Engaging with the media

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Engaging with the media

Summary: Robust discussion about ways to respond to hostile media questions, but … in all cases be prepared with the main points you want to make and go. Challenge of advocating for a cause instead of just talking about the most obvious aspect of your identity. May have to use that as a first step, then go where you need to go. “Give them the gift” of the story, and then move to the next place.

Trying to get into the media

  • Be short, be energetic, be on point, and get back to the journalists constantly, and work on press connections constantly.
  • What would it be like if each one of us tried to get an interview somewhere about internet misogyny, your activism.
  • What would you say? What are your three points? What’s your elevator pitch?
  • If hostile site – if you follow their questions, you lose.

Trying to get out of the media

Trying to get your cause into the media and not your personality

  • May have to play into a little bit of what the media wants from you

Getting Started

Combination of activists and media: formal journalists, bloggers, site builders, people who collaborate and build relationships with media, filmmakers, advocates, tech folks working in comms or related, etc.

  • Some overall discomfort with are we in the media, are we reporting, are we experts on issues, are we advocates/op-ed columnists.
  • How do we frame our beliefs in a way that invites outsiders to engage instead of just saying “Oh she’s a crazy feminist.”
  • How to convince journalists that online harassment/abuse is just as important to cover as offline harassment/abuse.
  • Reporting the news and/or/vs feeding them the news.

Becoming a target of the media

  • How can you turn the event of being attacked into a media presence.
  • How to get your message out there, build a brand, not just be a passive target.

Danger of elevating the voice of the outsider

(the man talking about feminist, eg) above the people inside the community

Becoming “famous”

(as a writer or a subject)

  • People say: Why aren’t you talking about that?
  • Why do things go famous?
  • Symbiotic relationship: Give something to the media and you get something for the media.
    • Too many activists – I see the world in one way, there’s injustice. When dealing with the media, remember they are under constant pressure to deliver. Deadlines coming.

Rules for dealing with media

  • Always respect a journalists’ deadline (respond to the reality. Get a reputation for being cooperative with the framework of the journalists’ job).
  • Make your points energetically and short. Speak in short-quick soundbites. Communicate absolute authority in the things you’re believing.
    • Can take media training, can practice in the mirror.
  • You have to be interesting.
    • Accept that some people will not like you. Be true to who you believe.
    • Restated: Be short, be energetic, be on point, and get back to the journalists constantly, and work on press connections constantly.
      • That last one means – just be friends and establish a relationship, and that works.
    • Help journalists out. Help them find a story.


  • Check into journalists’ backgrounds. You do not have to respond to J’s requests if they are awful people.
  • But you also have to accept that Js are not going to always write the story that you aren’t going to write. Give up some of that to a certain extent.


You can read NPRs ethics guide. Entirely open.

  • Your idea of the truth is not the media idea of the truth.
  • Js are advocating for the READER, not for the subject.

Everybody putting a mic in your face is not a journalist

  • Lots of bloggers are NOT in fact journalists and aren’t really held to those standards.
  • “Are you writing an opinion column or are you reporting on the issue” and related questions.

Media training

Js can only report what you say. EG

  • “What about the souls of the babies!” “Abortion is a right and women are dying …” You don’t have to take a question just because people ask you.

If you become the famous person, feel free to send Js to other people who you feel are better experts.

You don’t have to be the low-hanging fruit and the person who always wants to answer this.

Trying to get in the media

  • Be as targeted as possible, work a list of Js who you know will be pre-disposed. Always send information. Always be a helpful source. It will work.
  • Editors are busy and want stories.
  • Don’t send out blanket press releases.
  • Make genuine relationships with Js as possible.
  • Speed: Stories last a day, maybe two or three … be quick.
  • International: Journalists do not like translating, so do it for them (Pakistan – English and Urdu both vital)

Most journalists are not experts in their topics

You are the one who is an expert, and your responsibility is to say the right thing. I.e. they will say “baby” instead of “fetus.”

Don’t just give the facts, but give the narrative pre-packaged. Otherwise will take the same facts and will go in the wrong direction.


Need “good guests.” Doesn’t matter how good they are IRL, doesn’t matter if they are experts. You need “good guests.”

You MUST interrupt on debate shows.

Re-framing things that the media want you to talk about something while staying a good guest, catching, etc.
You can go through media training.
  • As an individual reporter, you can do diff languages.
  • Big language pieces take style guides.

Signs for when you’re being slotted into a place.

If you want to move out of a space, need to rebrand yourself.

The Need for Reporters to Discuss Personal Life

  • Difficult to avoid.
  • Find nice deflection. Be kind and friendly.
  • Recognize in some cases you’ve got to accept that the story goes through you.

COUNTER VIEW: Talking a lot about strategy. Saying be more strategic, more sneaky. Immense value of understanding the other side.

  • Don’t fall into the stereotypes.
  • Read the MRA sites, read the right-wing sites.
  • But then have to go into thoughtful, reasoned, responses to address the questions. Address, don’t ignore the question, be genuine.