April 23, 2001

Tips on Dealing with The Media

Muslims should not view the media as an ‘evil tool of the devil’ that has no redeeming or useful qualities that can be used to our benefit. Continued
ignorance of the North American media will contribute to more negative stereotyping
of Muslims in this part of the world. The following, although not intended to
be exhaustive, are a few tips for Muslims to consider when dealing with the
media:

  1. Each masjid and Islamic Center should establish a Media Relations
    Committee. The MRC should be comprised of brothers and sisters who have a
    familiarity with the operational procedures, politics, and economics of the
    local media. Spokesperson(s) should be selected for the committee based
    on his/her knowledge of the Center’s social and political positions, ability
    to articulate a clear, concise statement, adherence to Islamic etiquette,
    and understanding of target audience. While it is difficult to limit media
    contact to a few individuals, members of the Center should direct the press
    to the designated media spokespersons when appropriate.
    ?
  2. A Council of representatives of the various Media Relations
    Committees in a given area should be formed to exchange information, coordinate
    media statements, and issue joint statements when possible.
    ?
  3. Relations with key media persons, such as reporters and assignment
    editors, should be established. No more than one or two persons from
    the committee should be responsible for this function.
    ?
  4. Understand news-worthiness from the media’s perspective.
    The media is not solely interested in sensational news; just interesting news.
    What is of interest to the Muslim community may genuinely be of little interest
    to the general non-Muslim community. Provide the media with interesting, human-interest
    stories.
    ?
  5. Invite reporters to Center-sponsored public functions. Treat
    them with the courtesy and respect due any guest of Muslims.
    ?
  6. Know your audience when appearing on talk shows, or being
    interviewed in the print media. Refrain from using expressions that are foreign
    to your target audience. If unknown words or concepts must be used, please
    give simple explanations of their meanings.
    ?
  7. Maintain a current media contact list. Calling a newspaper
    or television station and asking for someone that has not worked at the facility
    for three years shows our inexperience in dealing with the media.
    ?
  8. Send out feeler or pitch letters to print media to determine
    the interest in a particular story that you are considering writing and submitting
    for publication. Do not be discouraged easily.
    ?
  9. Never utter the words “no comment” when asked a
    question by the media. Either refer the questioner to someone else, or simply
    answer the question. Less is always better in speaking to the press. Your
    30-minute comments will likely be reduced to a 10-second sound bite.
    ?
  10. Always be straightforward and honest in your dealings with
    the media. Never lie or give the appearance of being evasive. Also, never
    grovel or beg for coverage. Always be firm, polite, but assertive.
    ?
  11. Don’t limit yourself to only commenting on “Muslim”
    issues such as international terrorism or Islamic fundamentalism. Approach
    the media for Muslim perspectives on topical issues of concern to the general
    community such as abortion, public decency, etc.
    ?
  12. Write thoughtful, short letters to the editor and guest editorials.
    News editors do not have the time to read lengthy letters or articles. Know
    your audience and format.
    ?
  13. Muslim leadership should be assessable to the media. There
    are instances when speaking with the chairperson of the Media Relations Committees
    is an unsatisfactory substitute for the media.

(Copyright 1999 Young Muslims
Canada)

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