We've all heard about how biased the media are when it comes to reporting on abortion and life issues.
In 1990, when David Shaw of the Los Angeles Times wrote his series "Abortion Bias Seeps Into News," confirming from a journalistic perspective the nationwide complaints and concerns so many pro-lifers have had over the years, we all felt better for a while.
David Shaw's series may have been a milestone in journalistic history for the pro-life movement, yet we are still concerned about the lack of fair reporting. In the spirit of fairness, we need to examine our own bias against the media.
We must try to establish a better relationship with the media if we want to accomplish our pro-life goals.
With that in mind, we share these simple and critical steps to getting better news coverage.
Prepare a media list
This list should consist of major media outlets in your community, including radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, talk shows, newsletters and newswire services.
You may want your list to include some of the larger state or even national media outlets.
Reporters will receive your news releases, biographies and position papers by mail. However, after a fundraiser or two, you may want to consider purchasing a fax machine.
Find the correct contact
Call and identify the contact person or reporter handling a particular beat. If you are seeking someone to cover an abortion-related story, and reach a reporter who works with entertainment, your information is likely to be discarded or ignored.
Simply call the main number of the organization and ask who is currently covering abortion-related stories.
Build a rapport
When you determine who is covering abortion, call that reporter and introduce yourself. Let him or her know who you are. Be brief!
"Hello, I am Jan Smith from Pro-Life Wisconsin. I just wanted to introduce myself and see if I could fax, mail or drop off some information to you about Pro-Life Wisconsin.
"Pro-Life Wisconsin can provide helpful information, interviews, research data, and experts from our own community or on the national level.
"You can find the necessary information to contact me in the packet I will provide for you."
A week later call the same reporter and ask if you could take him or her out to lunch or meet for a cup of coffee.
If the reporter agrees, but sets a time that is far away, be patient. Reporters need to know that you are willing to give them space and time.
Get to know them and let them know you. Reporters are people too. Don't accuse them or put them on the defensive. Treat them as you would want to be treated. Take the time to build a rapport with them; this will lead to opportunities to educate them. Above all, be sincere.
Try to accomplish this before you want them to do a story.
It is important to know that the first few articles may not be exactly what you wanted, but be patient and kind. You will notice more and more change as time goes on.
We need to remind ourselves that we are looking for journalistic integrity, not a total endorsement of our work.
Give the reporters clear, concise and factual information, and always provide your sources. Do not exaggerate the truth; the truth does just fine on its own. Never expect reporters to do something for you just because you have developed a rapport. They have a job to do just as you do.
Know contacts and experts
A reporter needs to know whom to contact when a story is breaking. If you have done your job ahead of time, the call will likely go to you.
Do not be a media hog. If a reporter wants to know something about crisis pregnancy centers and you work in another area of pro-life work, you should defer to a good spokesperson or expert involved directly with CPCs.
This will give you more credibility with reporters. You will become a resource person to the media. They will call you back.
Reporters want access to people. They want to know who you are and why you believe what you do.
They want to find you and your contacts at a moment's notice. Easy access means more balanced coverage.
It is a good idea to assemble a list of pro-life contacts and experts (local, state and national) to have at your fingertips. (We can help you with some of this, if you like.)
Reporters like to be aware of events. If you know about an event far enough in advance, it is a good idea to call or meet them and provide a personal invitation.
If an event is truly "breaking news," your phone call to alert reporters is generally appreciated.
Reporters have many requests to do certain stories. In addition to the day-to-day news, they will cover certain requests. You may offer them a story about an upcoming event, and they won't see why they should cover it. Be kind, but persist. Don't give up. Help them to come up with an angle. Don't be obnoxious, be creative; you may be surprised with the results.
Having a friend in the media: If you approach reporters with the idea of being useful to them, you will have many opportunities to help them learn the truth about abortion. To have a friend, be a friend.
Make a new start
Maybe you have had an unfriendly relationship with your local or state media. With our passion for the preborn and the hesitancy of media outlets to report or be forthcoming, the tension and animosity can run high.
May I suggest that if this has been true with you, offer your pain to the Creator of all life and ask for His strength to call on those you have offended the most, and apologize for the past and ask for a fresh start.
Follow some of the above ideas and perhaps you will have an opportunity to share some of your passion and concern in a way that you otherwise never would have.