Play the Media

Reprinted from The Ruckus Media Manual, from the Ruckus Society.

Coordinating media for a direct action is more art than science, and sometimes owes more to luck than either. News is a quirky, complicated, unpredictable endeavor – much
like an action itself. Put the two together, and it can seem like a miracle when an action actually communicates the intended message to the desired audience. As media coordinator, your job is to work miracles.

There’s no formula for working miracles, but there are certain steps you can take that will greatly increase your chances of coverage. You have to stay flexible and willing to do whatever works, but following the basics will put you in position to respond most effectively if you have to change course.

Much about media work, up to the point when the action finally goes down, is tedious, exacting, and detail-oriented. (Then it’s exciting as hell.) But if you ignore the fundamentals, you’re giving the news media – who are already naturally disposed to regard activists as naive amateurs – one more reason to ignore your action.

This chapter includes a checklist of what you should do, and when you should do it, to have the best shot at getting your action’s message out. But these steps can be for naught if not done with thorough professionalism – journalists are professional cynics, and if you’re sloppy they will notice it, and it will color their coverage. So go the extra mile; proofread the press release again; make the extra phone call. Never cut corners.

And always remember this advice from Wes “Scoop” Nisker, a legendary counterculture journalist of the ’60s: “If you don’t like the news, go out and make it yourself.”

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