[EM] Working with journalists

Anthony Simmons bbadonov at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 18 15:46:12 PST 2002

>> From: Forest Simmons <fsimmons at pcc.edu>
>> Subject: Re: [EM] NYTimes.com Article: French Twist: A Fair Way to Pick
>> Oscars?

>> >From my experience this is pretty typical of journalists
>> that think that they can edit content without knowing
>> diddley about the content.

>> Don't be surprised if this happens to your best efforts,
>> too.  If anybody knows an effective defense against this
>> problem, please let me in on it.

>> Forest

There are war correspondents who are experts, on the ground,
covering the war first hand.  There are no election method
correspondents, and no experts covering it.  Journalists
don't _want_ to make fools of themselves, but there's a limit
to how much money a newspaper can spend researching something
like Approval Voting (about twenty dollars U.S.), so it gets
dumped on someone who knows nothing, and just does the best
he can.  Everyone loses.

Often, with a subject the reporters don't know at all, they
will publish press releases they receive, pretty much
verbatim, because they don't know enough to do anything else.
If you help them out, provide them with the information,
they'll be grateful, so the conventional wisdom is that
journalists just have to be "educated".

I've written occasionally to reporters, if I think they've
got something grossly wrong.  Most recently, someone at an
environmentalist publication wrote an article based on the
same silly assumption that hydrogen is a drop-in replacement
for petroleum.  I tried to explain that petroleum is a source
of new energy, while hydrogen gas contains energy that has to
be put there by us from some other source.  She just doesn't
know any chemistry.  (I'm tempted to say "not her fault", but
she does have _some_ responsibility.)

Hold on, I think I have something that goes into it in depth.

Oh, hell, couldn't find it.  I think it's called "Activist's
Toolkit".  I looked on the Internet, and found a few things
with that name, but none of them were what I was thinking of.
I did, however, find a good piece on writing op-eds and
letters to the editor.  It's at


It's got some pointers for writing a piece and getting it

Hold on, I just remembered something ... Yep, found it!  It's
at http://electronicIntifada.net/generaladvice.html

It's got all kinds of info on working with the press.
Excellent resource.

Oh, one other thing:  In addition to newspapers, there are
other publications that would cover election methods, like
Discover and Science News.  They have science writers, who
are more likely to get it right.  Just a thought.

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