Put yourself in the shoes of a journalist

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Put yourself in the shoes of a journalist

Let’s stop worrying about doing big actions and blasting the word out in various ways like Twitter and Facebook, banking on the theory that the sheer mass of information will trigger media coverage. Instead let’s start putting ourselves in the shoes of journalists as a matter of course.

When planning an action with the goal to draw attention to your movement, you should ask yourself routinely: "If I were a journalist from Newsweek, how would I pitch a story about this to my editors?" This can lead to actions that at the very least keep us amused, and probably would do a lot more.

As an exercise you could create a big list of action ideas, following a suggested rule: pretend you're a mainstream journalist who wants to write a story about this problem, but you have to pitch the story to your mainstream editor.

This guiding principle could become a sort of template for actions—with, hopefully, the actions being improved upon with time and thought. Most editors aren't going to okay a story titled "Activists Hold Another Rally."  What story can you give them that they will be excited to publish?

Rather than design a march on Wall Street, you can think of silly actions that still get your story across - even without holding banners and signs. Take this idea: people mourning Wall Street en masse in a really creepy way. We are not saying that this is a great idea, but if it’s done right, and with enough borderline creepiness, it certainly could result in coverage of the "this hasn't been done before" or "this hasn't been done since the '60s."

You can be pretty out there as you brainstorm your big list of action ideas: people hurling poop at buildings, blocking a bank office by building toilets, etc.—journalists could pretty easily pitch those stories to their editors. (If you're planning a direct action that could result in arrests, make sure that you train your team beforehand so you, and they, know what to expect.)

How about even just redoing a brilliant action that others have designed? For instance, if you are working on an issue around big banks, you might borrow the Otpor barrel action but collect money for the retirement of the CEOs of Chase, BofA, etc. Or you could adapt the Yippie dog burnings, where activists posted notices that something atrocious was being done to a cute puppy and that people could come watch this abuse. Actions like these need a clear storyline that a journalist can latch onto, and therefore can report on.

You can brainstorm dozens of such actions, some inspired by or copied from from past actions (check out Beautiful Trouble and Actipedia) to compile a big list of suggested, not fully-fleshed out ideas. Then members of your group can refine and improve these actions as you go forward with your planning, always thinking of the golden rule of “How can the journalist pitch it?”

How to speak to the press

Keep in mind always what you're fundamentally trying to do: further publicize your target's evil behavior and expose their obscene attitude behind it. Stick to that message.

There is a possibility that, if you’ve kept your goal in mind, a journalist will finds his/her way to you. Whether you are pretending to be the bad guy of the targeted company or the activist explaining the action, it is wise to be prepared to talk to the press early on in the game. Practice before you perform.

Prepare and write your talking points down; it will help you remain consistent with your goals. It is unnecessary to write pages and pages of talking points. Keep them short, funny, filled with punchy lines, or offensive-sounding ones if you're impersonating your evil target.

Set up an email address and designate a cell phone where journalists can reach you whenever you send out a press release. If you don’t want to use your personal cell phone, you can also set a number up with Google Voice or Skype, or a pay-per-use cell phone.  If you do use your own number, do a google search on the number to make sure that it doesn’t turn up in searches.