Oh the Media. If the Pagan community had a Bogey Man in its closet this would be the guy. Whether on TV, radio, or in print there is this idea that the media is out to “get” Pagans. I’m here to et the record straight the Media is not out to destroy the Pagan community….it is simply out for itself.
The Media ::cue cheesy horror music audio/visual effects:: is a business. It is attempting to sell time slots for advertisers and generate a viewing base to view said ads. While there is a duty to distribute information, said information is presented in such a way as entertain and maintain viewers. The Media is not a monolithic force, rather is similar to various anthills; similar in structure, agenda, and tactics, but wholly independent from one another. Those who fall afoul of one anthill are wary of theirs. After a few negative encounters with anthills you might think there is some conspiracy within the Formicidae Family. In reality Pagans are interesting to the Media because we are different. They do not share our goals, drives, and passions. To them we are an interesting bit of news to pull out during Halloween or when the news is slow. We are always good for the ” Hey lookit what those folks is doin’! They is straaaaaaage” news spot.
Alright before we continue I know I’m painting in broad strokes here. I’m using stereotypes and hyperbole to build up a strawman which I’ll sacrifice on my altar of wit and point. I do not like using this tactic but I’m writing to inform and entertain. I KNOW I’m being a little far out in my presentation of the media, so rather than tell me where I’ve gone wrong in my presentation of some mysterious other call the Media, call me on any flaws you see in my suggestions and tips. This is a subject which I care about in my community and I would like to get feedback.
A few lessons for presenting a positive public image to the media ( Also read How Not to Make Us All Look Like Asshats). This guide is written from a Pagan perspective which I’m sure will not apply to all of you, but I’m going to operate under the assumption that you folks are smart enough to adapt these tips to your own needs.
– Dress for Success: Part of our entertainment value to reporters is how different we are. If you appear before a reporter dressed like a typical American adult, or better yet in professional attire you will spoil part of the “Hey look at them” mentality which makes us an easy target.
– Talk Slow, Strait, and Sparingly: Always be honest and to the point with reporters. If asked a question you do not have the answer too or do not feel comfortable answering at that moment let them know. Statements such as: ” I don’t have that information currently”, ” Unfortunately I’m not the person to talk to about that I can give you contact information after the interview”. Remember the media loves to use silence to induce rambling. Resist the urge to babble and keep your answers short. Let them feel awkward with the silence.
– Be Aware of Soundbites: Make simple statements which are fit for soundbites. Monitor your language to prevent clever editing.
– Describe Yourself in Positives: Pagans deal with stereotypes, from the classic Satan worship questions to accusations of killing stray pets. Even reporters who are trying to present you in a positive light will drag popular misconceptions out of the closet. Rather than defend yourself with “don’ts”, “nevers”, “Aren’ts”, and “nots” seak in terms of “do’s”, “are’s”, and other positive descriptions. When you define yourself in negatives no one gets an idea of what you or your group do. You will appear to be on the defensive.
– When Confronted with Negative Stereotypes/Claims Dismiss Them: Laugh at those who bring such bullshit to your door. A laugh and a dismissive comment is a powerful weapon in your media arsenal. Accused of eating babies respond with ” :: polite chuckle:: I don’t know where you heard we do that, but it is simply ridiculous” Leave it in their lap. Do not argue, and don’t feed into it. If they press the issue say ” ::shake head and laugh again:: If you are going to continue with this childish nonsense we’re done here.” Blunt but professional. If it continues live up to your word and stop participating.
-There is no ” Off the Record”: Never cease to treat all media correspondence as a professional interview. You are not friends.
-Help Them with their Research: Have an easy to read/copy list of Pagan media at your disposal. Links to Patheos, the Wild Hunt, and other Professional Pagan media is useful as well. Traditional works which explain the over all Pagan community would be ” Earthly Bodies Magical Selves”, “Witching Culture” , and “Drawing Down the Moon”. Hae copies on hand.
-Plan, Prepare, Present: Develop a media packet and plan. Make sure those at your events know that the media is present and elect a Specific member/s who will intercept them. We all know and love at least one person who will start up a wild rambling conversation with a reporter dressed somewhere between mystic and tornado victim. This is not the person who should be speaking to the media, make sure your media representative is ready and able to intercept reporters before they have a chance to find thee “special” people.
– Be Availble: Be there for reporters when they attempt to contact you.
– If You Send Out A Press Release Follow Up.
– Get To Know Your Local Media: Find out who is who in the area. Identify what media outlets are receptive to you. Most news agencies have “gatekeepers” who are on the look out for novelty. Stories which are novel and can generate interst are what these folks are after. Develop a relationship with the “gatekeeper” , reporters, and thier bosses if possible.
– Do Not Speak For Anyone Other Than Yourself/Groups: You don’t represent the ENTIRE Pagan community…don’t try.
– Ideally the best tactic is to not talk to the media.
This is hardly an exhaustive list and if I’ve missed anything let me know. As I said this is simply material drawn from my own expereinces. It is hardly the end all guide. Suggestions are welcome.ou