Choose your news sources carefully. Read, watch and listen critically. Who is behind the media you consume? Do the media-makers have a bias or ulterior motive? What connection and depth does the reporter have to the issues or place they are communicating about. Review Possible Actions, Resources and Additional Suggestions below.
- Write a letter to the editor or an opinion editorial
- Encourage media to cover local immigrant stories
- Support/consume news produced independently, by locals
- Create your own content
- Share the CSFilm Media Manifesto
Consume media consciously
The media affects public attitudes, behaviors and policies. Read, watch and listen critically. Print CSFilm’s Media Consumers Manifesto bookmark and keep it handy as a reminder.
Is the media you are consuming produced from the local perspective?
Who is behind the information you are consuming? Consume critically and find out who owns the news source, who decides what stories are covered, and who selects the storytellers and analysts?
Is the anchor, columnist, analyst, writer, correspondent or reporter whose story you are watching, reading or listening to a local? If not, why is a local reporter not being used? There are occasions when an outsider has the independence, special access or unique insight required to tell the story – but it’s rare.
Are you being told what to think or are you experiencing the story and developing your own conclusions? Generally, quotes from experts and studio-based conversations are fast and cheap to produce but don’t allow the news consumer to learn about issues from those who are living them.
Find local and independent news sources
The media affects public attitudes, behaviors and policies. Read, watch and listen critically. To find local voices in your area, try searching for “community media” or “independent media” or “ethnic media” or “minority media” and the name of your town or region. You might find associations or organizations that support these types of media. If they don’t have a list of media in your area on their website, don’t be afraid to call these associations on the telephone and ask them how to access independent news and information sources in your area.
Engage directly with established media
Write letters to the editor that are both critical of and supportive of the stories covering immigrant issues in your community. “Letters to the editor” usually are in response to a specific story and need to be brief in order to be published. If your letter is published it may be edited so be concise and clear about the points you want to make. Opinion-editorial (Op-Ed) pieces are usually slightly longer articles that advocate a specific action or viewpoint. Your opinion piece may also be edited before publication. The guidance from the New York Times linked below can be helpful. Be sure you find the right email address or form on the website (or postal address) to send to.
- How to submit a letter to the editor (New York Times)
- How to submit an Op-Ed article (New York Times)
Contacting print, television, radio media directly to request coverage of an issue or to offer yourself as a resource requires a little more digging. Depending on the issue, you will want to find the right reporter or editor. Most media websites have detailed information in their “Contact” sections.
Create your own content
Report on immigrant stories yourself for your local paper or blog. Many local papers will accept articles from local authors/reporters. You just want to be sure that you understand the difference between a news article, which should be informative, balanced and supported by verifiable facts, and an opinion piece, which is your opinion about an issue. Print CSFilm’s Media Makers Manifesto bookmark and keep it handy as a reminder.
1. BE OF THE PEOPLE OR PLACE you are telling a story about.
2. BE TRANSPARENT about your knowledge and experience of the people and places you report on.
3. LISTEN DEEP AND LOOK LONG It’s easier if you are of the people or place.
4. LISTEN LOCALLY What the public thinks and does will surprise you if you aren’t listening locally. Stop talking to your own people!
5. AMPLIFY THE VOICES, views, and actions of your subjects. The reporter is not as interesting as the subject – so get out of the picture!
6. SHOW, DON’T TELL! Provide evidence, not conclusions; let your audience experience the story, > don’t ‘tell’ them the story.
7. SEARCH FOR ROOT CAUSES and systemic issues. Understanding war is not usually about being where the bullets are flying.
8. USE SPECIFICS TO REVEAL UNIVERSALS Look locally, see globally.
9. NETWORK YOUR LOCAL NETWORKS Bottom-up, decentralized, networks can be diverse and dynamic; top-down news networks, not so.
10. WRITE YOUR OWN MANIFESTO This one may not be relevant to you, your people, or your place!
We also recommend reviewing the Community Storytelling Guide: Best Practices to Convey Stories About Migration. It is a resource to support community storytellers and mediamakers in being better prepared to work with a wide range of migrants to share their stories online.
You can also start your own blog or website, but remember that you will need to promote your site in order for your content to spread. See the Community Tool Box for suggestions about how to use a blog or Facebook or other social media to communicate.
For those of you interested in making your own films, most cities and towns have a community access cable television organization which usually offers classes and often youth programs. Our filmmaker Kebrewosen (“Kiki”) Densamo of Ethiopia had been learning media at Cambridge Community Television before she joined the NIRV project!
You can always share your content and views on social media, but be aware that social media has developed in such a way that it is difficult to get your content viewed, read or otherwise consumed by people outside of your socio-economic and political network.
Confirmed: Echo chambers exist on social media. So what do we do about them? (Washington Post, July 14, 2016)