The media and this kit
Public opinion does not exist in a vacuum. It is shaped by the way in which information is accessed or mediated. The power of the mainstream media in shaping public attitudes is well documented.
At the same time, many members of culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) communities are marginalised as they are not being given the opportunity to have their say in the media. It is vital that these communities are empowered to deal directly with the media and make their voices heard.
Newspapers, radio stations, television and websites offer a vast range of exciting opportunities for organisations and community representatives who want to engage with and influence public audiences.
Competition for media coverage is fierce. Everyone is trying to find their way onto the evening’s TV news, the breakfast radio programs and the morning’s newspapers. Newsrooms receive hundreds of requests for coverage every day.
Getting favourable media coverage takes patience, persistence and practice. Community groups that learn how the media works will have more success in promoting their initiatives, drawing attention to issues and needs in their community and gaining better outcomes for their projects.
This kit will help you understand the media, and provide you with practical information to access the media successfully.
About this kit
What is the Community Media Kit?
The Community Media Kit is a resource that provides tools for CaLD community members to improve the quality of their media communications. The kit aims to help organisations and groups gain greater coverage for their messages, activities, events and issues. It is intended to be a resource to help empower community members to develop networks and gain confidence in working with the media.
What will you learn?
The Community Media Kit will teach you about the different types of media in Western Australia, what kind of information the media are interested in, and how to get news about your group into print, on the radio, on television and online.
How do you use the Community Media Kit?
The Community Media Kit is designed as a workbook for individuals or groups to use when they are planning an event or are seeking publicity for an event or issue. You can read it cover-to-cover or simply turn to some of our easy-to-use checklists or media release samples.
-  CaLD: Culturally and linguistically diverse. Refers to the wide range of cultural groups and individuals that make up the Australian population. It includes groups and individuals who differ according to religion, race, language and ethnicity except those whose ancestry is Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Celtic, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. For ease, CaLD is commonly used as an abbreviation for cultural and linguistically diverse.
Did you know?
Western Australia is a multicultural society, with members coming from a rich heritage of cultural traditions and histories. Such cultural diversity brings with it many and varied benefits. It also brings many challenges that are often reported in the media.
Journalists like facts and figures. Find out statistics relating to your community and use them when you talk to journalists.
Some interesting facts about WA taken from the 2006 Census:
- Western Australia is the most culturally diverse State in Australia with more than half a million people (531,743) or just over a quarter of the population (27 per cent) who were born overseas people from more than 200 different countries live, work and study in WA
- nearly four in 10 of WA’s overseas born were born in the United Kingdom (208,382), while New Zealand (47,300), South Africa (22,050), Italy (20,934) and Malaysia (19,721) make up the top five countries of birth
- almost half of the State’s usual residents indicated they had an ancestry other than Australian
- residents who spoke a language other than English at home (223,166 persons) accounted for 11.4 per cent of the Western Australian population. Nationally, more than three million people (16 per cent of all Australians) speak a language other than English at home
- the most common languages spoken at home, other than English, are: Italian (32,897), Mandarin (16,551), Cantonese (16,049) and Vietnamese (13,243). Nationally, the most common are Italian and Greek, while Mandarin is the fastest growing
- in WA, 100 religious faiths are practised. Fifty-nine per cent of the population (1.1 million) identify with Christianity, followed by Buddhism at 1.7 per cent (34,000), and Islam at 1.2 per cent (24,185). The fastest growing religion is Hinduism (up from 3154 to 8154).
Top 10 countries of birth of overseas-born, Western Australia, 2006
Table 1a: Top 10 countries of birth of overseas-born, Western Australia, 2006
|Country of birth
||Per cent (of WA population)
Top 10 countries of birth of overseas-born, Western Australia, 2011
Table 1b: Top 10 countries of birth of overseas-born, Western Australia, 2011
|Country of birth
||Per cent (of WA population)
When we talk about the media, we generally mean newspapers, the radio and television. Most often we mean the news and information programs on these media outlets, not the entertainment programs. Increasingly, Australians are also turning to the internet to access their news and information. Internet news is often called ‘new media’.
New media also includes social media such as Facebook, Twitter, online forums, podcasts and blogging.
WA has one major daily newspaper, The West Australian, a statewide Sunday paper, The Sunday Times, and many suburban and country newspapers. A list of WA media contacts is provided at the end of this kit. Newspapers written in other languages also feature prominently, such as Il Globo and The Australian Chinese Times, which are well recognised national newspapers.
WA has several commercial radio networks delivering news and talk back. In Perth, they include 6PR 882AM, Nova 93.7FM, 96.1FM, 92.9FM and Mix 94.5FM. The national broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), runs a station in Perth, 720AM, and a number of local radio stations across the State. It also broadcasts national programs on Radio National, 810AM, which you can hear in WA. There is a national multicultural radio station, SBS, and a local multicultural community radio station, 6EBA. They broadcast in many different languages.
WA has five commercial television stations—Channels 7, 9, Ten and regional networks WIN and GWN. Public broadcasters include the ABC and SBS, the national multicultural broadcaster, and they provide local and national television. The introduction of Digital TV has provided many other channels.
For full details visit www.freeview.com.au
All these media organisations have websites, which they update regularly with daily news. Journalists often use websites when researching their articles.
Most organisations and groups now provide information on the World Wide Web.
This includes all the major television, radio, online and print media, which have large audiences and cover the ‘big’ news stories. Mainstream media can pick and choose what they want to report, because they cover a large area, for example the whole State or country, where many things happen. Their stories are generally critical and questioning.
Community and regional media
This media focuses on smaller areas, so they have fewer stories to choose from, and tend to cover more ’;good news’ stories. They are more likely to report on news and events happening in the area they cover. For example, the Fremantle Herald reports stories in Fremantle, Hilton, Beaconsfield and O’Connor. Community and regional media tend to like ‘human interest’ stories.
This media has a very specific audience focused on members of their ethnic group, for example, The Australian Chinese Times covers stories considered relevant to the Chinese-Australian community.
What determines news coverage?
Journalists decide if they will cover a story based on its interest and importance to the audience. These criteria include:
- Public importance: The media are interested in things that affect people in their local community. If something important happens to a Western Australian, no matter where they are in the world, it will be reported on.
- Changes to the status quo: Happenings or events that substantially change the way Western Australians think and behave.
- Human interest: Stories about people that cause a strong reaction, such as tears, laughter, shock, anger, disbelief, etc.
- Timely: A topic or event that is happening now and gets a large number of people talking about it.
- Entertainment: Stories that are humorous, controversial, unusual or linked to a celebrity.
What is newsworthy?
News, basically, is anything that is new, unusual or interesting. News must be current and should not be out-of-date. It has to interest and inform readers, listeners or viewers.
The media particularly likes stories about overcoming adversity or battling the odds, or unusual stories.
But remember, news outlets do not generally provide free publicity, no matter how worthy the cause.
To maximise your effectiveness, you must shape your message to the newspaper section or radio/television program that best targets the audience you want to reach.
Journalists need an ’angle’
An ’angle’ is something that makes the story unique. It may be positive, negative or even political.
Journalists like to be told about stories that are happening in their communities. You can telephone them, send them an email or simply talk to them face-to-face.
Journalists are often interested in covering the local ethnic or Indigenous community’s reaction to an event in another part of Australia.
The news ’angle’ or uniqueness is what makes your group or event worthy of media coverage.
- What’s new?
- What’s different?
- How does your group solve a common problem?
- How does your group relate to a current trend?
- Why is it newsworthy?
TIP: Is it Newsworthy?
To test if your story is newsworthy, ask yourself, would a person you didn’t know be interested?
Getting media attention
How can media coverage help your organisation?
By getting your message in the media, you can:
- promote positive stories
- draw attention to an issue
- get people thinking
- stimulate constructive debate
- provoke interest
- make decision-makers aware of an issue
- promote change.
Keep the message simple
Before you talk to the media, you need to determine what your ‘key’ (most important) message is, and how it relates to your organisation or community. Describe your key message in one sentence. Focus on one issue only, and use facts if you can, for example, ‘Three in five African refugees can’t find accommodation in Perth’.
Don’t use jargon. Don’t use technical words or words that only make sense to your group or industry, because few people outside your area are likely to know what you mean.
You need a good media release
A media release is a one-page document that tells the media what is happening. The most important thing is to use an interesting headline, and write an attention-grabbing opening paragraph that makes the reader want to know more. Include five or six paragraphs that cover the ‘who, what, when, where, why and how’. Use quotes, especially by well-known spokespeople. It should be written just like a news story you would read in the newspaper. See Media releases.
Plan a media conference, launch or event
Media conferences or staged media events will only work well if a lot of media are likely to be interested in the story or if there is a major event happening. It is important to hold your media event at the right time to suit news deadlines, so your story has the best chance of getting coverage. The best times to organise a media event are mid-morning during the week, such as 10am on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays. Do not hold a media event after 3pm as production deadlines, particularly for television, will mean your event is unlikely to get coverage. It is vital to ensure the venue is appropriate for the story (for example, at the site of interest, together with a view of something happening).
Keep the stories local
The key to regular coverage in the media is to present stories with a local angle. Even though there may be a national or international link, it is still important to relate the story back to a local place, person or issue.
TIP: Think in ‘headlines’.
If the main point of your message cannot be expressed in a few words (maybe a sentence) it is unlikely to be successful. This is true for radio, television and print.
Media decision tree
Do I have a story with significant impact? (which will affect lots of people)
- No—Does my story have a strong local angle?
- No—May be best suited to organisational newsletter or website
- Yes—Contact local newspaper or community radio
- Yes—Contact major mainstream media
Do I have great action activity? (for sound and vision)
- No—Do I have a good speaker who can touch people’s emotions?
- No—Contact newspaper
- Yes—Contact radio stations
- Yes—Contact TV stations
To view a flow chart diagram of the Media—decision-making tree (above) refer to the PDF version of this document.
Have you made these mistakes?
Got the timing wrong? If you are planning an event, let the media know in advance. Remind them the day before the event, and again on the day of the event, if necessary. If you want the media to come, do not hold your event after 3pm because they will have already collected all their stories for the day.
Taken too long to respond? News outlets work to quick deadlines. If you cannot respond within the day—and even the hour—to a journalist’s request, it may be too late. Always ask when the journalist’s deadline is. Then you can take some time to consider if, and how, you want to respond, and then call them back.
Here is a general guide to deadlines for each media:
- Community newspaper: weekly; most are 12 noon on Thursdays
- Mainstream newspaper: daily, mid afternoon at latest
- Local radio: hourly
- Online: hourly
- Television: daily, by 3pm.
Spoken to the wrong person? If you do not know the name of the journalist who covers stories like yours, here’s who to ask for:
- Community newspaper: editor
- Mainstream newspaper: chief of staff
- Local radio: producer
- Online: online editor
- Television: executive producer.
Been boring and bland? Are you trying to give the same message every year? Think of something new.
Overdone things? Journalists have short deadlines and receive many media releases and phone calls every day. Only write a media release or make a call when you have an important issue or event. If you write too many releases, the media will grow tired of hearing from you and ignore your communications. Similarly, keep your conversation with the media short and focused.
The French have a saying, ‘don’t tell me your life story’, meaning that you need to get to the point quickly.
Assumed a level of knowledge about diverse cultures and religions? The media have varying levels of knowledge about culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Provide them with information to better understand your culture, religion or community.
Given a lecture? The media will stop listening straight away if they think you are telling them what to do. Never tell a journalist how to report their story.
Exaggerated your story? If you are seen to misrepresent the importance of something, you risk losing the media’s interest now, and in the future.
Been aggressive? It’s a bad idea to be rude, aggressive or provocative towards the media because of stories that have been reported in the past, or because you don’t like the journalist. It could result in a negative report.
Creating a story
If nothing ‘new’ is happening and you want to get coverage in the media, you could:
- Make an analysis or prediction: If you have access to reliable research or data make an analysis or prediction and release it to news outlets.
- Use an existing report or issue of your own: You might be able to use facts, research and statistics from an existing report or write a report based on your own research; for example, the socioeconomic status of Sudanese refugees five years after settlement. Obviously, your research must be credible.
- Conduct a poll or survey: If your organisation or group has the resources, you could conduct a poll or a survey of its members, or of the general community, asking questions about a particular issue.
- Establish and present an award: It could be for good reporting in the area of multicultural interests, or a community award for the best example of ‘living in harmony’ in your local suburb. Make sure you tell the award winner’s story.
- Celebrate an anniversary: Think about writing short articles about a specific event your group will be involved in, and plan in advance for any special weeks (for example, an anniversary of a National Day).
- Arrange a forum for people to tell their stories: Human interest stories have strong news value. People who have had unique and diverse life experiences and are prepared to share them—whether through art, writing or public presentations—provide further opportunities to generate public attention.
- Announce an appointment: Your group’s new president or entire new board may well be newsworthy, even if it is just to the local paper.
- Hold a debate: Gather people with differing viewpoints and have them debate a particular issue of community concern.
- Create a website: Then tell the media you have done it. Make sure it includes your group’s contact details.
- Distribute your newsletter: If you have a newsletter in English, include media outlets or specific journalists on your mailing list.
TIP: Keep perspective
The presentation of a cheque to your organisation may be important to your group, but is highly unlikely to attract media interest, unless it is a very large amount ($1 million or more).
This section contains some tips on writing media releases and a template for your organisation to follow. It also contains samples of three types of media release.
Which media release should I use?
To promote an event
This style of release is sent before the event, and gives detailed information. It can be embargoed (held back) so that journalists can write their stories in advance but not broadcast or publish them until the time of your event.
An embargo tells the journalist when they are allowed to broadcast the information. You must make the date and time that your story can be released very clear. If, for example, you want the story to run on 13 May, it is best to set the embargo to 12 May 12am midnight, so that newspapers can print the story in the morning paper. If you set the embargo at 6am, only radio, television and online media can use the story. Journalists should not break an embargo but there is no legal requirement that they abide by the request.
The media release should include details on what the story is, who is involved, where it is happening, and why and how you are doing it, as well as background information on the event. Write it in the style of a newspaper article, with the most important point first. Remember to include a contact name and phone number.
Example 1—Media release to promote an event
Tuesday 1 November 2011
A CELEBRATION OF INDIAN CULTURE
Fun activities for the whole family that showcase Indian culture will be held at Murdoch University as part of the annual Deepavali Festival of Lights celebration on Sunday 6 November.
The celebration will be held at the university’s Bush Court and will run from 11am to 3pm.
Highlights of the day will include dance performances, clothing and craft stalls and delicious Indian cuisine. Children will be entertained by face painting, a magician’s show and fun rides.
Entry is free to this alcohol-free event and parking is available in the university car parks.
The event is hosted by the Forum of South Indian Associations, which comprises the Western Australia Telugu Association, the Tamil Association of Western Australia, the Western Australia Kannada Sangha, and the Malayalee Association of Western Australia.
The event is supported by the Office of Multicultural Interests and the City of Melville.
For further information, please see www.deepavalifestivalperth.com.au or phone xxxx xxxx.
Media Contact: xxxxx xxxxxx on ph: xxxx xxxx.
Based around an issue
This style of media release should also be written in the style of a newspaper article, but it should also include a strong ‘news angle’. This could be, for example, a reaction to a study or comments on a current news story. Make sure you include the ‘who, what, when, where, why and how’, as well as background information and a contact name and phone number.
Example 2—Media release about an issue
MEDIA RELEASE Embargoed until 5am 30 August
Monday 29 August 2011
SERVICE RECONNECTS RELATIVES SEPARATED BY CONFLICT AND DISASTER
For years Isha Munya had no idea where her mother and eldest daughter were, after civil war in Somalia tore the family apart. But after more than a decade of uncertainty, with the help of Red Cross, Isha has finally found her loved ones.
Isha and her family tell their story to mark International Day of the Disappeared (30 August 2011). In the past year, Australian Red Cross’ Tracing Service has resolved the cases of more than 370 people separated by war, conflict or disaster.
Another of those helped by the service is Sonia*, who lost most of her family in the Rwandan genocide. Through Red Cross she has found her 16-year-old sister in a Kenyan orphanage. Edmund Makowiecki who spent close to 20 years searching for family in Europe before Red Cross, with the help of his father’sWorld War II records, uncovered a sister and brother he never knew he had.
“Everyday somewhere in the world in the midst of conflict and disaster, families are torn apart. It can happen in a matter of minutes—children can lose their way in the chaos, the sick and elderly might not be able to be moved, relatives can be arrested and detained unable to get word to their families,” Australian Red Cross International Tracing Service National Program Coordinator Nicole Batch said.
“Surrounded by turmoil, panic and terror it can be the beginning of long years of anguish and uncertainty about the fate of missing children, husbands, wife, sisters, brothers, parents.”
Australian Red Cross Tracing Service is currently working with 1,255 families, many of them looking for more than one missing relative. These families come from places as diverse as Hungary, Afghanistan and Democratic Republic of the Congo—some have been separated from their loved ones for more than 20 years.
On average Red Cross is able to resolve almost 60 per cent of cases, though some cases can take years to resolve and sadly sometimes the news is not good. Red Cross’ mandate of neutrality and impartiality helps the Tracing Service - which draws on the resources of the organisation’s global network in187 countries - to secure access to information in even the most difficult circumstances.
For media enquiries or to arrange interviews contact Red Cross media adviser on xxxx xxx xxx or firstname.lastname@example.org
A media alert
This is an optional tool, which is often used in addition to a media release to promote an event or announcement (sample 1, above) to alert or remind journalists about something that is happening. The alert gives brief information only and should answer the questions ‘who, what, when, where, why and how’. It should also include contact details for a spokesperson or organiser. Alerts are sent a week to one day before your event and may attract phone calls from radio and television stations wanting an earlier interview.
Example 3—Media alert
Monday 14 November 2011
FUNDING FORUM FOR CULTURALLY AND LINQUISTICALLY DIVERSE COMMUNITIES
A funding forum organised by the Office of Multicultural Interests will provide community members with the opportunity to obtain information about State Government funding opportunities and to discuss their projects with representatives from State Government funding bodies.
When: Tuesday 22 November 2012
Where: Gordon Stephenson House, 2nd Floor, 140 William Street Perth
Time: 5pm to 8pm
Speakers: Joe Adams from Lotterywest
Eve Smith from the Department for Communities
Mary Jones from the Department of Sport and Recreation
Jane Brown from the Department of Culture and the Arts.
The event hosted by Office of Multicultural Interests Further information is available from OMI on 6552 1500.
Media Contact: xxxxx xxxxxx on ph: xxxx xxxx.
How to write a media release
- Write MEDIA RELEASE at the top of the page.
- Embargo: An ‘embargo’ tells the journalist when they are allowed to broadcast/publish the information. If you do not want them to use the information until after your event, add an embargo time and date below ‘MEDIA RELEASE’.
- Date: Date the release with the date you are sending it.
- Keep it to one page. Due to time constraints, most journalists are unlikely to read more than a page.
- Answer: who, what, when, where, why and how? The media release must answer the questions that reporters are likely to ask: How often does this happen? Who is involved? Why are you doing this? If announcing an event, make sure that the date, time, location and name of the event is clearly stated.
- Link into any current debate: If your issue is important in a current debate then clearly state that link. For example, an increase in the number of refugees from Sudan requires extra language resources for support organisations. Your release could comment on this issue and detail what your organisation is doing to assist.
- Include background: Make sure the release includes some extra information about the event, and a brief description of your group. How many members do you have? How long has the organisation been running? Why was it established? Are you all from the same cultural background?
- Provide quotes for the reporters to use: Include short quotes from the spokesperson and give their position, such as chairperson or president.
- Keep paragraphs short: One or two sentences at most.
- Provide contact details: Ensure you list a knowledgeable spokesperson and include a mobile phone number, email if appropriate, and your community website. For example, Call Mary Hasan, President of Sudanese Community in WA, after 7am on xxxx xxx xxx.
Further information at www.ourgroup.com.au
- Provide or offer suggestions for photographs or footage: Offer to email a digital image, or organise community representatives for photographs.
- Extra information: Add a ‘Note to the editor’ at the end if you have any information about opportunities for photographs, footage or other information, such as parking requirements for the media.
TIP: Proofread your work.
Ask a reliable person with good literacy skills to edit your work before it is sent to the media.
Preparing for an interview
You need to prepare for the media interview, just like you would for a job interview.
- Know what you are going to say.
- Think about what the media may ask you and prepare some responses.
- Consider who the audience is and what they will want to know.
- Practise your key message.
- Do some research and have some facts and figures ready.
- Know what other related issues are in the news and how you might respond to questions about them, especially in live interviews.
- Think of some good examples or stories. Practise them.
- Think of the right setting for the interview, so that there is a good photo or footage opportunity.
- For radio and television, find out if the interview will be ‘live’ or pre-recorded.
- Ask the journalist or producer who else they are contacting for comment.
- For radio, if other people are being interviewed at the same time, ask if they will be speaking before or after you.
Answering reporters’ questions
- You should always try to answer the reporter’s question but, in the same sentence, return to your key message.
- If you cannot answer the question, give a genuine reason for not doing so. Never make up an answer.
- Always go back to what you want to say. Consider using the following responses:
- “I can’t talk about that because it’s before the courts”
- “What I can tell you is …”
- “I’m not the right person to ask”
- “I don’t have any information with me on that.”
There are some simple tactics you can apply to every media interview you do, to help you control the interview.
Control phrases can be used to bring you back to your main message, down the path YOU want to take—not in any other direction chosen by the journalist.
- “May I say this …”
- “And could I just add …”
- “However …”
- “What I want to say here is …”
- “If I could return to my main point here …”
- “Actually …”
- “The point I am making is …”
Providing a quote
Journalists usually need a quote for their story. When providing a quote, remember this:
Radio: Although you may be interviewed for 10 minutes, radio news journalists will only use one quote, of 10 to 25 seconds, in their news bulletin.
Television: Television news journalists will also talk to you for a few minutes but usually use seven to 15 seconds for their news bulletins.
Newspapers: Newspapers may interview you for as long as half an hour, but they still want short and concise quotes of about one sentence each.
Doing the interview
- Be yourself! It is normal to feel nervous, but if you don’t sound natural, people won’t enjoy listening to you.
- Pretend you are only speaking to the journalist, in a normal conversation.
- Keep your answers focused.
- Do not introduce new issues.
- Try to speak to the journalist face-to-face.
- Avoid doing interviews over a mobile phone—go to a ‘landline’ phone.
- Turn off your radio and your mobile phone when being interviewed (they interfere with the broadcast equipment).
- Try to find a quiet, well lit place to do the interview.
- Do not wear anything that will take attention away from what you are saying, for example huge earrings or a cartoon tie.
- Keep your answers to two sentences.
- Do not introduce new issues.
- Do not look directly at the TV camera, look at the journalist. If there are many cameras, look in between the two middle ones.
- Do not touch your face or shuffle your feet.
- Give your full attention to the journalist.
- If you are on the phone, find a quiet place so you can hear the questions clearly, and the journalist can hear you.
- Keep your answers focused.
- Do not introduce new issues.
Media styles and requirements
How and where your interview is used
A journalist’s report may be used in many places. For example, a radio report could also be available online. It may also be used in a number of programs, on the news, and even by other media. Depending how important or interesting the story is, it may be used locally, nationally and internationally. Never assume that only your local community will hear what you have said. When you agree to an interview, the journalist has complete control over the story. They do not have to show it to you before using your material.
Radio and television
Radio and television have several different sections. Each section covers particular types of story, and has a different style of reporting them.
- High impact
- Public importance
- Changes to the present situation or the way things are now
- Comments less than 30 seconds
- Relaxed pace
- Human interest and entertainment stories
- Five to seven minute interviews
Current affairs programs
- High impact
- Greater analysis of news stories
- Three minute stories
Morning and drive programs
- Expand on news stories, look for new or local angles
- Local human interest
- Some entertainment
- Five to 15 minute interviews
- Letters to the editor
- Comments on previously reported news
- Raising issues
- Comments on editorials
- General news
- High impact
- Public importance
- Changes to the status quo
- Placed in the first few pages of the paper
- Feature pages
- Issues expanded, analysed, explored
- New angles on news stories
- Human interest and entertainment stories
- ‘Colourful’, more descriptive and creative
- Reviews and community sections
- Opinion pieces
- Short announcements, including event notification
Different forms of media need different levels of quality. If you are providing the media with photos, you need to give them good quality images. Below is a guide to what each media require:
- Newspapers: Photographs must be 150 dpi
- Online: Photographic images must be 72 dpi
If you are calling a radio or TV program, choose your time carefully. Make sure it is not when they are on air, for example, television news is at 6pm, so you wouldn’t call the newsroom at 5.30pm when journalists are getting the news ready, or at 6pm when the program is on air, because they will be too busy to talk.
What to do if the media contacts you or your organisation
Feel free to ask them some questions and consider the following:
- who is calling, including which media organisation and program
- try to determine why they are calling
- ask them if they can send you some email questions (they probably won’t, but it is worth asking)
- ask who else they are speaking to or have already spoken to
- find out what their deadline is
- make sure you ask for their phone number and tell them you will call them back before their deadline.
Also, ensure you:
- organise a key spokesperson
- determine what your key message should be
- respond to the media inquiry within their deadline, remembering to keep to your message
- if you can’t help, point them in the direction of someone who might
- consider if you will be contacted by more media outlets and plan ahead.
Are you online?
Using a website successfully
Journalists increasingly use websites when they are researching a story. Your website should be simple in design, easy to navigate and have a limited number of images, so that pages can be downloaded quickly. It should include information on your organisation, up-to-date contact details and useful email links.
Media releases should be posted on your website immediately.
Email lists can be used to distribute announcements to a large number of people. Create a list of members and supporters and email them regular updates of your activities. These lists can also be sent to specific journalists or media organisations.
Be careful when using these lists; do not overwhelm people with too frequent emails, and only send them as a ‘Blind copy’ (BC) so that all recipients cannot see who else is on the list. It is also important to make sure that the email is of a reasonable size (large images can take a long time to download), and to include an ‘unsubscribe’ facility.
A blog is a popular way for ordinary people to publish their views on particular issues on the internet. A blog is an online report that is arranged in chronological order: the most recent ‘post’ (or entry) is at the top of the page and the older entries are below. You do not need to be a journalist to write a blog, you simply need to write clearly and have something to say. Blogs can be from individuals, organisations or communities.
For good examples of blogs visit the following websites:
Working as a citizen journalist for your community can be especially useful for groups seeking to present their side of a story, which may be overlooked by the mainstream media. A citizen journalist is a person who does not have formal journalism training and uses modern technology, such as the internet, to distribute information. Citizen journalists often report on stories when they have witnessed an event and are able to provide written reports, digital photographs, video or sound from the event. These items can be posted on social networking websites or blogs on the internet, or sent directly to news outlets.
For good examples go to www.perth.norg.com.au and www.loconut.com.au
Some useful sites:
Legalities: What can I say?
Australia is a democracy and freedom of speech is both a right and privilege. This does not mean that you can say whatever you like in a media release, newsletter, news interview, email or on the web.
Australia has specific laws that impact on what you can say about other people and organisations—including racial vilification, discrimination and defamation laws.
You need to be aware of the legal implications of issues such as libel and defamation, particularly in relation to public comments or written statements such as media releases. There are some basic laws and principles you should become familiar with.
Defamation is a published statement that damages someone’s reputation or holds them up to ridicule.
Defamation falls under both criminal and civil law. Most commonly, civil law is used by one party to sue another for financial compensation or damage caused to their reputation. Anyone responsible for the publication can be sued for defamation, including the journalist, subeditor, news director, producer, publisher and printer. The definition of ‘defamatory matter’ covers anything produced in traditional or new media.
Defamation can come from the natural meaning of a word or from ‘innuendo’ (meaning that comes from ‘reading between the lines’).
The internet presents special dangers for defamation as defamation is considered whenever somebody downloads defamatory material.
Find more information at:
If you require any further information on freedom of the press and defamation and defending defamation, you can refer to Professor Mark Pearson’s The journalist’s guide to media law: dealing with legal and ethical issues (3rd edition) Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.
The following publications/websites also provide useful details on defamation and other legal expectations concerning publication:
- Australian Press Council (APC); contains information on a number of legal issues including defamation, freedom of the press, privacy etc.
The defamation guide is also available from the APC.
- List of defamation-related websites
- Government website with discussion of relevant laws including especially good discussion of website-related issues.
Making a complaint
Organisations, groups or individuals who feel they have been unfairly treated by the media can make a complaint. Here’s what you need to do:
- Phone the media outlet and outline your concerns. Remain as calm as possible.
- If you are not happy with the response, write to the station’s news director or the newspaper’s editor and explain your case.
- If you get a reply, and you are still not happy, make a formal complaint with the relevant regulatory bodies.
For print media complaints contact:
The Australian Press Council
Phone: (02) 9261 1930 or 1800 02 5712
Write to: The Australian Press Council
Suite 10.02, 117 York Street
SYDNEY NSW 2000
Email for information: email@example.com
for complaints: firstname.lastname@example.org
Download complaint form at: www.presscouncil.org.au
For TV, radio and online media complaints contact:
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
Phone: 1300 850 115
Write to: Assistant Manager
Australian Communications and Media Authority
PO Box Q500
Queen Victoria Building
SYDNEY NSW 1230
Download complaint form at: www.acma.gov.au
For advertising complaints contact:
The Advertising Standards Bureau
Phone: (02) 6262 9822
Write to: The Advertising Standards Bureau
Level 2, 7 Northbourne Avenue
TURNER ACT 2612
Download complaint form at: www.advertisingstandardsbureau.com.au
Code of ethics
Journalists follow a code of ethics. Members of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance commit themselves to:
- Respect for the rights of others.
- Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis. Do your utmost to give a fair opportunity for reply.
- Do not place unnecessary emphasis on personal characteristics, including race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual orientation, family relationships, religious belief, or physical or intellectual disability.
- Aim to attribute information to its source. Where a source seeks anonymity, do not agree without first considering the source’s motives and any alternative attributable source. Where confidences are accepted, respect them in all circumstances.
- Do not allow personal interest, or any belief, commitment, payment, gift or benefit, to undermine your accuracy, fairness or independence.
- Disclose conflicts of interest that affect, or could be seen to affect, the accuracy, fairness or independence of your journalism. Do not improperly use a journalistic position for personal gain.
- Do not allow advertising or other commercial considerations to undermine accuracy, fairness or independence.
- Do your utmost to ensure disclosure of any direct or indirect payment made for interviews, pictures, information or stories.
- Use fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material. Identify yourself and your employer before obtaining any interview for publication or broadcast. Never exploit a person’s vulnerability or ignorance of media practice.
- Present pictures and sound which are true and accurate. Any manipulation likely to mislead should be disclosed.
- Do not plagiarise.
- Respect private grief and personal privacy. Journalists have the right to resist compulsion to intrude.
- Do your utmost to achieve fair correction of errors.
Basic values often need interpretation and sometimes come into conflict. Ethical journalism requires conscientious decision making in context. Only substantial advancement of the public interest or risk of substantial harm to people allows any standard to be overridden.
Frequently asked questions
Why didn’t the media cover our project, event, issue or opinion?
There are many reasons why a journalist may not cover a story. These include: an extremely important story breaks on the same day and dominates media attention; they might not have been told, or might not have been told in time; they already have their stories planned for the day; or, you didn’t get the journalist’s attention when you communicated your story.
Can we stop negative reports?
The media has an obligation to cover all newsworthy stories, even if the impact on certain communities is negative. Negative publicity is unfortunate, but can sometimes be challenged by a community spokesperson who has facts and figures to support an alternative view. Remember, negative reports can draw much-needed attention to important community issues.
Why were they so nice, and yet did such a negative report?
Don’t be disappointed if the tone of the media coverage does not reflect the friendliness of the journalist’s interview. A journalist’s job is to walk away with a story, not give free publicity.
Why did so little of my story end up being reported?
The reason could be that perhaps you allowed the reporter to question you on another issue. For example, a Burmese woman wins a major award but at the presentation ceremony, the journalist asks about comments by the Federal Minister that Burmese people are not integrating well into Australian society. This issue may have held more public interest and importance than her story, so that is what they reported.
Why do the media always use the same spokespersons?
Journalists often use the same spokespersons because they already know them and may trust their knowledge and ability to communicate. If you want to be used as a spokesperson you need to develop a relationship with the media and prove yourself to be credible. Let the media know you are available to talk on particular issues and make your phone numbers available to them. If something happens that affects your community, consider contacting the media with a comment.
Why don’t the media use the correct words?
Journalists try to simplify language. For example, they always prefer to say ‘ethnic’ instead of ‘culturally and linguistically diverse’. Try to give them the shortest, simplest possible word for what they are trying to describe, without losing the meaning.
Why do the media still say I’m a refugee when I’ve lived in Perth for 30 years?
Do not assume that journalists will understand the difference between asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. Tell the journalist how you want to be described. For example, you were a refugee 30 years ago, but you are now an Italy-born Australian citizen.
Why don’t journalists attend our media conferences?
Media conferences need to be organised in the morning, structured around a topic and have pictures or vision readily available for the reporters. Media conferences are excellent for large organisations and well-known people, but smaller community groups should try to avoid them, and send out a media release instead.
Why didn’t they use the nice picture I provided?
It might not have matched the story or might not have been of a high enough quality for publication or broadcast. Magazines and newspapers need high-quality images, whereas websites can use lesser-quality pictures. You could always ask the journalist what was wrong with the image, so you learn for the next time.
Why did they misquote me?
Journalists are unlikely to do this deliberately. Ask them politely if they would like to read back your quotes to check their accuracy. Make sure they know how to spell your name.
A journalist’s perspective
Here are some tips from Western Australian journalists for increasing your chance of media coverage:
“Try to organise some good human interest talent and spokespeople who are willing to make themselves readily available for interviews and photos. It is best to email the journalist with enough information, but without swamping them, and allow plenty of time if you are seeking publicity for an event.
“Generally an event such as a seminar or book launch is not very media-friendly in itself so try to think outside the square and think of photographic or visual opportunities that are more interesting.”
“I prefer to receive media releases by email these days, we don’t receive that many, and I will always read material that comes to me personally, or to the program email. Put the best part of the media release in the headline and flesh it out in the first paragraph, to catch the eye. The detail can follow, the detail can be referred to in any follow-up interview. Most radio people I know are very busy … and the detail should be concise and punchy, even in bullet points. If you have a red-hot story, get someone to phone ahead to make sure we know the media release is coming. Fostering a relationship with a media outlet is easy to do, and well worthwhile. Finally, for radio, the interview talent [spokesperson] must be clear and concise, and be across ‘the angle’ and the issue. Make sure the talent is available when the release goes out. It’s amazing how many good releases amount to nothing because the talent is not contactable.”
“(When covering multicultural issues) it basically comes down to the strength of the story. If you don’t have a good strong story to tell then it probably won’t get told. When it comes to the ABC, if the story is strong enough, we’ll cover it.”
A community perspective
The African Community in WA (Inc)
Africans come from a continent made up of 53 countries with diverse cultures and backgrounds. The African Community in WA is concerned that the Australian media lacks an understanding of the diversity of Africa as a continent. This means the media does not appreciate the settlement patterns and issues surrounding the African community in Australia. Many assumptions and stereotypes have driven the general media agenda, influencing what the media considers to be newsworthy, or ‘in the public interest’.
African migrants have faced many challenges in forming as a united group, due to the factors mentioned above. However, the negative experiences of recent times and the common challenges community members have confronted in their effort to settle in Australia, have brought them together.
Recently, some African communities have come together to manage their relationship with the media. A number of African leaders and elders have been selected by the community to represent it in the media. They have the responsibility of responding to media queries, making media statements, or exercising the right to silence on an issue. This centralised system has become a powerful tool for enhancing media management and information dissemination in the community.
Past President, African Community in WA (Inc)
ISHAR Multicultural Women’s Health Centre
The strategies used by Ishar to promote its programs and services have included radio and local newspapers. On 6EBA radio, we have a slot every month to talk about the programs at Ishar.
To get media attention, inviting a dignitary generally works. However, this is not always possible and happens only when a major project is being launched.
Another method is to have a launch and invite service providers and the media. This gives them an opportunity to know the program and ask questions.
Director, ISHAR Multicultural Women’s Health Centre, Mirrabooka
WA media contacts
The following is a list of media contacts. If you wish to send a news item for publication or reporting, we suggest investigating who will be the most appropriate person to send the information to. Check the publication for names of the reporters responsible for covering your article, or call the newspaper, radio or television station to obtain the right contact. All contact details are current at the time of publication.
Metropolitan and national media
Television (metro and State)
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)