To organize a local pressure group, in order to pressure local newspapers and television stations to be fairer towards Israel in their reporting.
To further sensitize members to media bias.
To apply a lesson in democracy by enabling participants to write letters to the newspapers or websites.
Target Audience This activity is aimed at those members already aware of media bias
The facilitator should:
1. Remind the participants of the issues and methods of media bias.
2. Examine local or national paper articles for items and issues which participants would like to address for bias, misinformation, omission, content, language…
3. Follow the exercise & real time ideas in Letter to the News Media.
4. Distribute copies of How to Write a Letter to the Press or Media
5. Distribute copies of IV.4.A.ii. Media Contact Information
6. Discuss the best use of Campaign websites IV.4.B. Website Action Page
A. Letters to the News Media
Your group is to prepare to contact the local papers, explaining why they feel certain articles are biased.
Split the group into smaller working groups and have each "adopt" a particular newspaper/ news site for an initial period of one month. Members who have adopted a paper are responsible for alerting other members of the action group to bias over the first week and designing letter responses, in coordination with the group organizer.
Keep track and copies of all outcomes of correspondence; note changes in reporting style and content.
Other small working groups should brainstorm possible media events, as described above.
i) Letter Writing
by Gila Ansell Brauner
These Guidelines will be helpful for writing to your Member of Parliament/ Congressperson/ Mayor/ NGO, Media channel, or other Public Personae.
- Open one intellectual newspaper, one middle range, one tabloid, and one weekly magazine and scan at the Letters columns.
- Select some letters from the different publications that made a positive or negative impression on you as a reader (length, language, style, content focus).
Based on your observations as a reader, make a few notes on the Do's and Don'ts of successful letter writing to Editors.
Pay careful attention to the structure and style. Imitation might be your best guarantee of publication!
- More Guidelines :
- For the most part, Letters to the Editor begin "Sir/Madam," are short and to the point, sound knowledgeable, are well written and polite.
- The effective ones are not politically or ideologically argumentative; nor are they declarative - rather discussant, or informative.
- They make points/ corrections, which can be substantiated in brief summaries (not at length).
- Do not distribute a chain letter which has been making the rounds over the Internet unless you received it directly from the author for this purpose. Despite the motives of various action groups, these are for your information and your letter needs to be an original, on the same topic.
- Specialized campaign groups recommend letter-writers avoid any kind of criticism, but offer instead points for future coverage (to present a more complete picture etc), and include positive observations about the news or opinion item under discussion.
- Know your newspaper, know its public - and know what they will and will not publish, by following a few days of letters.
Of course, this does not mean that a newspaper whose coverage is very biased against Israel is going to publish your letter about its presentation. However, a lot of letters do go unpublished and those that are published will be edited. Writing a good letter about a major issue of coverage makes an important point, and if a number of people write such letters, then it increases the chance that one will eventually be published. The paper will even do this just to show how fair they are, especially if you have a serious correction to offer.
It is often more affective, but not necessary, that the writer should be a professional from the relevant field, or that it be written by a well-known personality.
- There are generic categories to the media: news should be news; features should be features; opinion should be opinion… Your input as a subscriber is important to the press/channel/website. For example:
- Over-editorializing in news items is a legitimate point of correction in a Letter to the Editor/ Director. You you can point out that there is not much information in what is supposed to be a news article (outline what you would like to have read), but that there is a great deal of editorialization;
- Where features on Palestinians have appeared which are unfavorable to Israel in any way, it is equally possible for the press and electronic media to prepare features on Israelis and offer them for publication - ask for some!;
- Point out that it is good policy for a newspaper to publish a range of opinions on one issue and ask them to do so, rather than offering a totally"one-sided perspective".
- It is a golden rule that you send such letters by regular snail mail, unless it is an online edition.
- You, or your action group, should retain copies of letters submitted for file, and send copies to any partner groups/organizations. Similarly, if your letter is published, or if you receive any correspondence relating to it, make file copies.
- Don't forget ground rules and basic etiquette:
Letters must be authentically signed and have a return address (even if you ask for your name to be withheld);
Do not pester newspapers with regular letters to the Editor on every item the paper publishes concerning Israel.
ii) Media Contact Information
Various Newspapers & Journals
Telephone: (312) 321-3000
Michael Cooke, Editor in Chief
Andrew Costello, Editor
Telephone: (617) 619-6400
Matthew V. Storin, Editor
Telephone: (617) 929 - 3025
Fax: (617) 929 - 2098
|International Herald Tribune
Website: http://www.iht.com Haaretz English Edition
Editor: David Landau
Letters to the Editor: Email: email@example.com
Telephone: (800) 874-2863
Howard A. Tyner, Editor
Bruce Dold, Editorial Page Editor
|New York Times: |
Telephone: (212) 556-1234
Joseph Lelyveld, Executive Editor
Letters to the Editor
Fax: (212) 556-3622
|New York Post
Telephone: (212) 930-8000
John Mancini, News
|Los Angeles Times
Telephone: (213) 237-7935 (opinion department) (213) 237-4511
Fax: (213) 237-7679 (letters to the editor)
(202) 293-4650 (Washington bureau)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Seattle Times:
Telephone: 215 - 854-4543
Contact Person: Kevin Ferris (Readers Editors)
Telephone: (202) 334 - 4845
Fred Hiat (Editorial Page Edior)
Colbert I. King (Deputy Editorial Page Editor)
Peter Milius (Deputy Editorial Page Edior)
Telephone: (703) 276-3400
Karen Jurgenson, Editor
Email: www.usatoday.com and follow feedback prompts
Cable & News TV
B. Website Action Page
If you have a really Internet-minded group, sit down and plan how you would design and set up a web-page, with items like:
- Press Releases;
- Action Alerts;
- Useful information links (ADL, Hasbara FAQs, Updates, Analysis)
Now - prepare some of each kind of item!
Take a look at this LA activist website and see how you could apply your ideas to their online campaigning and resourcing efforts [http://www.standwithus.com/]
Take a look at this website and particularly at the use of Flash graphics for Incident Maps and Specials (charts, maps, diagrams). [http://www.israelinsider.com/]
How would you use these tools on a campaign website?