The following article is being printed in the Guardian, coming off the press Thursday, Jan

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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 War." 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 narrowed dramatically. 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 outreach. Some suggestions: 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 actions. 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 challenged. 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 from PeaceNet via The NY Transfer 718-448-2358 & 718-448-2683 --- [ This file has travelled through the Socialism OnLine! BBS at +1-719-392-7781, 24 hours, 300-9600 bps HST/MNP/V42bis, on its way to you, the reader of this file. Please share any information you have about "big brother." Venceremos! ]


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