polls, discussions and talk shows, to call reporters, to set up editorial board meetings, and write opinion articles for the op ed page (app. 800 words) on timely issues.
Letters to the editor
Joe then encouraged participants to send in letters to the editor. In a handout, Joe wrote, “Every publication has a section for readers and takes very seriously the letters it receives. They know letters are one of the best read parts of the publication and they spend considerable attention on them.”
He indicated that letters represent the one place in the publication where a reader can get his/her views across relatively uncensored. But the competition is stiff: newspapers like the Globe and the Star receive over 300 letters a day and select only the most relevant.
Here are Joe’s tips for getting your letter published:
- Keep the letter short: no more than 200 or 250 words, and less than that is even better.
- Start by referencing the article/commentary/subject you are responding to, including date and headline. Keep sentences short – be direct.
- Include name, title, postal address and contact information such as phone number and e-mail. The phone number is important because the paper will call and confirm you really wrote this letter.
- E-mail to the address provided in the publication or on its web site.
- The sooner you respond to an article, the better. If you wait too long, your letter will be bypassed in favour of more current topics.
- Keep your language civil and nonthreatening. Refrain from cheap shots and insults. Facts work best.