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Organizing a Journey for Justice Event: Writing a News Release

Organizing Journey Events
Journey Event Introduction
Organizing a Public Event
Find a Journey Leader

Register as a Journey XActivist
Types of Meetings
XSpeaker's Forum
XDiscussion Group
XPrivate Meeting
XMedia Appearance

Technical Assistance
Choosing a Meeting Location
Order Supplies

Publicity - You Want It!
XGetting an Audience
XYou and the Media
XNewspaper Listing
XRadio/TV Bulletin (PSA)
XNews Releases & Samples
XDesigning Flyers/Posters
XUsing Mail and Phone
XUsing the Internet!
XPublicizing a Journey Event XXon our Website

Sign-up Sheets/Petitions
Phone Tree
Volunteer Questionnaire

Grassroots Organizing
Getting Started
Starting a Local Group
Expanding Your Network
The First Meeting
Forming a Family Group

Making a Display

Vigil, Rally, Demonstrate
Presenting a Video Series

Reading Room
Intro & Contents
Media Resources
10 Tips to End the Drug War
Becoming an Activist

Communication Skills
Closing Your Letters/Memos
Tax Credits for Volunteers
Working with Legislators
Honest Hope and
XThe Hundredth Monkey
Overcoming Masculine

Adapted from; used with permission
Bottoms Up Version 1.0
©2001, 2003


You and the Media

Remember, large or small, the media is always interested in reporting local events, especially when someone visits from out of town. When you merge this opportunity with a respectable outreach in your community of leaders and activists, the press is more likely to be interested in covering your event. With a little work, you are going to make the news!

Develop a relationship with the local media early in your planning.

Who is the likely reporter that might cover the Journey for Justice event schedule in your area? Read your local paper carefully to determine what reporter might be more interested than another. The type of stories a reporter covers is your clue. Some newspapers have large writing staffs, and one reporter might routinely cover social justice, or assigned to cover local events. All you have to do to determine this is read your local paper.

We provide a sampling of 'News' or Press Releases. When you send a news release to a local paper, if you direct it to a particular reporter, you might find you receive more success in getting coverage.

Does your local group have other activities planned in the meantime? If so, then now is the time to get to know that local reporter, or perhaps at least one member of the editorial board. If you are comfortable doing so, and can afford it, take a reporter to lunch. Introducing the issue of drug war imprisonment, and your group's work to a local reporter is an appropriate 'lunch invitation' theme. Or ask if you can make an appointment to stop by his or her office and introduce yourself and the issue you represent.

Put a human face to your news releases, and remember that if you choose this method of contact with a reporter, you are representing an issue, your local group and national groups as well.

Dress appropriately, be neat, timely, and keep your conversation within your experience. If you do have lunch with a media person, don't open a restaurant tab and order liquor if you can't afford to pay for it. That is why an early luncheon date is preferable if you choose this method -- it's for business discussion, and a simple lunch can be inexpensive. Of course this is only a couple of suggestions. You will want to consider ways you will make a press contact, and build a business relationship with a local reporter(s).

If you have some experience with media, all the better, but don't think that you need experience before you start getting experience. It really is easier than you might think.

You will want to try to get a story in the local newspaper before the public event. This will bring people to the event that would not heard of it otherwise.

As soon as you have a firmly schedule event, and it has been posted on the Journey Event Schedule, you are ready to notify your local reporters and radio news broadcasters of the upcoming public event(s).

If you follow your checklist and timeline, you will have notified the media correctly.

What is the newsworthy event, if the Journey date is months in the future?

The newsworthy event is your planning meetings! The subject of the excess and harm of the war on drugs would come up more often in many local papers, if there was a 'local hook'. Today, most papers only cover the war on drugs if there has been a recent 'drug raid,' or new funding for drug tasks forces, etc. You can change that. Make the news with a public call for local volunteers to attend a planning meeting for the public event on ____ date.

When you have a public event, the TV news may be interested in sending a reporter and cameraman. You can develop working relationships with TV news teams as well.

Remember, polling by the ACLU and Pew research studies in 2002 revealed that 75% people feel that the drug war has failed, and the same percentage have little faith in the justice of the criminal justice system. Reporters are people. The chances of finding reporters who will give your event fair and accurate coverage are very good.

If you succeed in getting some pre-event publicity - congratulations! And if you panic about an upcoming interview that's been scheduled, the following webpages will help you learn how to conduct an interview:

How to Give Great Media Interviews: Prepare, Control, Educate - Tips on Giving a Good Interview with the press

If TV news covers your demonstration, assign one person to tape each television station that was present at your event so you may begin a library of media coverage.

Don't forget to pick up the newspaper the next day to see how the event was described, and save this paper in your own archives. You'll want to send news footage tape and news articles to the main offices of the November Coalition - we will include this on the Journey for Justice archive of reports and press coverage.

For more on interviews, writing press releases and developing media skills, don't miss this excellent excerpt from a great book on working with the media by Jason Salzman.

Let the World Know: Make Your Cause Known - A Beginner's Guide to Getting Media Coverage

If you have a loved one in prison, whose story you want to share with the press, be brief. Don't try to explain a complicated drug conspiracy case. Nora Callahan has learned to say, "My brother was charged and imprisoned in 1989 for a drug conspiracy and sentenced to 27 years in federal prison. There was no evidence, just the word of those who traded testimony against my brother for their freedom."

For sample News Releases for Journey events, click here.

Media Advisory Template - Generic

Nora Callahan, Chuck Armsbury and other November Coalition Journey speakers may be available to do a TV or Radio talk show or newspaper interview while they are in town. Try to schedule talk shows or newspaper interviews as part of the Journey for Justice schedule. To read more about this type of Journey event visit: Planning a Media Event.