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Making News: How to Get News Coverage for Disability Rights Issues Paperback – October, 1993
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About the Author
Author Tari Susan Hartman's EIN SOF Communications is the cutting-edge marketing, promotion, public relations and production company working exclusively with the disability community, corporations, entertainment industry and news media.
Author Mary Johnson, former editor of The Disability Rag, has written extensively on disability and media. Her work has appeared in The Columbia Journalism Review, American Society of Newspaper Editors Bulletin, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting's EXTRA! and many other publications.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
From the Introduction
Pick up the morning paper. Turn on the evening news. Will you find a story on the latest disability rights issue? Will you learn anything about the disability rights movement's concerns over enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act? Will you hear about the ins and outs of the movement's efforts to get the Administration to set up a new national attendant services program? Will you ever even hear the words "attendant services?"
Disability rights issues are not yet covered as ongoing news stories of importance to this nation. Though it is one of the most far-reaching laws of modern times, the Americans with Disabilities Act received less attention from the media during its move through Congress than either the 1964 Civil Rights Act or the Equal Rights Amendment.
"This bill seemed to come out of nowhere!" said The New York Times' Congressional reporter Steven A. Holmes, when the ADA had passed the Senate. Not true, of course; but Holmes could be forgiven for thinking that. The decision not to seek media attention for this major civil rights bill was a conscious one, according to Patrisha Wright of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, a chief lobbyist for the law, who told U. S. News & World Report's Joe Shapiro that, had the disability rights movement sought press attention, "we would have been forced to spend half our time trying to teach reporters what's wrong with their stereotypes of people with disabilities."
If reporters and editors are full of misconceptions and stereotypes about disability rights issues, it may be partly our fault. They receive awards and praise from disability groups for reporting the heartwarming individual sagas of courage at overcoming disability, even though these stories continue the very stereotypes many disability rights groups denounce.
Many people in the disability rights movement want "positive coverage" and are reluctant to exploit controversy for its news value, yet feel frustrated when reporters don't cover movement issues as hard news. Disability rights groups don't make it a priority to contact reporters with material for hard news stories. Left to their own devices, reporters get story ideas from doctors, rehabilitation specialists and other professionals rather than people involved in the disability rights movement. This frustrates many in the movement. But things can change.
It is our hope that this manual will give you the tools for learning how to turn disability rights into front-page, hard-news issues.
This manual is divided into four sections. Section 1 discusses basic information you need to begin working with reporters: How to make issues newsworthy, how to work with reporters and how to devise a strategy to get coverage for disability rights issues on an ongoing basis. Section 2 discusses actual media campaigns on various disability rights issues, and gives suggestions for developing successful media campaigns. Sections 3 and 4 provide resources and background materials.
When disability rights issues become a routine part of news coverage, then society will finally regard them as "public" issues affecting society as a whole, rather than "special" issues affecting "the handicapped." We hope this manual will provide some tools to help that day come soon.
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