Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

WAM! Conference Posts

Here's run down of the posts written during the Women, Action and the Media conference last weekend:

Friday, March 27: Pre-Conference Intensive on PR
Morning Panel Discussion

Introduction to the morning panel discussion
Elements to create a good media strategy
Media Strategy 101
Getting the mainstream, niche, and ethnic media to pay attention
How do you convey your message? USE MEDIA
Media exposure on the cheap

Afternoon Workshop on Creating a Media Strategy, led by Ina Howard-Parker of Represent, Inc.
Developing a comprehensive media strategy
Creating a media strategy continued
Elements of a communications planning process
PR 101 Imagery

Friday evening: The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo. The most powerful documentary I have ever seen.

Saturday Plenary: Cynthia Lopez, Insider - Outsider

Interlude: shout out to The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way

Saturday Sessions
How to work in the mainstream media - and why you want to

Get inside the minds of editors

Where are the women in the political media?

Sunday Sessions
Write and publish persuasive op-eds for a national audience

Are the messages the new media? by Theta Pavis

Women and the economic crisis: getting beyond the corporate media narrative
Q&A on women and the economic crisis

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Q&A on Women and the Economic Crisis

The divide between women's organizations and labor organizations is a false divide and we need to work to build bridges between the two movements.

Occupational segregation is considerably stronger in the vocational education system than in academic institutions. The number of apprenticeships in the US has declined 80% in the past 20 years. The total number of civilian, non-post office employees has shrunk 25% since it's highest point in the early 90s. FDIC had 7,300 employees in 93 and now have 4,200 employees. Same thing happened in the The federal Equal Employment Opportunity office (EEO) was cut 60%. Office of Contract Compliance was also severely cut.

Going back to Medicare coverage, every sentence written in the NYT about Canadian Medicare during the Clinton administration was an absolute lie. It's very important to get the real facts into the MSM. Cultivate the columnists and opinion writers in your local newspapers. Write to reporters as well. Get that wonderful, factual material into the hands of people who can use it for good.

Shout out to an extremely important book: Sisters in the Brotherhood: Working Women Organizing for Equality in New York City

Our critique has to get more nuanced. We need to stop badgering the MSM and work to keep newspapers alive. We're at a moment when we're losing these venues for public discourse.

Julia, FAIR: This is the opportunity to help decide what media will look like in the future. It is going to be problematic that newspapers are laying off staff, but it's also an opportunity.

Susan: The stock market is an indicator of how profatibility of corporations will look like in the near term. The whole Obama plan is based on this false belief that banks create jobs. Banks create loans to credit-worthy enterprises and individuals. Banks do not like to lend to people and firms who wont pay them back. Non-bank financial institutions made the predatory loans. The underlying mortgages were based on fraud and deception because they were issued by unregulated institutions. There was no regulatory institution that said banks couldn't buy these false, paper assets. The rating agencies that gave these fictitious assets high grades were part of the fraud as well.

You should look at unemployment claims as the way to understand where the real economy is.

If these economic terms don't make sense, read Dollars & Sense and United for a Fair Economy.

Women & the Economic Crisis: Getting Beyond the Corporate Media Narrative

Abby Scher, sociologist and editor of Public Eye, the quarterly magazine of Political Research Magazine.

It opens the question of what stories do we tell? The structural and personal stories need to be bridged. How do we educate ourselves so that we can be more knowledgeable when we write about economics?

Julia Hollar, managing editor of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting's magazine, Extra!
Susan Feiner, professor of Economics and director of Women and Gender Studies at the University of Southern Maine.
Darlene Lombross, Sisters for Action in Power, documentary film-maker, made a doc about the Filipina women's movement

Julia: FAIR is a media watchdog group that advocates for a greater diversity of voices in the media. Our analysis of the MSM is that it is pro-corporate and pro-status quo. The liberal media is a myth that the right likes to propagate. Journalists tend to lean to the left on social issues and to the right on economic issues. What journalists believe isn't all that relevant to what is published. The idea of journalism is that you're supposed to be a conduit of information without injecting your opinions. We measure media bias by sources: the people that get to say their opinion in the media. Who gets to talk on these issues? Study after study it skews very heavily white, male, government officials and corporate representatives. On economic issues that skew is even greater.

On PBS NewsHour, economic segments during a six month study, 1/3 of sources were women. Almost 1/2 of female sources were in one segment about Walmart. Remove that one and only 1 in 5 sources were female and they were all white.

There's corporate ownership and sponsorship that is fundamentally invested in continuing the economy as it is: a capitalist economy where women and people of color are increasingly marginalized. What we see in stories today is talk about what the government is doing for corporations. There is a lot of coverage of the stock market: this idea that the Dow Jones Industrial average is an opinion poll. For someone like Chris Matthews, the stock market is probably a big issue but for most citizens it isn't as immediately relevant.

Health care is a huge economic issue and a huge women's issue. Single-payer would be a huge benefit for women but it's basically off the table for most corporate media. There were hundreds of stories about health care before Obama's summit, but there were only 5 advocates quoted. You were more likely to hear an anti-single payer person bring it up as a bogey man than hear a pro-single payer quoted.

The coverage of the economic stimulus: Rep Baynard came out and said the reproductive health provision would cost millions for abortion and that was picked up and run by MSM outlets without questioning it. That caused the Democrats to pull the provision out of the bill, without ever questioning the validity of his statement: it was a completely fabricated talking point.

Susan: I want to talk about taxes. The MSM and corporations have hijacked the discussion about tax reform. "Middle class" and "middle income" do not match up. Middle 20% of income is $25-40,000. State taxes are very regressive: the lower your income, the higher % of income you pay in taxes. If we wanted to help lower and middle income people, we would go to state and local legislatures and demand that they make the tax structure progressive and fair by removing the burden from sales taxes. We certainly don't hear much discussion of this. The idea of tax burden being different depending on your income level is wrong.

Corporate Watch has a website that will show you how to investigate what sort of tax give-aways the corporations in your state are receiving. David K. Johnston's Free Lunch gives info on how to do this research.

2/3 of tax units pay more in payroll tax than income tax. If you're trying to do stories on women's economic status, you must understand payroll tax. They've becoming massively more regressive over the last 30 years.

Payroll taxes come out of your paycheck automatically that you have no say over. They have 2 components: there's the part that comes out of your paycheck and then there's a portion that the employer pays supposedly on your behalf. The amount that's put on your employer is really put on you in the form of lower wages.

5 line items on the worker share: (this is very American and the tax structure is different in Canada and Europe)

Social Security tax: 6.2% of all earnings up to $94,000. On your whole income. If you earn $180,000, you only pay 6.2 on the first $94K and nothing on the rest of your income. This is called a single-income bias: if each partner earns $90K, you pay 6.2% on all income, but if the income is earned by one person, you pay 3% tax.

Medicare contribution: 8.3% of employee earnings (employer also pays 8.3%, which they pass through in

Estimated federal income tax and estimated state income tax are taken out.

Your public library always has tax helpers there, don't go to H&R Block, it's a rip off.

What the employer pays that you don't see is an unemployment tax. The federal government sets the guidelines for unemployment insurance and then the states do whatever the hell they want. Unemployment insurance is paid for out of state pools. 6.2% of the first $7,000 is taxed. What each employer pays per worker per year on average is $56. Rather than get an income tax refund, a payroll tax holiday for the next 6 months would immediately give you more money to spend. Cutting taxes is always skewed upward because income taxes are not really collected on low-income workers.

There is a burden on women journalists to expose how lop-sided this issues is.

Taxes are a Women's Issue: Reframing the Debate by Mimi Abramovitz and Sandra Morgen
Taxing Women, by Edward McCaffrey - more of a Nerve book. more for people who like the details.

Another important thing to remember: dividends are not taxed the way payroll is. So wealth created from capital, which is skewed male, is another area of discrimination.

Darlene: I'm an organizer. I'm the co-director of Community Labor United. I feel like one of the roles of an organizer is getting information out to the community. We work in the Greater Boston area to address the growing gap between the rich and the poor. We're seeing very extreme wealth and extreme poverty. It's the greatest gap since the Great Depression. CEO's make 344 times middle-class workers and 866 times minimum wage.

Blackstone CEO makes $400K an hour.

Massachusetts is the 2nd worst gap between rich and poor in the country (NY is first).

Kirball Institute looked at opportunity structures in various neighborhoods across the country. 90% of African Americans and Latinos and 55% of Asians live in low-opportunity neighborhoods: access to schools, health care, etc.

United for a Fair Economy (and others) stats:
Foreclosures and predatory lending has led to the biggest loss of wealth for people of color ever. Up to $213 billion loss of wealth for African-Americans and Latinos. 3 times more likely to have a predatory loans, women 33% more likely to have a predatory loans, 66% of black women's loans are predatory.

The face of the Montgomery bus boycotts could not be a Claudette Colvin, 15-year old pregnant girl. The Women's Political Council decided to choose Rosa Parks as the face of the boycotts because she was more media-friendly face. See this overview of the boycotts. The point is that activist history is silenced and individuals are remembered as the only creators of change in history.

Be strategic about which images to put out to the media. Not to sugar-coat the issue, but to create a face for the issue who does not incite backlash. Can't put the black woman, single mother up front in corporate media. Older blind man taking care of his sister was chosen as the face of the campaign which led to an important victory with Fannie Mae changing the way homeowners are being worked with. This work was done with City Life Vida Urbana: tenants' rights organization.

Community Labor United is organizing the Green Justice Coalition. Coalition of unions, environmental organizations, and environmental justice organizations to talk about green justice. How resources have been extracted from communities of color or waste facilities placed in communities of color. What we're doing is trying to make sure that the dollars that put into dealing with the climate and unemployment crises are accessible to poor communities.

Women in unions have a higher access to health insurance and pensions than women who have 4-year degrees. Because of the shift from manufacturing to service industry in the US, unions are now 45% women.

We are talking about sustainability in its broadest sense. We're talking about power relationships: an important opportunity to change power relationships and utilizing what will be the largest influx of government funding into the economy for dealing with justice and equity issues in our communities.

Abby: Employee Free Choice Act: a union-created name. Libertarian language to win people over to say if 51% of employees sign cards saying they want to be in the union that employers must accept the union.

Unions are not making the alliances that they should. They were really caught off guard by the backlash. They lost Sen Arlen Specter. The person who did the best reporting on this issue was Laura Flanders on Grit TV:

Are the Messages the new Media?

A few weeks before coming to Boston for the WAM conference, I was reading the New York Times which had an article about people using new media at the SXSW gathering in Texas. It talked about how many people there were using Twitter, writing these micro-blog posts about the events they were going to. The author wrote: “The messages are the media…”

If I think about WILPF and wanting to bring younger women into the organization, I immediately start thinking about how young people are using media.

At WAM! I went to a panel put on by the International Museum of Women, which exists – you guessed it—completely online. It not only showcases the work of women artists, activists and writers, it often becomes a space for critical, political discussions and social change.

Jo Beaton and Masum Momaya were the presenters. The talked about how in the past much of our media looked like this:

The past = authority is the content provider

But now, with new tools like Facebook, Flickr, Tweeter, blogging, etc., it looks more like this:

The future = authority is platform provider

This raises other questions of course (and here we could have a discussion about the Open Source movement, who controls the Internet, privacy matters and more), but for the time being this alone is a major shift. If people are using things the Internet and things like blogging to create independent media, then all sorts of things start to change. People begin to talk to each other, report for each other, share with each other, create the media and the messages that they have not seen in the mainstream, as well as talking back to the platform providers about what they want to see, how they want to use the technology (not to mention hacking it, or building their own.)

The presenters noted that in general, women are using this new technology equally with men, and while the people using it are young(ish) say between 18 - 35 on average, more people that are 35 and older are starting to use these platforms.

While I sat in the room, at least three people there were “tweeting” about the session.

We also looked at social justice movements using technology:

The Blank Noise Project (India)
Sexual harassment incidents are written down and documented by women, what they were wearing and what happened to them when they were harassed. This is a huge blog.
It’s garnered a lot of media coverage, especially in India.

This was developed to map reports of violence in Kenya – citizen journalists started collecting on-the-spot reports and mapping them in a time of crisis; it let’s people “crowd source” when a crisis happens. It is built with open source software; you can see real time maps of what is happening where. It has been used in Congo and Al Jezeera used it to cover the war in Gaza – the effectiveness lies in the combination of offline and online engagement; and it has been adapted and adopted in different places and developers are adding code to it; has gotten some media coverage too.

I came away with a lot to think about, and also felt very excited to see these new ways activists are using new technology to tell women's stories and building maps of real crisis situations.

Get Opinionated: Write and Publish Persuasive Op-Eds for a National Audience

Laura Mazer, managing editor of Counterpoint Books, editorial advisor for the Op-Ed Project
Catherine Orenstein, founder of The Op-Ed Project, journalist and author

Laura previously edited syndicated columnists.

Catherine: Larry Summers speech about women not being in math and science led to other debates including why more women aren't on the op-ed pieces. One woman accused the LA Times of institutionalized sexism, Maureen Dowd said women were afraid of being called bitches, a woman at the Washington Post took offense at being called a woman journalist.

3 out of 4 submissions from men. At WaPo, 9 out of 10 submissions came from men. 88% of bylines were from men.

In the 90s I was targeted by the Progressive Media Project. They noticed that a lot of conservative think tanks were creating impressive journalism. Catherine was in Haiti at the time writing pieces for small publications. They taught her basic ideas on how to write an op-ed and published her on the the Knight-Ridder newswire. Ended up doing radio, television, met with Clinton's Latin-American advisors. They spent no more than 2 hours tutoring me. Target women with credentials and expertise. They are not rocket science or secret. It tends to get shared with people who already are involved in the public debate.

Why does op-ed matter? We're not talking about print first of all. Newspapers are in the business of news, not paper. The opinion forums of our nation drive all other media and create thought leadership. The spectrum of forums in the public debate are about the same: 85% of op-ed bylines are male. 84% male in talk shows. 83% male in Congress. Continuation of male thought leadership in the United States. You could look at best-selling nonfiction authors, Hollywood and radio producers, boards of Fortune 500 companies. These are the forums where people report not just what is going on but what we should do about it. This is currently the most powerful way of delivering thought leadership regardless of the delivery mechanism. It is over-whelming white, privileged, and male.

This information is easy to share and if we have a lot more women submitting, editors would have a broader selection to choose from. Maybe if women submitted more, we wouldn't need quotas. Maybe we're helping public debate to allow half of the best minds and ideas be part of that debate. Wouldn't editors and anyone concerned with public knowledge be eager to hear these voices?

The idea is not just to target and train, but also to create networks of mentor editors. On a one time basis, a very experienced editor will review an op-ed from every woman who comes through these workshops. Couldn't we increase the numbers to a tipping where we're not necessary? This is a hypothesis, but research suggest that a tipping point happens at a third.

Two examples of why I think this is important: absence of women in these forums creates the wrong ideas that women aren't leaders and don't have something to say. Two, public debate is lacking without half the best minds. Three, the people who tell the stories create the history.

I wrote a book about the fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood." It's an epic story across multiple genres. There are various endings: first, 1812 she's cut out by the hunter. 1697 version, she dies. Does anyone know what spawned that fairy tale? The original Mother Goose fairy tales were parables about aristocratic life. It was parable about losing your virginity: a wolf was a parable for a man. Hunter was her father cutting her out of the belly of the beast allowing her a second chance at following a straight path of obedience. The earliest known version of the story, wise tales told by women: the heroine always escapes by her own wits and it's a story of coming into your own. If you'd like to read some of those early versions, read my book.

Gloria Steinem wrote an essay on "If Men Could Menstruate." If men could menstruate, they would research nothing about heart disease and everything about cramps. It's funny because half of that statement is true: it's true that cramps aren't researched, but women aren't protected from heart disease. It's the number one killer of women. The symptoms are different in women and men: women didn't know they were suffering heart attacks because they and their doctors didn't recognize the symptoms.

Questions to Ask:
1. What is credibility and how do you establish it? Credibility is accountability to knowledge. Don't just say what you know, but how you know it.

2. How do you build an evidence-based, value-driven argument? Evidence is the concrete-building blocks that you all agree is credibility even if you disagree on the conclusions. E.g. don't use a tiny, opinion laden newspaper as the basis of all your evidence. Are you a better person to say it? What is the value that you add?

3. What is the difference between being right and being effective? Example: A few years back, I wrote a piece on Sex in the City that ran in the NYT. I hated the show. They shopped a lot, had no causes that they cared about, and didn't seem to care about their jobs. The mail came in 4 to 1 against me. I thought about how I had just alienated 4 out of 5 people I was trying to reach.

A zone that has two qualities: empathy and respect. You need to believe that the people who disagree with you are both moral and intelligent. For a worthy opponent, those are the qualities that lead to efficacy.

4. What is the bigger picture? No matter how quirky your areas of care seem to be, the ability to understand how your concerns fit into a larger human picture will make you more valuable.

5. Do you understand your knowledge and experience in terms of the values of other people? It is more powerful to understand your worth in relation to other people. You have things that are not just important, but truly important to other people. If you think about that, if you let your value to other people be the driving force of how you communicate. You'll have a much more powerful platform from which to communicate from.

Laura: Op-ed is short for opposite editorial (as in opposite the editorial page). I think I have a unique perspective and could persuade people, not that I'm the only person who could write about it.

To make cookies what do you need? You need a couple of ingredients. You could get special ingredients and make it far more sophisticated and expert driven. Or you could get your butter, milk, and flour and make a damn fine batch of cookies. The recipe for an op-ed is extremely simple. You don't have to get sophisticated

1. expertise
2. timely argument
3. a piece (have to have it written)
4. a pitch

Everything else is chocolate chips.

Expertise: you don't need to know more than everyone else in your field. Because you're willing to put forth your opinion is the reason you should write. E.g.: "the universities have more and more graduate programs in media, journalism, and book development." I think this is terrible. Because the people who go to these graduate programs and spend a ton of money for jobs that pay very little are primarily white and privileged, leading to a more privileged media core.

I've worked in newspapers, magazines, and book publishing. I don't have a graduate degree. I have street cred that says I've worked with reporters on all levels and my expertise speaks to that more than enough to speak on this issue. Stop looking to see if other people have more credentials.

You don't have to get a graduate degree in something to be an expert in the area.

Timely argument: what's going on now that you can write about anchored in what's happening now? I could write a piece about how "these days poor reporting is happening." 3 days ago might be too late for the op-ed page.

You can manufacture the timely anchor in a way that's a little bit more creative. Back-to-school, September: This week people are going back to school. Pitch times to Valentine's Day: a piece about broken heart syndrome which is not just about being upset about breaking up with your boyfriend. Anniversaries of historical occasions.

A day or two after an event is the threshold, unless an event metastasizes (e.g. James Frey) you'll have more time. Or a local event can be stretched into a national story. Most of the issues you care about can be pinned to timeliness. You need to do the work of anchoring it to time: find the time hook.

A piece
Word count is key. There are no ads on op-ed pages. Really tight spot. In the 90s the count was 750, now it is 650. Regional newspapers are below 500. National newspapers were take a little more. Almost every, if not every media outlet has an online space. E.g. the NYT has a balooned online space and a smaller print space.

Attention span changes: 600 words should be a declarative statement on a piece of policy. 1,200 words or longer should give context.

Do not submit a piece that is longer than the maximum word count. If you really can't get it down to 600 words, maybe the NYT is not the forum for you. Really focus in on what the piece is.

Basic Op-Ed Structure
Lede: the news hook to get your attention. We forget that people don't know as much about our subject matter or care about it. Find a way to get people's attention.

News Hook: cultivate a creative, flexible mind about what is timely and important. If you have a good idea, it is probably going to be timely lots of times. Avoid the obvious: a piece on love on Valentine's Day. Anniversaries on 5th, 10th, not 37th. On the 50th anniversary you're competing with people who have waited 49 years to have their opinion heard.

Thesis: Explicit or implied

Argument: make 3 points.

"to be sure" paragraph: acknowledging what the opposite side of the argument thinks (don't actually lead with those words or people will know you're a rookie). This is a chance to be much stronger because it gives you a chance to frame the opponent's argument. The problem comes when you don't make it very clear where that thinking is faulty. Don't just be courteous: acknowledge and dismiss or acknowledge and dismiss, de-prioritize while you validate the opposition argument. The qualities of empathy and respect can be given free reign here.

Conclusion / kicker: tell people what you would have them do differently. If you want to make an effective case for the solution, give people something specific and do-able. Beats grandiose and vague every time.

The op-ed page shouldn't be used just to raise awareness. If there's no implication that something needs to be done, then it's really just me saying "I'm really upset about this." Practically speaking, if there's no solution explicit or implicit it's less likely to be run.

A lot of journalism spelled are purposely miss-spelled. Lede and graf and tk (to come) are purposely miss-spelled so that if you're searching an article, you know that these things are to come out before their printed. This gives you some insider cred.

How to Pitch
When you try to get fancy with the lede, it is distracting and annoying. You're really looking for short, quick. This is what I want to write about, this is what I believe, and get out.

E.g.: "Dear editor, I would like to offer you a piece how the expansion of media graudate programs is a detriment. I am a book editor with experience in newspapers and magazines. The piece is 600 words and is embedded below." If you go too far into your entire bio that's too much.

The pitch just gets attention. Here's a piece tied to this event, love for you to consider it, piece and bio below.

audience questions
Can you pitch a piece multiple times? Never pitch a piece twice to the same editor and don't pitch concurrently to more than one editor. Recast the piece if you want to offer the same piece 6 months later.

What areas are good to start out in if you're new? It's not a simple question. It's not about climbing a ladder. Find your expertise, your area of passion. I need to know what your field is to suggest publications. E.g. what do you read a lot of? That's probably the thing that you know the most about and that you can offer an expert opinion on. Those are probably the places you should pitch to first.

National Writer's Union in Boston meets about writing on social justice issues, including op-ed pieces.

Pitch should basically be 3 sentences in first paragraph, 3 sentences in second paragraph and go onto piece and bio.

Everyone is hurting for content. The internet is such an opinion-driven environment. The ability to express an argument with evidence makes your writing extremely valuable. There's a hunger for that kind of grounded argument rather than just screech and wail. In old media, content is much more expensive, so there's a high demand everywhere.

The key is to do it well. So many of them are poorly done and immediately discarded. People who want to write book are so intimidated. The point is that all those thousands of people who want to be published are doing it wrong, so if you're doing it right, you're ahead of the game.

What is credibility? Accountability to knowledge. One of the things we've discovered in this project is that it's extraordinarily gendered who describe themselves as experts. The reasons that women have such a problem with the term, I should ask why. Women often think it's immodest, self-promoting, or someone else knows more than me. I see an abuse of those values: selflessness to the point of self abdication. We have an ethical responsible to share what we know.

What's an evidence-based value-driven argument? It's not enough to have an opinion, you must have evidence.

What's the difference between being right and effective? If you want to end a conversation, great choose to be right.

What's the bigger picture? In our sessions we do an exercise to think about the larger connections and metaphors of your issue.

What if you thought of yourself as a resource to other people? So many of us walk around thinking that the things we spend our lives on are not important.

It could just be a numbers game that women aren't being published. We speculate that we need 15,000 new women submitting every year to reach a tipping point. I know I could not possibly do this without the staff that's helping us and with all of you. What matters most is what you do when you walk out of this room.

Everything that we talked about today, we consider open source. Share it.

We run seminars that are open to the public around the US: NY, LA, DC, and San Francisco regularly and in other cities infrequently.

April 18 in DC
April 25 in San Francisco
May 9 in NYC
June 20 in LA
end of July in Chicago

They cost $300 and 40% are scholarship.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Other Glass Ceiling: We had a woman candidate, but where are the women in the political media?

Mikki Halpin, freelance writer and editor
Lisa Stone, founder of BlogHer, journalist, and media strategist
Rebecca Traister, senior writer at Salon.com

Lisa: Political blogs written by women expanded exponentially during this presidential cycle. It is a myth that women are only interested in talking about lipstick and their children. Of the top 10 blogs on BlogHer, 5 were about the election, one was about the economy (how to save money when grocery shopping while being environmentally friendly).

Rebecca: I have some very mixed feelings about women and politics. There needs to be more. In terms of numbers, I have nothing particularly great to say. However, as somebody who spends all my working hours thinking about this stuff, I've noticed tremendously positive changes in terms of the number of women voices online, on blogs, on television news, and even in some newspapers. I actually feel pretty positive about some of the changes we've seen. I think it's pretty reductive to say that because there was a female candidate, more females were invited into the room. But that's actually true, and the same is true for African American pundits.

I have written a piece about the rise of Rachel Maddow. She would not have existed as she does now 18 months ago. "Ladies of the nightly news: How the most electrifying campaign of our time changed everything for Katie Couric, Campbell Brown and Rachel Maddow.

Katie Couric did not talk to me about the piece. Campbell Brown said she would ask the questions because she's a reporter, not because she's a woman. Rachel Maddow's issues are not about being female. Since then, I've interviewed Katie Couric and she's personally a feminist and speaks very intelligently about gender issues.

Lisa: I think it's extremely important for us to dissect ourself. On many sites hosted by women on the net, we're able to develop women's voices to a degree that aren't in the MSM. It is interesting to think about expanding our vision of what the punditocracy is and what feminism is.

The achievements of Maddow are interesting to look at while reflecting on how horribly the Clinton campaign was run or how much old-guard feminists have gotten it wrong.

Rebecca: One of my obsessions right now is the definition of feminism. The entrance of Sarah Palin into the presidential race really pushed the definitions of feminism. The right has taken a stake in what it's calling "feminism," It's the Sarah Palin brand of feminism. Real sexism was coming from all parts of the media, including the left. This left a door open for the right that Palin walked through. So they were able to co-opt the history of feminism. I feel it coming.

Lisa: The fundamental question, can you be a pro-life Republican and be a feminist?

Rebecca: This may circle back a little bit to what it means to have women in the media. What was so clear in the campaign was that there was sexism in the coverage of Clinton's campaign. The mainstream media on the left (or who on occasion sympathize with the left) refused to address it. They thought they would get old white lady cooties for even mentioning it. And when Palin came into the race, the right was throwing sexism around like it was a gender studies class. It highlighted the silence from the left and it was terrifying to me because all the words and slogans that were thrown around were being co-opted and would be used to legislate against me. If you were on the right, I suspect you felt very differently.

Lisa: In the politics of identity and the semantics of language were brought into such

Mikki: Gloria Steinem's op-ed in the NYT was painful to read.

Rebecca: Geraldine Ferraro's commentary during the election was even worse.

Steinem says she has written to apologize for the two errors in that piece. There were things in it that were troubling and that really spelled the end of 2nd wave feminism. A repetition of unhappy history: e.g. 2nd wave's inability to take in the experiences of people of color and GLBT women.

The rumors of the horrible rifts within feminism are greatly exaggerated. I talked to so many 2nd wave feminists who wanted nothing to do with Hillary. I talked with 3rd wave feminists who were supporting Obama who really cared about Hillary.

Lisa: I share your frustration. It's only the extremes of the community that bubble up in the MSM. Last week at South by Southwest, there was a panel on the election with 3 men who had substantively covered the election and an Obama girl.

Most women will say they vote on a candidate's track record before they vote by gender. Millenials (18-24 year-old's) vote this way to an even greater extent.

When I hear what you're saying and I think about the very real lack of substance in the MSM. Truly the way to get away from this 2 minute segment style media is to own and operate more media channels. Get enough funding and enough audience to support what you all are doing. I'd like to see even more about entrepreneurs and business models at the next conference.

Mikki: Take a look at all the women pundits vs. this shorter list of male pundits. Who has more influence?

Women: Donna Brazile, DeeDee Myers, Rachel Maddow, Mary Matalin, Peggy Noonan, Michelle Malkin, Arianna Huffington, Laura Ingraham, Linda Mavez, Michelle Benard, Ann Coulter, Amy Homes, Leslie Sanchez, Angela McChuun, Tina Fey, Oprah, The View


Keith Olberman, Jon Stewart, Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlsn, Chris Matthews, Steven Colbert, Jay Leno, Bill O'Reilly

Go here to read Michelle Obama's blog posts during the election.

There was a bit of a debate between Rebecca and audience members about why Michelle Obama's public speaking became less about politics after she was quoted as saying this was the first time she was proud of her country.

Lisa: I think it is always easy to under-estimate women in the media until you stop under-estimating women. I think it is ridiculous to think that you can only be taken seriously if you only write about politics. I've written about step-motherhood, about purses in the NYT, and I still expect to be taken seriously.

Rebecca: A huge portion of the blogosphere is media criticism. That happened a lot, but things were happening so fast in this election that it wasn't always easy to keep track of it. Essentially blogosphere uprising brought to the surface the fact that Fox News was calling Michelle Obama Barack's "baby mama."

Lisa: The economics are forcing mainstream media outlets to change their business model. That said, not every media outlet has feminist writing. I think the cream rises in the blogosphere.

I wanted to ask a question about the definition of feminism, but they didn't call on me. There was an exchange between the panel and the audience about critiquing 2nd wave feminism, questioning whether you need to believe in reproductive rights to be a feminist, acknowledging that some feminists are concerned about economic issues, but absolutely no one came from a global framework. No one mentioned the criticism I often hear on WILPF listservs that by labeling our analysis feminist it somehow limits the breadth of our analysis. It's quite fascinating to me that in the Women's International League there are members who are afraid of the feminist label, who think that issues of peace and justice transcend a feminist framework. If that's really true, why participate in a women's peace organization? Why not spend your time in a multi-gender organization?

Get Inside the Minds of Editors

Marjorie Pritchard: op-ed page editor, The Boston Globe
Martha Burk, op-ed writer, editor of Money section in Ms. Magazine, founder of NCWO
Denise Zeck: ED of American Forum and the National Women's Editorial Forum

Submit op-ed pieces. Denise is more than happy to help edit them.

Martha: I am a national political writer, but nothing is automatic. It is hard to say whether I'm an advocate first or a writer first at this stage in my life. I certainly started as an advocate. I sorta started at the top because I didn't know any better. This is an important message for everyone in the room: I moved to DC and went to a journalism class at George Washington University. Sarah McClinton, a vertan White House journalist and Barbara Reynolds, founding editor of USA Today spoke. Next day, I called Barbara Reynolds and told her I thought she was a person I needed to know. She invited me for lunch. She was on deadline that day and her editor was unhappy with what she had written and wouldn't let her go to lunch until she got it how he wanted it. I sat for 1.5 hours while she continued working on her article. Gayle Evans, first female VP of CNN had a rule: help another woman everyday.

Barbara said when you get an idea, send it in to the op-ed editor and he'll take a look at it. I sent him 400 words and it got in the paper the next day. I didn't know you don't start at the USA Today and I just did. The politics of the paper changed a few years later and they stopped accepting op-ed pieces from me. Since then, I've written for most major newspapers in the country. It still isn't easy for me because it is still hard for them to make space.

My biggest problem with major newspapers is that you can't afford to allow them to sit on something for 10 days so they can have an exclusive, so you just don't send it to them. Washington Post said a few years ago they don't run female opinion pieces because only men submit. That's true because we got sick of rejection and having our writing be stifled as it's waiting for an exclusive placement.

You reach a lot of people with smaller circulation newspapers. There are feminist editors out there even in the smallest places. That's sort of the back and forth of what I do. I do write for the Huffington Post. I know there's a lot of controversy about free media and not being paid. I do get some speaking engagements out of it and my pieces there get circulated around the net.

Marjorie: I get 700 submissions a week and I read them all. I don't read to the end if I'm not interested. I have space for 13 freelance pieces a week because we stopped subscribing to syndicated columnists. We figured you can read those columnists in a lot of other outlets.

You have to study the media outlet you're submitting to. For example, Boston Globe has already run 2 pieces on octomom and we're probably not going to run a third.

Denise: WaPo has 17 regular op-ed contributors and I don't think they have space for any freelance pieces.

Martha: You're going to find a lot of page editors who are either lazy or overwhelmed.

Denise: We send out like a syndicate and smaller media outlets pick up our op-ed's. Op-ed pages are supposed to be a forum for dialogue.

Marjorie: If you have the same authors up there every week you aren't getting new opinions to the reader and that's a great disservice to the reader, who is the only person I care about.

Denise: George Will is the number one syndicated columnist. Not a lot of women are in the top 50.

Martha: If you look at some of the folks who are on the other pages, there seems to be either one or two women's slots and that's it.

Marjorie: I don't have slots for anything. I care whether we've covered it before and whether it is timely. Right now we have 4 spaces a day available. If I look at the op-ed page, it has a foreign piece, a national piece, a local piece, and a slice of life piece.

Denise: Think in advance about what discussions have already happened at a paper and what bills are about to be passed - getting an op-ed into the paper on the day a bill is passed.

Marjorie: When I first started out, op-ed pieces were 750-800 words, now they're at most 700 words.

Denise: Smaller places like 500 word pieces and a photograph with the piece.

Marjorie: A lot of newspapers are getting rid of their op-ed pages completely. People do trust the Boston Globe, but what sets newspapers apart from other competitors is opinion. When you have a lively opinion page, people will flock to you. Other newspapers are going very local with their freelance pieces. It depends on the market and what the op-ed editor wants to do.

audience question: Do you pay for opinion pieces?
We pay for everything we put in the paper except from elected officials. It's only $200, but at least it's something.

audience: How do you understand the demographics of a small paper?
Denise: You don't necessarily need to know the demographics of a small paper because they have a hole to fill. Just send it to us and we'll distribute it. You can send it to a lot of smaller papers at the same time. They're not going to pay, but you can get your voice out there.

Marjorie: A good op-ed page goes against the grain of who your demographics are. That's what makes thought-provoking pieces.

Martha: What subject line should people use?

Marjorie: Write that it's an op-ed piece in the subject line. "Op-ed on WAM." Or even "Time Sensitive" (and make sure it actually is time sensitive) so that if I can't use it you can submit it elsewhere.

Denise: Some women's issues can't get past spam filter. E.g. sex education.

audience: Should you send a pitch or the full piece?
Marjorie: I prefer getting the full piece.

audience: Cynthia from PBS. I'd like to get the head of the ICC to write a piece, but how do we get it placed if you're saying not to start with a pitch?

Martha: That's an exception. That would be a credible author who will be seriously considered.

Marjorie: There aren't a lot of women writing on foreign policy. [Editor's note: WILPFers listen up! We have the expertise! Let's get to writing!] There are a lot of military issues that are in the news.

Denise: The space is enormous right now for international pieces.

Marjorie: We are in two wars and everyone should be interested in what you have to say about those wars.

Denise: On foreign policy issues, they're not necessarily looking for a local angle.

audience member: The women in Afghanistan are organized and risking their lives for peace. They created an action for International Women's Day and wore blue scarves and stood in solidarity for an hour in 7 provinces.

Denise: Editors want to hear from young people. You have to think mutlimedia: audio commentary can be picked up by radio stations. Young people, please write.

audience: I'm a professor and study 19th century media and have been trained in writing in a way that isn't readable. What makes a piece more engaging?

Marjorie: It's how you write it. You can take things you're an expert in, but just bring it up to the present.

Denise: Have friends who aren't academics read it.

Martha: I often ask myself how to pep this up a little bit?

Marjorie: Make sure you grab the reader right away. You have to make it as interesting as possible.

Denise: The key question is answering "so what, why should I care?"

Marjorie: You have to include facts in your piece, but you not spend the entire piece on numbers.

Denise: Many times people don't research enough to peg their opinion pieces to the current news. Sometimes you're breaking state news on the op-ed page because papers don't cover the state legislature as much.

Martha: If you do a bit of work, you can anticipate things that are coming up. For example, unemployment figures come out every month. You can write about women losing jobs and slug in the numbers the day they come out.

Denise: Op-ed can lead to a lot of other media. A lot of senior producers for primetime shows are women. We had Hardball, Charlie Rose, and Talk of the Nation. They get ideas on who to bring on the shows by reading the op-ed pages.

Women need to get hooked on writing op-ed pieces. Women should be thinking about weighing in on public policy issues. Spanish language media is really hungry for translated pieces.

audience: Women's Media Center accepts submissions and pays for content on their website.

audience: If the newspapers aren't covering your subject (e.g. US-Latin American relations), how do you get a timely hook into the op-ed pages?

Marjorie: Call your local newspaper and ask to attend an editorial board meeting to lay out why they should cover the story.

How to Work in the Mainstream Media—and Why You Want to

Ada Calhoun: editor-in-chief of Babble.com and freelance writer
Lynn Harris: journalist for Glamour, the New York Times, and other publications
Kara Jesella: writer and editor for NYT
Rebecca Traister: senior writer at Salon.com and writing a book about women and the 2008 elections.

Is it difficult to get a feminist story in the MSM?
Ada: I've had really good luck. The onus is on the writer to create a timely, relevant article that has a feminist angle. It can't be an evergreen article.

Rebecca: I started at the Observer in NY and that was a place that was not warm to feminism. It was a boy's newspaper at the time and if you proposed a story that in any way wreaked of earnest feminism, you were laughed at. Since then the changes I've seen in journalism have been tremendous. So many of the stories I was pitching had a feminist angle and I was able to create my own beat. And now even the Observer is publishing feminist articles. In my own career arc, I've seen a lot of opportunities open up.

Lynn: It's not an us-them thing. It's not all of us here trying to plot the overthrow of these other people. I think in the case of the Observer, it wasn't that they were anti-feminist, they just weren't earnest.

Kara: I have certainly found that it is easier to get these stories through if you are on staff or have a relationship with an editor. That's why it's harder for younger writers who are just starting out. I remember when I was at the Times filling in for someone in the Style section and had to come out as a feminist around a story on fat politics and it was helpful that I had already been there for months. I think the problem now is that so many people do want to write about these issues and now people think that one person at a newsroom or magazine writing about these issues is enough.

Surviving in Journalism
Rebecca: There were times early in my career that I had to take articles to pay my bills that I didn't necessarily agree with. I wrote an article on sex toys for a women's magazine to pay for a trip to a friend's wedding in Europe, but I wouldn't have taken some of the articles about body issues that I found offensive.

You do have to make some choices: finding the line between your principles / journalistic desires and the need to make a living.

Lynn: If you're a working journalist, your journalism is your work. It's important to remember that it's work. It's a fantasy to think you're only going to write things you care deeply about. If you think of your writing only as art, it allows people to pay you less. When you're a journalist, you're running a business. When you think of it as art, you're often willing to do it for less. Obviously, you don't want to write something you wouldn't put your name on. Dare I say, it's empowering to make a living as a journalist.

Ada: I was able to do a story on boxing in Texas that allowed me to learn about something I would have never known about without the job.

Rebecca: Some of my best experiences as a journalist was when I was learning and had nothing to do with personal interests whatsoever. Covering community board meetings, real estate transactions was a great way to learn journalism and reporting. In some ways, I think in a career arc sense it's really great to get the skills down in areas you don't feel passionate about. And then when you start to have a little more control over what you write about, you have the skills down and can write about you're passionate about well.

Kara: Have you had editors that have helped you move to the next level?
Lynn: I was an intern in 1987 for Ladies Home Journal and that was the job that launched a career. The executive editor groomed me and helped me go on to write for other magazines and for LHJ. To this day, we're in touch.

Rebecca: When I was at Talk, I wasn't a writer and I didn't think that was what I wanted to do. There was an editor who thought I could be a good reporter and got me the job at The Observer and now is my editor at Elle.

Do people what to write for glossy magazines?

Audience member: It seems like long-form articles can only be found in glossy magazines.

Lynn: the lipstick ads are funding the meaty articles.

Have you written for men's magazines?
Lynn: I wrote some profile articles for GQ and I had to salivate a little about how hot some celebrity (Jessica Biel) was but, that didn't bother me that much. You're right - GQ and Esquire have strong writing.

Rebecca: I was a beauty editor for years. I kinda didn't want the job, but I wanted to move from being an assistant. It was interesting in many ways, including being able to take private jets and going to Vegas and having Celine Dion put her arm around me, I was able to get some feminist messaging in there. The thing that I found most problematic was not actually the words, but the pictures. The stories were extremely feminist, if a bit consumerist. I struggled with the fact that most women would never look like the models and celebrities in the magazines.

Sue Katz, question from audience: It's easier to be on the staff than freelance, mostly with alternative, progressive media where the money has almost completely dried up. Is MSM money for freelancers drying up and is there a difference between online and print pay scale?

Rebecca: Money at Salon is tight. Money is tight at glossy magazines, though it is still paying better than online media or alternative media. The fact is, our industry is in serious trouble. There isn't a lot of money and there aren't a lot of jobs. It is hard to say I'm on staff because it is very rare.

Ada: Everything is being cut about 40%. Generally online is about half of what glossies pay. $400 in online media would compare to $2,000 from Glamour. If you want money, you still need to do print, mainstream.

Lynn: Insofar as you can get MSM work that makes money that are dumb, it will allow you to take other gigs that don't pay as well.

Rebecca: 2 paths to getting into glossies. The first is taking an internship or assistant position - where you're literally getting coffee and doing nothing to do with putting words together. It makes such a different to make those connections and work hard at whatever you're getting paid to work hard at (e.g. get really good coffee). The other path is fact-checking. I did both - I was an assistant at Talk and was a fact-checking / reporter at the Observer. Even if you want to be an opinion writer for the rest of your life, I'm a huge supporter of learning how to be a reporter first. Because the reader is trusting you to bring them factual news.

Ada: I did internships at Spin and Esquire in high school and I still run into those people all the time. I started writing for an alt-weekly in college and they're much easier to get into. It's important to take whatever stories are available, especially early in your career. Do it really well and really fast. Eventually you'll be able to go look wherever you want. Be fun to work with and on time.

Lynn: Write to the exact length that they tell you.

audience: How has your experience changed with the growth of online media?

Ada: I've been working primarily online for the last 5 years. I run babble.com and it's an online magazine that's fairly successful.

Rebecca: When I went to Salon I had people ask don't you miss having your words on paper? I actually feel that the words I write on paper are much more ephemeral than what I write online because glossies don't have the deep back history on their websites. I have been able to insist on writing 4,000 word piece words on Salon. We post a lot of articles that are really long.

Lynn: Go talk to women's magazines about their websites. One of the reasons people don't know about the good journalism in glossy magazines is that they don't have good websites. I know they're trying to build up their web presences and know how to make things stick online, go work for a women's magazine website.

Kara: I probably write less for the web than anyone here. I agree with Rebecca - whenever I write for magazines now, it just disappeared. You get a broader audience with the web, since male editors are definitely not reading women's magazines.

Audience question: Do you think newcomers have a better chance pitching essays or reported pieces?

Ada: I would rather have established reporters do the reporting. So I think it would be better to do essays.

Lynn: Make sure that the magazine you're pitching actually runs an essay. Make sure they run things in the first-person. Make sure they didn't just run an article on your topic. It might work in almost the same form in more than one publication, but you have to really tailor it to the magazine.

Rebecca: Also make sure you get the name of the magazine right. I work at Salon and we get a lot of submissions for Slate.

Kara: First learn how to write a really excellent pitch letter.

Lynn: Media Bistro has a ton of resources for writing excellent pitch letters and if you become a member, you'll have access to articles on how to pitch to particular media outlets. I sold a story to Parade magazine about dating violence because I wrote a really good pitch and practically reported the whole story during the pitch. That story wanted to be in Parade because the week after it ran, calls to the National Domestic Violence hotline doubled. And that story made a big difference even if I had to soften the edges to get into a national magazine.

Rebecca: The labor on a reported story is much higher than essays. When we're talking about lower rates, it is much more daunting to report a story for low rates. Especially as things shake out in the next few years, I think skilled reporters will have more jobs than essayists.

Tips for building relationships with editors?
Ada: I get 10 pitches a day from a range of people. Who they are, what column they want to write for, what they want to write about. And about 5 of those pitches are rambling and don't even mention the name of the magazine.

Have a time tag - why is it now that it is relevant and that you really know the magazine.

Don't call and don't expect a critique of the pitch.

Lynn: getting rejected is an important part of the process. You'll probably sell 1 out of every 10 pitches. Follow up with editors, just don't be annoying.

How to write for news-weeklies?
Rebbeca: I know about them mostly as a reader and observer. For women who want to be political beat reporters, White House beat reporters, news-weeklies would be one of the hardest places to break into those areas.

There's still room in those magazines to write about feminism in a soft-focus way.

There is still a huge market for some kind of Sex in the City thing. There are these spaces that women are welcomed as commodities. I don't think it is any more difficult to pitch a story for a news-weekly as a woman than as a man.

The Times now has two female columnists instead of one. That's double.

Time magazine is interested in having more women write for them. It is a push if what you want to write about is not about your experience as a woman or other women's female experience.

Why are stories about sexuality or other women's subjects seen as fluff?
Kara: I encourage you to pitch for places you want to write for even if you don't have experience.

Rebecca: I think I was too bleak before. More women have to pitch whatever you're interested in writing about. It can only get better when more people are taking the chance and doing it.

Audience member referenced article by Rebecca, "Another pretty face of a generation: The question isn't why a blogger like Emily Gould has the spotlight -- it's why other women don't."

Conference Interlude: The Lifelong Activist

There's the regular tables of stuff to peruse between scheduled events. I never leave without buying something and this time I bought a copy of The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way, by Hillary Rettig. I can't wait to read it.

Cynthia Lopez Q and A

1. We did a campaign on the lack of feminist voices on PBS. We wanted transparency on how videos are chosen for air time. Has there been a sea change internally on what kind of films can be shown?

Paula Krueger, the new president at PBS, has hired someone, Haiti Rodriguez, who looks at diversity across the national schedule. A report was done that shows a lot of work needs to be done to increase diversity on PBS.

We need to continue to be diligent on this. More research on minority and women's inclusion in media needs to be done.

In terms of support on what can be done to have public television support diversity, you need to look at the cuts that are being done at all public service media organizations, you need to express to your elected officials that they need to continue to support public service media and describe the type of media you're interested in. Change is slow in public service media, but we are moving in the right direction.

Corporate funded media gets on the air faster than any other type of media.

2. How far along are the films that come to you?

POV on average receives about 1,000 films a year and selects 16-18 films to feature. The series is kept to 16-20 shows because we wage large campaigns around each film. There is an "In the Works" submission for development grant, a regular submission site, and a Diverse Voices Project: the film-maker had never had a national broadcast and we worked with the "Made in LA" film-maker to go from concept to filming to broadcast.

3. How can we help get more actual public funding for PBS?

One, I would definitely read the cover stories on Current Magazine. There's an article that was published on February 17 that talks about what is happening in public television and radio. Also go to PBS's website.

4. How do you choose films for POV?
We have a rigorous screening process. For a weekend, we view 50-80 films, the final cut for films that are chosen to go to an editorial committee who then choose 20-25 films to curate from. Usually we find that film-makers have the pulse of the community not only domestically but also globally.

5. Finishing funds for a documentary?
ITVS has a finishing fund, consortia for minority community has access to finishing funds, as does POV. Click into "For Producer" at POV.

6. Do you have ideas on how to create a new economic model for public media?

Unfortunately, NOW with David Brancaccio is a million dollars short on their operating budget and have to go on an 8-10 week furlough.

News and public affairs programming depend on philanthropic grants and are better at producing news than at fundraising. The majority of our budget comes from foundations. How to change that during this economic climate is really difficult.

If you look at media business plans, they're not working - that's why Nightline had to leave a major network. When you're in a huge crisis is not necessarily the time to work on the over-arching plan.

Cynthia Lopez: Insider - Outsider

After observing the killing of an innocent man by the police in Latin America, she realized she needed to create media that tells the stories we don't usually here.

POV: Questioning how we live and shedding light on a variety of political issues. 19 Emmies, 11 Peabodies, independent documentaries shown on PBS.

Clip from "Made in LA" shown: the story of immigrant garment workers seeking basic labor rights. Dual strategy for English and Latino press. Screened at National Association of Hispanic Journalists Conference. 7,000 media placements garnered for film. Univision, CNN, and Fox News all featured the film-makers. The 3 women featured and the film-makers continue to work together for immigrant labor rights.

Where are women working in the media today? The bad news is that instead of finding where we're working, I found out where we're not working. Media Matters 2000 report notes that all guests on Sunday morning news shows, on average men out number women 4 to 1. American Society of Newspaper Editors: in 2008, 37.6% are women. Minority women are 14% of the newsroom. Meaning 60% of newsrooms are men deciding what is the news and what should be covered.

Boxed in Study done at San Diego State University: 22.7% of radio professionals are women. The Center for New Words describes a lot of rich research we should all take a look at.

The role of women in primetime television: how do women fare? In recent Nielsen reports for 2007-2008: women were averaging 43% of actors. Women 40 or older are less than 10% of characters.

The good news: the 5 major public t.v. organizations are all headed by women (it's never happened before). A Seat at the Table: an Insider's Guide for America's New Women Leaders, book written by, Patricia Harrison, one of those women. Public service media is contingent on public funding.

1. With proliferation of cable channels, people think PBS is no longer the most trusted media outlet. (It still is the most trusted, and then CNN, an Fox third.)
2. Nobody watches PBS. Why does it matter?
3. PBS doesn't produce a lot of documentaries.

Whether you're an outsider, or a hybrid outsider-insider, we understand that our role is to keep the flow of ideas going. Our challenge is to resolve that insider-outsider dynamic. To an activist who is trying to get me to film their story, I might be in an insider. To a journalist that I'm stalking day and night to pay attention to an issue, I might be an outsider.

Clip promoting new schedule that starts June 24 was shown: "New Muslim Cool," new film that will premiere in the new season.

Friday, March 27, 2009

PR 101: Imagery

When you give things a human face it can create interest in the most difficult or wonky stories. 

The media and your audience will respond to even stories they are fatigued by when you have images. Send links to people - don't send attachments. 

Two different agencies:

Agit-Pop Communications - viral and guerilla marketing

Media Storm - amazing video content on serious issues, but keep tight controls on content

Self promotion is extremely important. An example is Amy Goodman: she speaks virtually every night at an event. She has an outreach coordinator who gets Democracy Now! on more networks and gets her more speaking events.

If working on an issue is your main focus, then make all content available for free distribution. 

Create an echo effect: be http://davidsirota.com/ David Sirota. 

Tomorrow night there will be a dinner meeting on book publicity. People interested should meet at the registration table at 6 p.m. (this is an alternative to watching a movie tomorrow night). 


Pitch engine is a good alternative to a poorly designed website or one that you're working on. Can automatically push to social networking sites.  Only a site that is really agressively miscommunicating your mission shouldn't be included as a link in press releases. If your problem is just that it's not the most up-to-date website, don't be too wary of sharing it. 

What if you're looking to appeal to a wide range of audiences? Have one strategy for each audience if they're truly divergent.

An elevator pitch is key.

Goals could be:
1. drive traffic to website
2. emotionally engage people to get them to participate
3. reach a variety of online audiences whose interests might be very diverse
4. increase membership
5. get funders

1. Drive traffic through search engine optimization: make sure your website content is searchable. E.g. webpage titles are extremely important.  (Guess what? WILPF is the #2 natural link when you search "women peace" on Google. Back in 2000 we were the #1 site. Guess what organization started in the last 9 years that has the that higher ranking now?)
Also need to link to other websites and ask those sites to link to you. 

Could need to take a step back to think about audiences. 

Right now the workshop is working through creating a communications strategy for a specific project of an audience member.

Communications Planning Process

1. Identify our challenge
2. Research contributing factors
3. Set your goals
4. Formulate your strategy
5. Determine which tactics make the most sense and establish timeline
6. Establish measurements for success
7. Be prepared to try another plan if those measurements prove your tactics aren't working

1. Identify your challenge: what it means to succeed. E.g. expanding donor base, creating credibility for a new or changing organization, credentializing new leadership, attracting new employees / volunteers, reframing your issues so your organization is more effective, growing a critical mass of political will. 

2. The critical thing for comunications is research. You need to research what your existing media profile is. Use clipping or monitoring searches (quantitative media analysis). Interview your staff, board members, anyone else who is getting feedback on your organization. Whenever possible, gathering data from your membership - whether from a survey, comments on website / blog. You should also research any other marketing strategies that exist in your issue area. You should look externally within the area that you work in - i.e. "competitors" (Human Rights Watch taking note of Amnesty International's public persona / communications strategy.) Research what media matters most to your audiences. Going after 16 year-old female high school students vs. potential celebrity spokespeople is completely different. 

Figure out what Resources You Have:
Infrastructure is big: do you have a website, a blog, a t.v. studio? Do you have a 200K mailing list? Do you have a Facebook page? 
Social network is key: do you have relationships with a celebrity, journalist, or other influencer?
Content toolkit can be key: if you provide the story already packaged, it allows people to use your content to bring eyes to their piece of media. E.g. provide a video to Talking Points Memo, rather than make people available for TPM to write a story on. This also gives you the power to control the message. 

3. Set Your Goals:
Be realistic based on the amount of human capital and financial capital you have. Goals are broader than strategy.
  • Achieve media placements
  • clicks on content
  • to reach one particular influencer or decision-maker
  • sign-ups on social media page
  • purchases of your book, DVD, conference registration
  • communication is subordinate and there to serve your organizational goals and mission
  • establish brand recognition
  • bolster organizational awareness among funders
  • demonstrate the superiority of your vision
4. Formulate Your Strategy:
Once you have your goals set. Strategy and tactics are often confused. Strategy is the over-view of what you want to acheive and tactics are the steps your going to take to make that happen. Examples:
  • determine unique position of your organization among all others 
  • develop partnerships by highlighting existing partnership
  • demonstrate value of organization to funders
  • build credibility through organizational materials so that our leaders will be recognized as experts in our field
5. Tactics
Action items. Must be do-able within your existing resources. They are best achieved through brainstorming. Think creatively about how we can serve the strategies we've identified. Include everybody you know. The only rule in brainstorming is to not allow criticism on anything. The tactics that get employed in PR are interesting. You need an interesting visual...unfortunately people like consumer issues (e.g. standing outside Apple store with HIV org branded t-shirt from Monday through Thursday until the first i-Phone is sold). Sometimes you need to figure out a way to bridge the gap to people who are burned out on hearing negative stories. 

Turn ED into go-to person on stories on women. You can build a press center with a clip of the ED answering sample questions. Post media that has already happened. Also improving website and getting involved in social media. 

Execute tactics and measure. Your online newsroom might not getting any hits at all. You might have a celebrity speaking for you and then they get involved in a hideous scandal. 

Many ways of measuring that depend on what you're interested in measuring. Internal communication audits can review what hits are coming through to your website. 

Create a Media Strategy (Cont)

PR is placing your story into a greater context. This is the world that exists; this is the conflict that's taking place, this is the way we can create a solution to the conflict. Telling the arc of that story is PR. It is a blend of activism and journalism with a big dose of media production. 

Turning stories into media production is increasingly falling on activists, rather than journalists. Over the last decade, editorial border guards are increasingly harder to get passed. The old ways of distributing media content are less valuable with the rise of the web. E.g. classified ads used to only be in print newspapers, now you can put one up for free on Craigslist. 

The producers of content and their audiences can be connected directly through the internet. This is causing a crisis in traditional media b/c they can't monetize their content. Controversial issues cost more to cover, aren't as easy to syndicate, and aren't friendly to advertisers. Therefore, the border guards are more difficult to get through. 

We can create and distribute content: it's less expensive to shoot and edit video. The burden for advocates of ideas is definitely rising. This is the lay of the land before we start strategizing. 

Reasons for PR:
1. Opportunity to create advocacy-oriented content. 
2. Means of influencing the public debate: reaching your audience directly and indirectly

Developing a Comprehensive Media Strategy (Ina Howard-Parker)

Official description: Join Represent Agency to workshop the development of a successful media campaign. Learn some media tips and tricks for launching grassroots-to-grasstips advocacy campaigns, publishing a book, or creating a groundbreaking new website. 

I'm super excited! Right now people are doing introductions about what type of work they do. Ok, 20 minutes so far of people's intro's....interesting number of people looking for book publicity help. 

PR often gets a bad rap as spin in activist circles. Pretty clear that this audience doesn't have to get over that boundary. Just in case, the reasons it matters:
1. your organization always has a public image. Whether it's you and your mom or you and your international organization. 
2. you always want to be actively shaping that public image rather than just being reactive. If you find yourself in crisis, you want to be able to shape the reaction.
3. have relationships with journalists, so that you have an open door for when changes happen. You're always going to be your best advocate and understand what's unique about your work. 
4. funding is always an issue - advertising and marketing tend to be more expensive than PR. PR can be done with virtually no money. If you get 3 column inches in the NYT, you get a lot more credibility than buying an ad.
5. we are public educators trying to shift the public debate. To keep it within our own little thought bubble doesn't create the change we want as effectively as we can. 

Media Exposure on the Cheap (Denise Moorehead)

Through the lens of how do you do this on the cheap. Example: $3.8 million spent on marketing by the cigarette lobby per day.

"Free" media exposure isn't completely free because it takes time.

Traditional media, transitional media, new media will be looked at.

Traditional Media
How do you address issues that's unique, what expertise / experience do you bring to the table?, how is your organization unique?, who else is doing this work and what are their politics?

Don't always try to start at the top of the food chain: look at weekly newspapers, alternative news sites. Smaller outlet coverage can help you move up the food chain.

You can write op-ed's for other folks who are considered experts in the area and talk to editors to see if they're interested in it. Read it, use it, know it: with all media before you try to use it.

You can get a commentary on your local NPR station. Partner with organizations who might have access you don't have.

Letter to the editor of newspapers and magazines: continue to use by-lines of the experts in your organization, even if you're the one writing it. Create a group of members / constituents who respond to newspaper and radio stories. Once a month send out talking points and allow your constituents to speak to the media.

Public affairs shows on NPR and Pacifica. Community radio and t.v. Public Service Announcements can still be useful, even if it's used at 2 a.m. PSA's can be used by women's magazines. Ticket give-away for an event.

Transitional Media:

Your website of course. Clear, crisp, good visuals. Video logs, podcasts - make it interesting for folks. Really think about who is reading your website. It's not about your office politics, people are there to read about your issues. Do some surveys and polls.

Have a web press center. (I have to be honest, I don't do this well myself.) This is where action alerts and press releases go. Bios of your experts are needed: they don't have to be super-famous. Backgrounders on specific programs.

Online t.v. and radio sites. Other people's websites. If you write an article, send it to Ask.com (change around a little bit so they aren't exactly what's on your website).

New Media:
Use it before you pitch it. This is even more important than with old media. If you don't read anyone else's blog, don't bother trying to pitch the blogosphere.

Bloggers draw media to you.

Good2gether. Ning site. Google ads: any nonprofit can apply for free Google ads. Google alerts.

Green Media Toolshed. If you join, it gives you access to Vocus

Progressive Communicators Network

PR Newswire, Profnet: press people looking for people.

Help a Reporter Out (free)

We Are the Media

National Association of Black Journalists
(also associations of Asian, Hispanic, and Native American journalists).

Now the Media is Listening, How Do You Convey Your Message (Jennifer Pozner)

Live blogging from this session is also happening at Women in the Media & News, but Jennifer is now taking a break to be a panelist.

It's so important to reach out to ethnic media. Example: immigration marches were originally covered by Spanish language radio and newspapers, which gave organizers better access to organizing more people for the May Day rallies and pushed the mainstream media to cover the events.

In 2006, the March for Women's Lives brought together more people to DC than any protest up to that time (larger than the 60s anti-war protests, larger than the previous anti-Iraq war protests). That story was deemed to be largely inconsequential, would not have an impact on politicians, predominantly reported on for one day and largely under-counted the attendance, then there were "balanced" stories about the 200 or so anti-abortion activists who showed up. (I remember this event; I left a WILPF board meeting early to return to DC for the rally...I was living in DC at the time.)

Every time you read a story about feminism being dead the underlying message is "have we killed it yet?"


U - unpack acronym speak. Do oppositional research to understand how conservatives are speaking about your issues, and also, just as importantly, how the mainstream media is describing your issues. Understand right-wing spin (e.g. "if we don't fight them over there, we'll have to fight them over here.") Create frames and messages that work to unpack that particular idea. Spin Works is a great book with "the brother-in-law test." Explain your issue without jargon, that respects his intelligence and makes him understand that your issue impacts him is a good test of unpacking message.

S - Spin. Can be translated into propaganda. Can also be a positive thing: creating a message that is easy to understand, be ethical.

E - Engage. engage the media at every point in your work from beginning to end. Don't just send a press release and wonder why they don't show up. If you see a piece in the media that inaccurately covers your story, try to educate them. If they cover it positively, feed them research.

M - messaging

E - educate. Educate yourself to become spokespeople. Then you're better prepared to educate the public through the media.

D - Debate. Understand that it is a stacked deck. Women and people of color are vastly under-represented in broadcast media. It is important to not self-select out of the debate.

I - Initiative, Insistent, Innovative, Intuition: keep at it. Understand what has been said before about your organization and unpack them.

A - Accessible. Really important to pass the brother-in-law test. Reach as large an audience as possible while staying pertinent to your core audience. Arm yourself with information: prepare and practice soundbites. Don't go into interviews cold. Practice. Role-play with someone playing the inaccurate journalist throwing at you the craziest anti-feminist crap.

Getting the (Mainstream Niche and Ethnic) Media to Listen (Rochelle Lefkowitz and Kelly Chunn)

1. Who cares? (developing target audience)
2. Who does it impact?
2. How do you make it entertaining?
3. How do you sell this story to (an almost always male) editor?
4. What else is going on? E.g. right now can you integrate an economic spin into your story? Peg what you're trying to communicate to a main story (also called a sidebar: e.g. philanthropic organizations impacted by the Madoff Ponzi scheme)

Case Study - "Sisters Together: Move More, Eat Better"
Media relations is part of an integrated marketing campaign. (Now we're talking my language...) Rather than communicating a message to the media that you hope they will get it right, by using the net you can communicate your story directly to your target audience.

Issue was obesity and how it relates to African American community. Diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and cancer are potential negative health outcomes of obesity. One of the strategies was prevention and the pilot area was Roxbury / Dorchester, ages 18-35, low-moderate income women.

The campaign name came from focus groups. They basically gave us our tagline. Notice that there's no mention of obesity or negative consequences. By developing the strategy through focus groups, you meet people where they are rather than speaking from afar and judging them.

Marketing materials were developed with tagline and logo. Media campaign was developed around partnerships: partnered with WILD radio, spokeswoman was Olivia Fox, a radio personality with similar issues. Nutrition experts were featured on her radio show, along with cooking editor of Essence magazine, and did community-based events. Wellness Fair was sponsored in Roxbury. Boston Globe did a feature in their community beat section on Olivia Fox. Community cable show on cooking was also developed.

Because of the health disparities public policy issue, it helped us generate national coverage: Wall Street Journal, CNN did a story on Stop & Shop supermarket in minority community on healthy eating, community ethnic newspaper stories were written by us with pictures.

Community and ethnic media is often short-staffed. They're looking for people with writing skills and are looking for articles to fill their space. Build relationships with editors of those publications. This is an area of media relations - not a way to get paid for articles.

Media Strategy 101 (Mahdis Keshavarz )

It's not all about national media. You can get a lot of impact out of small circulation newspapers.

Op-ed's are a good way of getting your message out.

[Interlude: someone is telling the story of the Boston Bio-Lab action, which he credited to Code Pink member Sue Gracey. Wasn't Boston WILPF the primary organization behind that action?]

Look to where you yourself get your information and reach other individuals who use those sources.

What's a media plan? Have a clear idea of who your audience is: everything from college students to community college students to college students in the Boston area; undergraduates or graduate students? Students is too large a category. Have a clear idea of your goals and communication capacity.

Do you read newspapers in print or online? Do you listen to NPR or Pacifica?

Women for Afghan Women: had been desperately trying to get attention of women under the Taliban before 9/11. After 9/11, women's situation was used as a justification for dropping bombs on Afghanistan. But with the help of a PR agency, WAW was able to get some of it's perspective out because now it's issue was seen as newsworthy.

Creating a Good Media Strategy

Reasons for a strategy: exposure, change, funding, impact, leadership, advocacy, policy, outreach, increase attendance, increase readership, increase viewership

Elements of a good media strategy: short and long term goals, credibility, clear message, relationships, timeliness, news hook

Human resources needed: English proficiency (in journalistic English), other language proficiency, ability to speak in public, people who can translate complicated issues into easy to understand language, ability to create and articulate an inspiring vision, time, money, passionate about the issues, tracking current events to know what journalists are talking about, long-term relationships with journalists, tracking what the media is saying about your issue, oppositional research, thick skin about rejection

Media strategy and planning should not be an after-though. Should be integrated into programming.

Audience: you need to understand who you're trying to reach, what media they consume, and how to write for your different audiences.

Live Blogging: PR: Getting Your Word Out

I'm attending the Women, Action, and the Media conference in Boston on behalf of WILPF. Right now I"m in a pre-conference intensive training "PR: Getting Your Work Out There - A dynamic day of media strategy for feminists and community organizers who are media savvy but not (necessarily) PR savvy"

First bit of advice: create and maintain relationships with journalists.

Remember that news rooms are losing hard news journalists, while maintaining sports coverage. Nightly news is short, primarily about celebrities and the weather. Hopefully after the intro, I'll be able to post some info that is new to y'all.

Now she's talking about "Pray the Devil Back to Hell." I'm so lucky to know Robin and to have read her post about the movie so I don't look stupid...she's pointing out that a radio journalist was instrumental in getting the women's activism promoted.

How would you categorize WILPF? I wouldn't say we're community activists, though we're definitely grounded in communities. Does it seem odd that I would not raise my hand for that category? Peace and justice activist, political activist, international change agent, yes. But not community activist. Do you disagree?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Pray the Devil Back to Hell

I wrote this on Wednesday, but was unable to post it until now:

Life is exceptionally good right now. I'm sitting in a cafe named after my hometown, with good coffee and a good muffin, and I have never felt more proud to be a woman working for peace. This movement makes for excellent company. I'm still glowing from a screening of the documentary film Pray the Devil Back to Hell, about a group of gutsy, fed up women took peace into their own hands in Liberia, brought the major parties to the table, and made them negotiate, with the simple statement “we want peace, no more war.” I feel so proud to be a woman right now.

Some highlights include:
- This was the first time ever that Christian and Muslim women worked together in Liberia.
- They had a sex strike to get their husbands invested in peace.
- They brought President Charles Taylor and LURD (the opposition rebel group) to peace talks in Accra, Ghana. They went along and continued to monitor the process.
- When full-scale war broke out in Monrovia (the capital of Liberia) during the peace talks (as the women tell it, the warlords at the talks were living in luxury while jockeying for power and position and calling in orders from back rooms)
- After a particularly bloody episode where militants entered the US embassy, where many IDPs had taken shelter, the women in Accra went to the negotiating chamber, sat in front of the doors, and locked arms. In this way they trapped the delegates inside. Officers came and asked for the leader, and she stood up, announcing herself. They said they would arrest her, and she said she'd take off her clothes and make it easy for them (it is a curse in Africa to see your mother naked). - They left her alone. One delegate was prevented from jumping the barricade, and tried to kick the woman who stopped him, but was prevented by Mr. Abubakar, one of the mediators, who said “go and sit down. If you were a real man you wouldn't be killing your people.” The women gave the delegates two weeks, or they would do it again. They also demanded that they not be insulted anymore as they sat outside with their signs.
- The mood of the talks became serious, and in two weeks an agreement was reached in which UN peacekeepers would be sent and a provisional government would give way to democratic elections. Taylor fled the country. Many warlords got positions in the government. These women didn't like that, and continue to hold the government accountable, in the knowledge that they can reassert their will at any time.
- When the UN directed militants to bring their weapons to be surrendered for compensation, the women knew this wouldn't work, but the UN said they were the experts and wouldn't listen. Violence ensued. As one of the women put it, “the UN didn't know what to do. Luckily for them, the women were there. We told them all what they were doing wrong...fortunately we were able to calm the situation down.”

One quote, especially, sticks with me. “We campaigned until we forgot that we could be raped.”

I am beyond inspired. This is the true meaning of empowerment. Of course, women should be inside the negotiating chamber as well as blockading the doors, but wow – if we could end our wars by wearing white (or whatever color) and constantly and confidently asserting all people's right to peace (and we can), what a world it would be!