One technique we used to counter the news program’s growing quest for drama entailed taping the taping. In exchange for access to our newsmaker client, we demanded (and were granted) the right to film the interview. When the news crews’ cameras shut down, so did ours. We would then have unedited footage to make available on an as needed basis, but with few outlets on which the public could view it.
Flash forward to today. “The Lede” in today’s New York Times online reports on how the Scientologists ambushed a BBC “Panorama” reporter, capturing him on digital video in an especially unflattering light. The church of Cruise, Travolta and others then built a website (albeit, a cheesy one), and turned to YouTube to pre-emptively discredit the Beeb in advance of the venerable news organization’s forthcoming documentary on the cult-like organization.
This reminds me of work I was involved in at a non-profit to counter a strongly biased story in the local paper via a special Web site, and the challenges we had in getting our (counter-)message out. A challenge to say the least…
Getting out in front is hard work. So is putting a message out with lawsuits pending and lawyers vetting our side’s message, something the local paper did not have to deal with. The key factors that helped us?
- Staying positive
- Avoiding reactionary, knee-jerk responses
- Keeping our mission in mind (saving lives!)
- Finding respected people to speak out on our behalf
If YouTube had existed back then, we certainly would have tried to make use of it.
Overall, it was a difficult, but rewarding experience, and played a significant role in my choosing to go to law school.