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How to Deal with the Journalists Who Come to Your Action

Part 4: An activist guide to exploiting the Media

by George Monbiot

The whole media-exploitation process is about news management, and this is just as much the case once journalists get to the action as it is when you're trying to attract them. You've got to give the best possible account of what you're doing, and provide the clearest possible explanation of why you're doing it. This means:

A. Make sure the right people talk to the journalists.

Different people do different things best. Some are brilliant at building treehouses or digging shit pits, but not much good at being charming to the running dogs of the counter-revolution. Some people will have just dropped a tab of acid or have last night's vomit stuck in their hair. This won't endear them to journalists, who, in most cases, will be having enough trouble crossing the cultural divide as it is.

Talking to the press is something of an art form: you must be charming, persuasive and well-briefed. Best of all, you'll have practised, by persuading your friends to pretend to be hostile reporters.

B. Be careful, but don't come across as suspicious.

Some of them will be there to help you, others will be there to get you. Sometimes the ones out to get you will pretend to be out to help you. The only real safeguards are:

• to know who they all are. Ask them who they are and who they work for. Some journalists are notorious for dissing the movement (eg John Harlow, James Bartholemew, Sebastian Sebag Montefiore). You should find out who the dodgy ones are before the action, so you'll know to be ultra-careful if they turn up.
• not to say anything stupid or risky
• be friendly towards them, whoever they are. Bite your lip. Don't put their backs up even if you hate the bastards.

C. Be a tour guide.

Take them round the site, show them what you want them to see, and steer them away from what you don't want them to see. Introduce them to the people who'll get on well with them, and keep them away from the people who won't be able to restrain their contempt. If it doesn't seem like a major intrusion on their privacy, stay with them, in a friendly way, and talk them through everything they see.

D. Be ready to deal with the ones who don't turn up

However good your publicity, lots of journalists won't be able to make it, but might still be interested. They'll want to know what's happening and how things are going, so there should be at least one person on site with a working and charged-up mobile phone whose number has been posted on the press release. Journalists are suckers for on-the-spot reports, so when they ring, put some excitement into your voice. Give them plenty of colour, make them feel they can see it.

@nti-copyright for activists. Copyright for everyone else. http://www.fraw.org.uk/gs/handbook/media.htm