Tell Your Story Part 1
(Mainstream Media)

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Every public action or event needs media of some kind to succeed. That may look like working with existing press or it might mean making your own media. People need to know why you’re taking action and what you’re asking for. Having good messaging, active communications infrastructure, and ongoing press ties are essential for movements to grow. This episode explores the concept of the Spectrum of Allies and includes tips on handling the mainstream media.

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RebelSteps is a member of the Channel Zero Network. Head over to channelzeronetwork.com for more anarchist podcasts.

Please consider supporting us on Patreon! Get in touch with questions or comments at hello@rebelsteps.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Matthew is part of the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council and the Emergency Committee for Rojava.

Learn more about the spectrum of allies at Beautiful Trouble.

See Jean Swason hit the 4% increase pinata as part of the COPE campaign, featured in the article “Tenants fear ‘renovictions’ coming to Mount Pleasant building listed for $10.5 million” on VancouverIsAwesome.com

Read CrimethInc’s guide to avoiding pitfalls when talking to the press.

Check out It’s Going Down’s “How To Talk To The Media, If You Must” for more tips on dealing with the mainstream press.

Read Larry Kramer’s New York Times editorial “The F.D.A.'s Callous Response to AIDS,” published on the eve of the first ACT UP demo.

Watch footage from NBC about ACT UP.

Watch the documentary How to Survive a Plague.

Learn more about ACT UP’s design work in the article “How AIDS Was Branded: Looking Back at ACT UP Design” by Steven Heller in the Atlantic.

Read about the successful United Students Against Sweatshops campaign against Russell Athletics in the article “Labor Fight Ends in Win for Students” by Steven Greenhouse in the New York Times.

See examples of some of the press the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council has received on their wiki.

Check out the books quoted in this episode! Direct Action by David Graeber, Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit, and Hegemony How To by Jonathan Smucker.

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Welcome to Rebelsteps. I’m your host, Liz.

Every public action or event needs media of some kind to succeed. That may look like working with existing press or it might mean making your own media. People need to know why you’re taking action and what you’re asking for. Having good messaging, active communications infrastructure, and ongoing press ties are essential for movements to grow.

And while media and press are by no means the entire picture, telling your story has to be a part of any good strategy. Rebecca Solnit in her introduction to Hope In the Dark writes, “Changing the story isn’t enough in itself, but it has often been foundational to real changes. Making an injury visible and public is often the first step in remedying it, and political change often follows culture, as what was long tolerated is seen to be intolerable, or what was over- looked becomes obvious. Which means that every conflict is in part a battle over the story we tell, or who tells and who is heard.” She goes on to quote James Baldwin, who said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

First, let’s talk about your audience. Whether you’re making your own media or talking to the press, it helps to be intentional about who you’re trying to reach.

There’s not a right or wrong answer to who your audience is. It will change depending on what group you’re working with, what particular actions you’re working on, and how the group is evolving.

One framework for picking your audience is the spectrum of allies. The spectrum of allies consists of 5 categories, Active Allies, Passive Allies, Neutral , Passive Opposition, and Active Opposition.

As an organizer, one of the first groups to look at is the passive allies. These are people who agree, but haven’t gotten involved yet. They are the group most likely to respond to an invitation from an organizer.

A good example of this tool in action comes from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC in 1964. They discovered that they had many passive allies who were college students in the North, and organized around mobilizing those allies. They invited these students into the movement by bussing them into to Mississippi for Freedom Summer. These students had switched from passive to active allies thanks to the organizers. These students went on to write home about what they were seeing and experiencing, moving their friends and families from neutral to passive or active allies as well.

Making an intentional choice about audience will affect everything about your messaging, from graphics and word choice to the medium.

This is a two part episode. First, I’ll be covering working with the mainstream press, which is the best way to reach neutral people or even passive opponents. I’ll explore movement media in the second part of this episode. My discussion on movement media will focus on active and passive allies.

Matthew: Hi I’m Matthew

Matthew spoke about decision making in the last episode. Press & media is one of his focuses.

Matthew: Press is important for organizing primarily because it’s your mouth piece to the wider world. Say you do a direct action, some type of event, press is where you can contextualize it, give a message to it, and frame it with your own narrative. It’s especially important if you’re doing something conflictual, something topical, something that’s the subject of a lot of debate or contention. Press is really a place for a political voice.

The framing and contextualizing it where the Spectrum of Allies tool can be especially helpful. But before you get to that part, you have a couple hurdles ahead of you.

The first hurdle is getting coverage.

Matthew: Getting press coverage tactically is complicated and really depends on what type of action you’re doing and what exactly you’re trying to influence or communicate. For mass events and things that you want to reach major media, or that major topics of conversation nationally or internationally, it’s important to be professional, send press releases, tip journalists, and do all the conventional things that a classic organization, NGO, or business would do if they’re launching a campaign.

Creating an engaging event is a common way to get coverage.

Matthew: You wanna make sure you always have a hook for your press release and there’s a concrete event. It’s not just an opinion or an essay that you might send to movement media or something. There should be something happening, a rally, a direct action, a speech, a screening, anything that seems relevant and that’s happening at a particular time and place. They can frame the subject that you’re talking about.

When planning an event for press coverage, you want to convey your goals and vision in a way that makes it interesting to cover. When I was in college, this often took the form of going to the University President’s office. Once, we delivered 100 balloons to his office. These balloons symbolized workers who were fired during unionization efforts at a Russell Athletics factory in Honduras.

Background: [Activists chant “What’s disgusting, union busting, what’s outrageous, sweatshop wages”]

The visual of the balloons got us on the front page of our school newspaper. This action was part of a larger campaign across many campuses that supported the workers in successfully unionizing the factory.

That same tactic can be used to get coverage in any context.

Shawn: I cohost the Srsly Wrong podcast, which is a utopian comedy podcast, and I was also the campaign manager for the municipal campaign COPE in Vancouver is 2018. We successfully elected 4 out of 7 eco-socialists for city council, school board, and park board in Vancouver.

Shawn also harnessed creativity to create an exciting and interesting hook.

Shawn: One of the things that I really love doing in leftist coverage for press coverage is like the creation of spectacle and using comedy and novelty to sell your narrative and get media attention with it. One really, really good example of this was this stunt we did for the COPE campaign with Jean Swanson in 2018. It was a municipal campaign and the provincial government announced they were raising the allowable rent increase, so we have rent control in BC, to 4.5% from one year to the next. And the cost of living in Vancouver is already so extreme. We were running on a rent freeze. That is no rent increases for 4 years. So we constructed this piñata that was 4.5% for the rent increase and made a red bat for Jean Swanson. So Jean Swanson’s like an octogenarian social activist who’s an anti-poverty activist. And she’s unbelievably awesome. So we got this bat, painted it red, painted the words rent freeze on it, and then had Jean Swanson smash the 4.5% increase for TV cameras.

Background: [Activists chant “Rent Freeze Now.” There’s a sound of a piñata bursting, the crowd cheers and someone shouts “Tenant Power.”]

Shawn: When the piñata got smashed, I was like, we were crying laughing. It was just so ridiculous, it was incredible. Got a lot of media coverage on it for the campaign, for the issue of the cost of rent in Vancouver, and actually, not entirely because of this but at least partially because of this, a week later, the BC provincial government announced they lowering the max increase for 4.5% to 2%. And I think part of it was that our event was so funny, I like couldn’t stop laughing. It was the most joyful political press conference I’ve ever been to in my life.

Once you’ve figured out the hook, you’ll need to write a press release.

Matthew has lots of insight on this. Here are some top tips to consider.

Matthew: Frame your arguments, if you’re speaking to mass media, in journalistic language. Be professional. Even attacks and insinuations, you should present in a calm and neutral way. Rather than saying a particular policy is evil and destructive and horrific, you might just say “this repressive policy is doing incredible damage to x, y, and z community.” Keeping a certain tone is important. You always wanna have multiple forms of contact when you send something out, and make sure you can be reached by phone or email. Another tiny tip, if you’re ever contacting someone or sending a press release, you should always include a quote. It’s sort of a journalistic maxim to include like the man on street quote on whatever event they’re reporting on, and, if you provide it for them, it saves them time. And they don’t necessarily have to do an interview. Whatever the ethics or wisdom of that are, it will make you much more likely to actually get play. And journalists are much more likely to reprint quotes than they are to reprint your analysis or argumentation.

The timing of the press release is also crucial, so being prepared a few days ahead can be helpful.

Matthew: Friday is a dead press day. And it’s generally considered universally bad to send out press releases or announcements on a Friday or a weekend. Most people advise to contact journalists and send out tips and releases around 9am when journalists are getting to their desks, opening their inboxes, and looking through the mountains of tips and press releases they’ve gotten for the day and deciding what they might write about that afternoon. So 9 to noon is really a window that you usually wanna contact someone. You wanna make sure you give at least 24 hours if not 2-3 days for any kind of event so there’s time to follow up.

Once your press release is out, hopefully you’ll start getting some calls from the press. For me, dealing with the press can be intimidating. Most of us have seen the media misrepresent movements. And we all know it can be nerve racking to speak in public. There are good reasons to be cautious. Journalists can often ask leading questions to try to get you off message or to bait you into saying something that fits their narrative. But with some intentionality and practice, you can be prepared for even the toughest journalist.

The primary thing to remember is only say what you want to say. Here’s Matthew.

Matthew: When you’re interacting with the press, it’s not so dissimilar from being interrogated or interacting with the police. You find yourself in a situation where you’re in conversation and it’s extremely awkward to break conversational flow and shut down communication with someone, no matter who they are. And so you quickly find yourself responding to things and reacting in ways that you didn’t intend to. So it’s really important to go in with an idea of what you want to say, what the possible pitfalls might be. For example, I’ve been doing a lot of press work with MACC, the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council, and there was a great deal of interest in antifa and anti-fascist work. And of course, we knew going in to almost interview and press request, that the focus of that was going to be street violence, ski masks, black bloc, huge emphasis on spectacular violence.

News Reporter 1: “Dressed in black and ready to fight, this is what the world sees of the antifa.”

News Reporter 2: “It’s 6am in Portland, Oregon, and we’re headed to a bar with blacked out windows. We’re meeting members of the Rose City Antifa, short for anti-fascist.”

News Reporter 3: “In their midst was a sometimes very violent group of protesters that call themselves Antifa, known to not only clash with bigots, but also sometimes with police and occasionally store fronts.”

Matthew: And so we always had to be prepared for this question, like “Isn’t antifa just as violent as the far right?” or “What do you believe about the use of violence?” And when you know going into a situation, it’s obviously much easier. You can prepare for those questions, and you can either have a statement prepared or an idea of how you’d like to respond. But it’s also important to remember, you don’t have to respond at all. It’s totally okay to go silent. It’s totally okay to respond to a question they didn’t ask you. And it’s totally okay to break the rhythm of the conversation. One of the miraculous things about press is they’re only allowed to print what you say. They aren’t allowed to print insinuations or their own kind of opinions about the framing of the situation. So if you don’t respond, they can’t write about it. And that’s a very simple tactic to avoid stepping on topics or issues that you didn’t want to speak about, or that distract from why you’re really there.

Shawn also has some tips on how to stay on topic.

Shawn: So it could be criticized as maybe overly robotic or inauthentic, but I’m big fan of pivoting to what you actually want to talk about and ignoring the question, as at least partially. You should be going into an interview with an idea of the message that you wanna bring to the public. And your job in the interview is to bring that message to the pubic at all costs. So a really effective way to do that is to pivot. You can do something like briefly make a statement to acknowledge the question you’ve received. Like “I don’t think that’s important to the people of Vancouver.” Pause, so when they look for a clean clip, the clean clip is gonna be your message. And then, say your message. “I don’t think the people of Vancouver really care about that.” Pause… “We need to reorganize society into a directly democratic commune of communes.” Give the media no clean clips except for the clip where you’re saying exactly what you want people to hear.

This can not be stressed enough! Anything you say can be taken out of context and misrepresented. So prepare for the media to try and trip you up.

One way my friends and I have prepared for this is just by practicing. We organized a handful of events we called “Words With Comrades.” We billed it as an evening of communication training meets a salon meets debate club. Throughout the evening, we performed interviews with one of us posing as a stubbornly unsympathetic journalist and one of us trying to answer the questions. We also experimented with practicing conversations with people across the spectrum of allies. It was a fun way to think through what it might be like to be in the hot seat.

I have one other note on interviews. It’s always a good idea to check in with yourself and make sure that you feel now is a good time for you to give an interview.

In David Graeber’s book Direct Action, he gives an interview in Quebec City during protests against the 3rd Summit of the Americas. He’s just come off the streets into coffee shop after experiencing excessive tear gas and navigating a hailstorm of rubber bullets. A reporter asks him a question about surveys that show widespread support for so-called “Free Trade.” After trying to gather his thoughts for a moment, he comes to a realization. He writes “It also strikes me that at least now I understand why it is that anti-globalization protesters interviewed on television almost invariably look like blithering idiots. I’m normally a pretty articulate guy. In fact, one could say that, as a professor, being able to sound intelligent—even, to provide glib responses to unexpected [questions]—is kind of what I do for a living.” He wonders how anyone is supposed to give an interview under the intense conditions of a protest.

Giving an interview can be difficult even under normal circumstances. So if you haven’t prepared, or if you’re just having a difficult week for whatever reason, it may be a good time to pass an interview opportunity to someone else.

Another way to avoid getting stuck in a bad press situation is to do research before hand and to make sure the expectations are clear.

Matthew: So another way to avoid pitfalls in general when speaking to the media is to do your homework and be prepared. Research the journalist you’re talking to. Know what kind of material they write. You’re totally within your rights to speak to them before a formal interview or sending a formal quote, asking to talk off the record about what their story’s about, who’ve they been talking to, the general framework of the piece, and that’s a normal practice, and one that almost any professional journalist will afford you. And it’s wise to do that. Large institutions like CNN will do things like production meetings, especially for video media, where you’ll meet beforehand and talk about the angle of a particular piece, what they would like to film, what kind of access they require. There are off the record meetings that you’re welcome to inquire about any details you’re wondering about, lay down parameters about anonymity or security concerns, and forcefully describe what you’d like to see out of the piece. And it’s usually easy to sense whether that jives with the mission that you have with the press. MACC also had a CNN production meeting around Antifa series they wanted to do. And we had these production meetings, which were very nice. We got contacts for a number of people which is always useful, but it was very clear from jump that they wanted to be there for actions, immigrant rapid response, things that were all legally and security dubious, and also would provide the most sensational footage for them. And it was clear there was no real interest in filming more large scale organizing and more serious political work. So, those were quickly dropped. And that’s totally fine, but then you’ve started a relationship, if there’s something useful in the future. You have a contact, you have an email. And doing this will always give you more security, more protection, when it comes time to actually participate in a story or an interview.

These relationships can be a great way to get better coverage.

Matthew: So building relationships with journalists is really important, it takes time, and it’s something that difficult to do in the beginning. The groups I’ve been a part of started with mass mailing lists, huge press lists, acquired from other groups. Put up a press contact and slowly started to get requests for different issues. And over time, you start to familiarize yourself with who’s asking about stories, who’s inquiring, what kind of beats to they run, what kind of publications are they coming from. And this is another issue related to security is you should always research journalists that contact you. If you have a 20 minute turnaround to get back to them, you can always do a quick Google search, see what they’re covered before, how they frame the story, and what, frankly, their politics are. That’s important to recognize is, of course, journalists are meant to be objective or that’s the way the industry is framed, but everyone has their politics, everyone has their personal opinions, and you’ll quickly come to identify who’s friendly to your movement or cause. Those people you’ll want to have a more direct relationship with. In the future, along with sending a press release, you might send them a text message or an email, tipping them to an event. Personally letting them know that you can talk to them. You’ll develop a level of familiarity, like you would in any other relationship, semi-professional or otherwise. And you’ll definitely want to target those people for releases. I’ve found in the last 2 years since Trump was elected, suddenly there’s a flood of leftist journalists sort of creeping through the woodwork. And you’d be surprised at how many large institutions actually have people who are very sympathetic to left wing movements. So identifying those individuals is really key.

Media moves at a fast pace, so be ready to respond quickly. This will lead to better relationships with journalists going forward.

Matthew: Speed is really important when dealing with the press. If you go 1 day, 2 days, 3 days, without responding to a journalist, odds are they’ve already filled, or moved on to another story. And even if you’re unsure of how you want to respond, and this goes to making press a kind of collective duty… maybe you don’t know what your organizations line is or if it’s strategic to follow up with a particular journalist, you always want your group to get back them, say “Thanks for contacting and we’ll respond to you as quickly as possible.” If you don’t, you’ll find journalists never contact you again, or quickly drop you from any list they have for possible follow up. It’s especially true for activist organizations because so many rise and fall, come and go. If you do respond quickly, especially if you’re in a group or movement that’s underrepresented in the press, you’ll find that you get a lot more requests, because journalists do want these quotes, they do want these kind of on the ground responses and arguments to issues. And it’s important to their stories. We’ve found at MACC that we were flooded with press requests for a while, because we were one of the few anarchist groups openly announcing that we would speak to press and quickly responding on a number of issues. And while things like Antifa, and anti-Trump mobilization were happening, they wanted this type of perspective and we were there to offer it. Even without directly engaging or giving an interview or quote, you want to make sure that you’re quick, professional, and responsive, and you make clear that you are receiving requests and acknowledge them. Just like you would want anyone to acknowledge you, you know in a kind of professional setting.

Even as you build these relationships, keep in mind that you are still dealing with a journalist.

Matthew: While you’re creating relationships, it’s totally okay keep them formal relationships and recognize that one person is a journalist and you’re the potential subject and anything you say can potentially be quoted or used in materials. So you always wanna be professional. You always wanna be cautious. And make sure that you’re communicating what you want to communicate about the issue really at all times. And you’ll quickly come to realize who you can be more informal with. But it’s an important note even for things like email. I once requested a retraction from the Washington Post, letting them know that they had mis-named a group I was representing. And, my full email was quoted in the article in scare quotes, suspiciously as if I was trying to mask which group I was coming from. So there’s always a possibility that even the most innocent conversation will be used against you. So you just want to be cautious if not paranoid.

Press is a powerful tool, so it’s important for your group to be able to use it effectively and efficiently. As with anything we do there will be questions of accountability and decision-making. Mathew has some tips for navigating these questions when doing press work.

The first tip is shedding the label spokesperson.

Matthew: Of course speaking to the press makes you a kind of de facto spokesperson whether you like it or not. We found in MACC that whenever you speak to the media, there’s a high chance of one, being misquoted and two, being misidentified. At MACC, we have a policy where we try and identify ourselves as MACC members or MACC organizers, rather than MACC spokespeople. And of course, a number of articles have ignored that request, in part because it’s usual and not something they deal with often, so there’s a default to go to this type of role, as if you have a professional PR staff or something. Lastly, I think it’s important that people separate their work as individuals and their work as organizers. It can be complicated because many people are academics, writers, artists, of course, in movement spaces as well as all other types of professions… plenty of people who have experience with the media. And you might be writing as yourself one moment and speaking as a movement organizer the next. And differentiating that to journalists can be really key, so that it’s clear whose voices you’re speaking with and who you’re representing.

Another tactic Matthew recommends is keeping the press group open and providing security support.

Matthew: We’ve found that having an open working group at MACC- we have a press working group that anyone involved in MACC can join and participate in- has helped a lot to distribute press duties and distribute access. We’ve tried to train people involved in the working group to take on these duties. But of course, there are security risks. There are limitations. And there’s a lot to kind of learn on the job. It’s always a tension between having people who feel like they’re prepared and safe to speak to the media, and having access and sharing access. One way, of course, you can help with that is building security measures. Having your organization offer things like security training, providing the tech and resources basically that can allow you to at least remain relatively secure. There’s a number of practical measures that people can take. Doxxing tends to be the biggest concern in leftwing organizing. Mostly from the far right. Most of that doxxing take place through very simple public records. Aggregator searches. There are lots of internet services that remove your records from public record searchers. And there are other technological solutions, like getting a google voice number for your press contacts. Which also conveniently can switch between phones. So no one has a direct phone number that registered to your name. All of these things can kind of build in a level of security. But it’s also important for a lot of groups to actually have a recognizable human face and a real person attached to statements and movement actions or group actions. It’s important to have some individuals that are willing to be publicly out there, available, can take these security precautions, but accept a certain level of risk. And this is especially true if you’re working with more mainstream mass media. They’re much more likely to print or cover your issue if there’s a real name attached to a real person behind any quotes or information. At the same time, lots of journalists deal with people with all sorts of security issues and they’re used to speaking to people anonymously or under pseudonyms. And that’s something that you can negotiate with anyone ahead of time. It’s really important when speaking to the media to recognize that before you talk, it’s always okay to set parameters, ground rules. For example, if you’re inviting a video team into your event, you might negotiate whether faces can be shown, or what type of locations or events can be filmed. And you can always break off a relationship or a particular story if it seems dangerous for your group.

Even with these safeguards and values, there will likely be mistakes. The key here is learning how to deal with those mistakes and trying to distribute the work and power as much as possible.

Matthew: Press is a fast paced task and issue for organization. Frequently, if there’s a really urgent topic, a journalist might contact you and tell you, you have 20 minutes to get back to them with a quote. So, you have to empower people to respond and trust people to respond to a degree. But you also have to trust people to be accountable. And make anything you publish accessible to the group, report back to your larger group, and have a body and a culture that’s capable of saying, “We didn’t like the message on this, or we thought the way you framed this was inappropriate, or we thought that you were taking credit for something.” Any sort of misrepresentation, as long as that’s not construed as a violation, but something to be corrected, by and large, it usually works well. There’s often very few people who feel comfortable speaking to the media using their real names and full information. So you’re also working with a small pool, and you have to recognize that you might be working with a small pool. But even you have 3, 4, 5 people, rotating as media liaisons or contacts, that’s still distributes a lot of the responsibility and a lot of the access, and maintains a degree of transparency. It’s certainly true that in a lot of movements, especially more amorphous movements with less structure, that people who were identified as founders or leaders, basically people who appeared in the press first, became de facto ideologues and politicians for these movements. That’s the real danger and I think that’s why, especially in anarchist movement, there’s been a lot of hesitation about contact with mass media. Because it so easily becomes a platform for an individual. So I think collectivizing press work, constantly providing trainings, constantly distributing access, and constantly re-evaluating the kind of work you’re doing is important.

Collectivizing press work is about accountability, but also just about sharing the work based on skills and interests.

Matthew: There are a lot of tasks and responsibilities and you can work collectively. One person might be a great writer, but be hesitant to do a live interview, and they might send a press release. Another person might be comfortable in front of cameras and act as spokesperson. Someone might be a documentary film maker and capable of shooting video, and you can even offer your own video packages potentially to media outlets for them to use. So there’s all these things. It’s another way of keeping press accountable and collective, and making it a sort of group project, especially when you have time. It’s a way of training people to sort of understand media logic in different tasks and potentially helping them to serve in other roles.

AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or better known as ACTUP, used to the media very effectively to broadcast their demands. ACTUP seeks to improve the lives of people with AIDS through direct action, advocacy, and other avenues.

News reporter 4: “Playwright Larry Kramer started ACTUP to accelerate the AIDS drug approval process”

Larry Kramer: “What right does the FDA and NIH have to tell a dying person what he or she can do with her or his body?”

The day before their first demo, Larry Kramer, a playwright and one of the ACT UP founders, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times outlining their demands. He wrote “Double-blind studies were not created with terminal illnesses in mind.” and “It is… inhumane to withhold drugs from terminally ill patients willing to take them, Phase One trials having been completed safely.”

The next day, ACT UP demonstrated on Wall Street, with 17 activists being arrested. The combination of the action and the Op-ed made ACT UP hard to ignore.

Just a month later in April 1987, ACT UP boosted their message, once again with a savvy use of the media. Before filing taxes online was an option, people would flock to the post office to file their taxes on April 15. The news would always cover the long lines. With both a captive audience and the news already onsite, this was a perfect opportunity for an action. ACT UP decided to seize this moment to boost the Silence= Death Project. You may be familiar with this, as the messaging is still in use today. This strong imagery and message was made even stronger when paired with the creative use of a media moment.

News reporter 5: “ACTUP’s strategy has been enormously successful in getting the Food and Drug administration to loosen the regulation of new drugs for AIDS.”

There’s a lot of skepticism about the mainstream media. But Act Up shows the power of using mainstream media with intention and creativity. With some strategy and healthy caution, the media is a vital tool for spreading our message and sharing our actions.

Part of why this is so important is that when we ignore the mainstream media, we also ignore their audience.

In his book Hegemony How To, Jonathan Smucker talks about a narrative he calls “the story of the righteous few.” This narrative allows us to see ourselves as a small group of virtuous activists out to fight the evil world. This attitude spills into our media work. He writes, “Unconsciously, we compose our flyers, calls-to-action, Tweets, and Facebook posts with people like us in mind—folks who are not only already on-board with our values and goals, but who are also acculturated to the idiosyncrasies of our movement spaces and privy to our jargon.” He continues, saying “This tendency limits our efforts to recruit, activate, or forge alliances with additional players.”

Dealing with the mainstream media is a way of meeting people where they are. It may be challenging to learn the terrain. It’s not easy compacting our philosophy into manageable soundbites on a tight time table. But it’s worth it. While you may not be able to deliver all the information you want, you may be able to plant a seed. Maybe it will lead a viewer toward a new idea or spark them to take action.

This episode is intended to start you thinking about your relationship with the press. If this work interests you, look out for media trainings with organizations in your area, throw your own words with comrades event, and check out the show notes for more ideas. Also check out Part 2 of this episode, focusing on movement media.

You’ve been listening to Rebel Steps. I’m your host Liz. Believe in yourself, trust one another, and get organized.

This episode was written, edited, and produced by Amy and myself. Music for this episode was kindly gifted to us by Morgane Fouse from Lady Media Co. and also includes some songs that I created. Special thanks to our interviewees, Matthew and Shawn of the Srsly Wrong Podcast. For more resources, check out the show notes for this episode on rebelsteps.com.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider supporting us on Patreon or sharing this episode with your friends or via social media. This podcast is part of the Channel Zero Network, an anarchist podcast network run by radical media makers. Head over to ChannelZeroNetwork.com for more podcasts.