Don’t Limit Your Audience
by Chip Berlet, Holly Sklar, and Abby Scher - Z Media Institute
Use mainstream mass media as well as alternative and independent outlets to publish or broadcast your material to a growing audience. Don’t just preach to the converted. Find out submission guidelines and submit your material to mainstream newspapers, magazines (including online magazines) and other outlets. Don’t assume you’ll be rejected or that if you are rejected it is political. It may be a problem of too many people competing for the same space, not following guidelines, having bad timing, pitching to the wrong outlet, etc.
The Progressive Media Project (Madison, WI) has been very successful at distributing timely progressive op-eds over the Knight Ridder/Tribune wire service to mainstream newspapers. The Mainstream Media Project (Arcata, CA) and Alternative Radio (Boulder, CO) are greatly increasing the reach of progressive voices on commercial and noncommercial radio.
Familiarize yourself with outlets you want to pitch to. Editors at large magazines and newspapers specialize, with one handling environmental stories, another stories on the economy. Pitch your article to the right editor. Discover who that person is by looking at staff directories at the publication website or referring to a media directory like Burrelle’s or Bacon’s, which are available at many larger public libraries. For the alternative press, refer to annotations, the directory published by the Independent Press Association.
Retain the rights to your article, and syndicate it through Alternet.org or Featurewell.org. Refer to the National Writers Union’s Standard Journalism Contract and Handbook to learn how to protect your rights. Join NWU to learn how much a publication pays other NWU members, find work, and improve conditions for writers.
If your organization has breaking news, a timely report, etc. make sure people know about it. Media work doesn’t work if it’s an after-thought. Plan a media strategy with good timing, news hooks, updated press lists, press releases, regularly updated websites, etc. Don’t even think about having a press conference unless you have very hot news, and even then, other methods may be better. Promote your spokespeople to talk radio and television. Don’t concede this terrain to conservatives. For example, in 1999, the Boston-based national organization United for a Fair Economy had more than 1,000 known media hits (newspaper and magazine cites, op-eds, radio and television appearances, etc.).
Make sure web sites you run or are affiliated with are user-friendly, media-friendly, up-to-date and accessible. Make sure you are registered with major search engines and are using key words and metatags strategically.