dealing with the media

a guide for political activists


1. If possible, have a Website that answers all the basic questions: who, what, when, where, why and how. This will be especially helpful if the journalist who contacts you writes for a Website. (See below).

2. Be easy to reach. Have both an e-mail address and a phone number (voice mail). Don't change them, if possible.

3. Check both e-mail and phone calls every day, but especially in the morning.

4. Respond to all media queries, save for certain pre-determined exceptions (such as John Stossel, Bill O'Reilly, or whomever else you never want to deal with).

5. Respond quickly, especially if the query comes from a TV producer or reporter. (See below.)

6. Do a web search for all the names you've collected. If you pull up a bad history (right-wing politics, liberal-baiting, Christian fundamentalism, etc), call them back immediately and cancel. You need not explain why.

TV people:

1. Typically believe they are impartial and out to tell "both sides of the story."

2. Typically move very fast: arrange a shoot in the morning, shoot video in the early afternoon, edit the tape later in the afternoon, and put it on the air in the evening or at night -- all in the same day.

3. Make sure to get and web-search for the name of the reporter or the on-the-air personality. The content of the show will be tailored to them, not the producer (usually the person who calls).

4. Send the person in your group who is the most "telegenic" (most comfortable in front of cameras), not necessarily the best informed or the best talker, to meet them. If need be, do practice shoots of your own to see who in your group looks the best and acts the most relaxed.

5. Dress as nicely as possible.

6. Have your person bring some "B-roll" (background video of your group in action) with them. Do not give your tape to the crew unless they have signed and given you a copy of a licensing agreement that specifies how much you are to be paid for use of the tape. Try to get $250 (or more), but don't take anything less than $150.

7. At the shoot itself, try to be serious but light-hearted. Smile but don't laugh. Keep your head still, but use your hands to communicate if you'd like. If you smoke cigarettes, try not to smoke on camera. When asked a question, try to include it somehow into your answer. Find a way to mention the name of your group or campaign. Look at the questioner, don't look directly at the camera, but occasionally sweep your eyes past it.

8. Make sure to get the time and date the piece is scheduled to air, and the producer's contact information if case you miss the broadcast and want a copy of the tape.

Writers (newspaper or Web):

1. Typically believe they are "authors" (have literary pretensions).

2. Though they too have deadlines, they may not be in a rush.

3. Typically ask a great many questions. Never volunteer or give out personal information concerning yourself.

4. Send your best informed, most eloquent person. Remind the writer about the existence of your Website.

5. Have your person dress as he/she normally would when meeting the reporter. If the editor wants a photograph to accompany the article, a separate meeting with the photographer will be scheduled, usually a day or two later. Once again, dress as nicely as possible for the shoot.

6. Be prepared for at least one follow-up interview so that the writer can check his/her notes.

7. Make sure to get the date the piece is scheduled to run, and the writer's contact information in case you miss it and want a copy.

Radio people:

1. Typically believe they are "entertainers" and try to be funny.

2. Have a deadline, but often aren't sure when it is or when the piece will air. This is true: radio is commonly put together on an assembly line.

3. If possible, you should be an in-studio guest. If not, they will want to call you, at a pre-arranged time, at a phone number you provide. Make sure they know that you can't be reached at that number at any other time.

4. If they don't call when they are supposed to, forget about them. Don't reschedule.

5. Whatever they ask you, say what's on your mind or agenda.

6. If the questions are insulting -- or if there aren't any questions at all -- just hang up.

7. Unless you record the broadcast yourself, you can forget about getting a tape of it. The station never makes tapes, even for their own use.


1. Keep a log of the press coverage you've received. If you feel you have been misrepresented, put up something (a separate page) that explains how and what the truth really is.

2. Keep a log of people who A) claim to have put a piece on you on their TV station, in their newspaper, on their website, or on their radio show, but B) just can't be bothered to send you a tape or clipping when they've said they will.

Contact the New York Surveillance Camera Players

By e-mail

By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998