The following article is being printed in the Guardian, coming off the press Thursday, Jan
The following article is being printed in the Guardian, coming off the
press Thursday, Jan. 24.
ANTI-WAR MEDIA WORK
by Norman Solomon
Anti-war activists across the United States, angry about media coverage,
can do a lot about it.
TV news has focused on Persian Gulf events with lenses controlled by the
Pentagon. Military censorship and media biases have been framing what the
American people see, hear and read within tight constraints.
News accounts of the continuous bombing attacks on Iraq have an abstract,
sanitized quality. Correspondents mouth the euphemistic language of the
Pentagon, with the human impacts rarely even mentioned.
Air Force officers have described the bombing runs in computer terms -- "I
just see blips on the screen." And we see this war's human devastation
reported as blips on our TV screens.
As a placard at a Jan. 19 march pointed out, "Behind the CNN Light Show,
the Innocent are BLOWN to Pieces." Another sign was more concise: "TV Sells
Meanwhile, anti-war protests get short shrift. Peace demonstrations are
often ignored, trivialized or stereotyped as violent. Media are apt to lower
the numbers and downgrade the significance.
These patterns should not surprise us, or discourage us. The mass media
reflect the dominant range of views within the ruling circles of this
country. Ever since Congress voted to go to war on Jan. 12, that range has
All but a few members of Congress have opted to close ranks behind the war.
So have the mass media. Right now there is no place on powerful political
agendas for grassroots democracy and anti-war activism.
As a corollary to the famous axiom that war is the continuation of
diplomacy by other means, we could add that war reporting is the
continuation of peacetime propaganda by other means. To stop this war we
must challenge the media bias that is so vital to sustaining it.
Busy with urgent tasks of building the anti-war movement, activists may be
inclined to give media work a low priority. That would be a big mistake.
Effective media work is crucial for creating a broad and militant anti-war
movement in this country. The obstacles we face in breaking through the
propaganda walls require that we be methodical and determined in doing media
Consistently articulate a strong anti-war position. Don't water it down.
Don't be rhetorical. Strive to be direct and clear.
Develop ongoing communication with local newspaper, radio and TV
journalists. It doesn't pay to be hostile. Show that you can provide timely
and reliable information, as well as articulate comments. Provide phone
numbers and names of spokespeople who can be reached around the clock.
Press releases should be well-written and tidy. Remember: The news biz is a
business, and staff time is shorter than ever because of corporate cutbacks.
Sometimes we have to virtually do journalists' jobs for them if we're going
to get decent coverage.
Notify all media about scheduled events. If possible, maintain a list of
media fax numbers and use them frequently. Don't assume that sending written
material will be sufficient. Follow up by phone.
Advance publicity for demonstrations should NOT include numerical estimates
of how many people will participate. Specific predictions have resulted in
news reports that crowds were "smaller than expected."
Don't forget to stay in touch with the nearest Associated Press and United
Press International bureaus. Keep them posted about upcoming events, and ask
that they inform all the region's media outlets ahead of time.
When possible, give the media some prepared texts of speeches and other
public statements. This increases the chances that speakers will be quoted
accurately. Typed releases should be given to reporters at all protest
Don't exaggerate the turnout. Inflating the numbers hurts credibility, and
also makes it harder for future demonstrations to come across as bigger
actions that reflect a growing movement.
Immediately after an event, provide written press releases to AP, UPI and
any major media that didn't show up. Also, if you call radio stations right
away, some may tape statements or do interviews over the phone.
Remember that timeliness is key. Have a media committee functioning that
can confer on short notice and issue a public statement. Rush news releases
to wire services, daily newspapers and broadcast outlets.
Submit commentary articles to local daily and weekly newspapers. If
anti-war pieces are turned down, inquire why. If they're repeatedly
rejected, ask for a meeting with relevant editors. If you live in the
paper's circulation area, your articles should get favored treatment since
you're a local writer. Firmly assert your right to be published.
Encourage peace supporters to send letters to the editor. Even if they
aren't printed, the letters may make it easier for others with similar views
to get into print.
Develop rapport with producers of local radio and TV talk shows.
Representatives of activist groups and others with special perspectives on
the Persian Gulf war should be offered as guests on a regular basis. Be
polite but pushy!
Call talk shows regularly to speak on the air.
Keep utilizing alternative media such as progressive weeklies and
noncommercial radio stations -- to provide anti-war analysis of the news, to
promote upcoming events and to critique the failings of mainstream media.
If a local daily paper or news station refuses to balance its coverage,
consider putting up an informational picket line around the offending media
outlet. Don't forget to invite other media to send a reporter -- they might,
if only to make a competitor look bad. Print media may be especially open to
criticizing electronic media, and vice versa.
Insist that local papers print information about upcoming protest
activities, including exact times and locations, along with the phone
numbers of anti-war groups. Similar listings should be carried in
broadcasts. These ought to be regular news items, since many people in the
community want access to such information on a continuous basis. Likewise,
radio and TV stations should be pressured to include spots for pro-peace
activities among their "public service announcements."
Don't forget that listener-funded radio stations and cable outlets are
reaching core constituencies that should constantly receive detailed updates
about past and future anti-war activities. More upper-crust PBS and NPR
affiliates should be compelled to air strong anti-war views and information
on a regular basis.
Promote the bulk distribution of periodicals serving the anti-war movement
locally and nationally. It's important for people to be reminded that their
organizing for local actions is part of a vigorous national movement.
Demand that the daily half-hour news feed from Pacifica National Radio News
(based in D.C.) be aired by noncommercial radio stations in your area. At
this point, National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" and "Morning
Edition" news shows are very strongly tilted in pro-war directions. Any
station carrying those programs should at minimum carry Pacifica news for
purposes of balance. If station managers refuse, picket lines and listener
boycotts at pledge-time may prove persuasive.
Even the best radio stations in the country will be under pressures to
revert to usual formats. Urge -- and if necessary, insist -- that regular
programming be suspended. Since we're now living in wartime, progressive
radio stations should implement new priorities that will promote peace.
Any attempts to create a sense of normalcy about this war must be
The masters of war need the news media in their arsenal as much as any
other weapon. The peace movement must undermine their propaganda firepower.
Norman Solomon is co-author of "Unreliable Sources: A Guide to Detecting
Bias in News Media."
For media activism resources, contact FAIR, 130 W. 25th St., New York, NY
10001; (212) 633-6700.
End of text from cdp:mideast.media
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