02 November 2003

Backspin: Minnesotans Against Terrorism: "When Minneapolis-based businessman Marc Grossfield and attorney Mark Rotenberg--founders of MAT--returned from Israel, having eyewitnessed a suicide bombing a few feet in front of them, they were justifiably peeved to find their hometown paper refer to these incidents as the work of "activists" or "rebels.""
This is a fascinating story of how a small group in Minnesota dealt with the problem of biased reporting practices in their biggest newspaper. Some of the tactics they used can certainly apply to biased web publishing that supports and apologizes for terrorists.
"Rotenberg decided she would take out a full-page advertisement in the Star Tribune. Unlike most ads though, this wasn't a promo piece. Instead, the ad contained over 350 signatures in support of MAT from prominent civic, business and religious leaders, including Governor Ventura and both U.S. Senators from Minnesota. It also featured excerpts from a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, which voiced a similar complaint about the Star Tribune's reporting."
The group got a large number of prominent supporters, took out an ad with a criticism of the Star Tribune's refusal to call a terrorist a terrorist along with supporting signatures, publicised the running of the ad through a news release, followed up the news release with further personal contact with the press, and held a news conference at a very convenient time and location for the press. It was a lot of redundancy and reinforcement but that is precisely what makes for good PR: the same message coming across as many channels as possible so no one can miss it. (note that PASSIA "trains PLO media professionals in the art of transforming the image of the Arab-Israeli struggle" -- some of the methods described here -- apparently using American funding. We have to figure it out ourselves.)
Jonathan R. Galt has campaigned for hosting providers to do the right thing with somewhat similar methods.
A resource the Minnesota group had to start out with was the awareness and support of prominent people. It's always a good time for us to cultivate awareness among all kinds of prominent people: elected officials, business people, volunteer organizations in towns that have internet hosting companies. It's good to reach out before a specific event or issue causes a crisis in our minds that is not so apparent to them. If you have an ongoing relationship with people, when something happens that you need them to address, you are not starting from square one in explaining your point of view. One of our more successful volunteers is someone who is able to pick up the telephone and have a chat with someone to explain where we are coming from. Not all of us find it easy to build new relationships. Those of us who can have a very valuable talent they can use in the war on terror.