Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Guide to MEDIA ACTIVISM by Guest Writer Sayeed Khan

It’s clear that mainstream news media is consistently biased in certain matters relating to foreign policy. Coverage of the recent attacks in Gaza are yet another example of info that is one sided or simply wrong. The growth of social media has given people a chance to present alternative news and influence public opinion. Public opinion influences public policy, and the views of the masses should never be underestimated.

In addition to social media, there is another way to have a direct impact on mainstream news. “Media Activism” is how I refer to the aggressive monitoring of all forms of media through online comments, radio call ins, and letters to the editor.

Media Activism is a democratic way to monitor--and even influence--news media and the opinions of those who read or view it. This is something that everyone can participate in, and there are no excuses not to.  Instead of simply complaining about biased news media, why not do something about it?  If there were thousands of comments in support of Palestinians, for example, this would influence other readers, as well as producers of news content.

The current focus is on mainstream news media sources which have an online presence. TV Networks such as CNN and ABC News and newspapers such as Chicago Tribune and New York Times all have online comments after each article. The following explains how commenting on these articles can make a big difference.

You can increase: 

The power of representation:  A simple comment you make on a news site is seen to represent the views of hundreds of people, much like a call or letter to your Congressperson. Your comments are seen by a large number of readers, as well as producers of news content. Producers can be swayed by the “market” and undecided viewers are largely influenced by what “the public” thinks.   

The power of new perspectives  Your comments can give new and different perspectives to potentially millions of readers across the nation. There are many people who never knew your perspective existed and their views are shaped mostly by biased news media and those with hidden agendas. Others do not have accurate information or an understanding of current events.  Recently, I was on news sites and the majority of people felt Israel was the victim of terrorist attacks and were barely aware of Palestinian perspectives on this atrocity.  That’s what they have been fed.  When there are virtually no opposing views or information to counteract, expect the worse.  We can change that!  One comment by one.

The power of influencing producers, writers, and editors: Having many people with a stance that is Pro-Palestinian, for example, is something that news producers may want to know. In television, radio, print, or online. Each person commenting represents hundreds or thousands of viewers/readers in their mind.  Comments are a gauge on viewer sentiment and can influence news coverage.

The power to enhance efforts.  Having a rally? Did 20,000 people show up and news media barely covered it?  This is what happened in a recent march in Chicago, and it’s the same in many cities. We can spend tens of thousands of hours (20,000 people x 4 hours = 80,000 hours) and still be buried in a low profile article nowhere near the front page.  With less than .1% of these hours focused on local media coverage, this could be front page material.  Even after the fact (no coverage), local news media can be contacted.  If inundated with hundreds of comments about why this wasn’t covered more, the next rally might be front page news. This can be done with less than 80 hours of time…compared to the 80,000 hours in the example above. That’s efficiency!

How to get started:

Step 1: Go to a news site and create a user name. It only takes 5 minutes.  Start with one national (ex: CNN.com) and one local (ex: Chicagotribune.com).

Step 2:  Read any article. At the end, click on “comment” in the comments section.  You will be directed to log in.  Once logged in, comment away!

Step 3: Comment on Facebook by finding the page for any media outlet.  Start with ABC News, NBC News, and CNN International. Find a comment and post away.  One nice thing about these pages is that you can post video—just as you do on your own Facebook page.  But a post on a news outlet page reaches thousands of new people.
Post Anything. Post Everywhere.

Large or small.  Picture or video.  In-depth or one liner.  Don’t underestimate the power of taking a stance. It’s a numbers game.  Show more stance, have more power.  At the very least, “like” a comment that resonates with your perspective.  Furthermore, post everywhere.  National sites and local sites – all are important.  It might make more sense to post shorter posts to national sites and longer posts to local sites given the depth of attention of producers at each.   

Demystifying some Myths about Media Activism

Myth #1: It takes too much time and effort
Do you have 5-10 minutes per day?  Per week? How about 5-10 minutes anytime you feel like it? That’s all you need to reach hundreds, sometimes THOUSANDS of people. A simple message like, “I support Palestinians. I support humanity.”

Myth #2: I don’t know enough about the issues to comment. 
Comments are expressions of opinion, not knowledge.  You can post your opinion based on the knowledge you do have.  If you’re on FB, you’ve probably seen many videos, pics, and quotes of people condemning the attacks. You can repost those with a few of your own words. Just show your stance! This is what matters most.

Myth #3 My comments will be too public. (and I’m not comfortable with that).
You don’t have to use your real name to register on a media outlet.  You can register a screen name like “Bearsfan34.”  If you are posting on a media site using Facebook, remember that the thousands of users are strangers from around the globe who will likely not pay attention to your name but to your comment.

Myth #4: I don’t like to get too controversial.
There is no need to say anything aggressive or extreme. Simply state your belief – you don’t need to engage in debate or respond to another commentator. Just say what you think and show that your perspective exists in the world!

Start Now!

Just choose 2-3 media outlets, national and local, to get started.  Every time you read an article, comment on it. Get your friends and family to comment on articles they read.  Mainstream media may be biased, but this is an opportunity that is wide open to us all. With the collective efforts of many people, we can make a big difference.

1 comment:

Jennath Biber said...

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