Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Contacting the Media

There has been some media coverage about what is happening with adult education but not a lot.

The Huffington Post article, "A Lesson in Adult Education," was a good one, providing information about what is a happening along with some context.

Many articles simply report the fact that budget cuts are happening and that in some areas, students and staff are protesting those cuts, as this L.A. Times article did.

There is a real lack of articles which talk about what is happening all across the state and why and what it will mean to the entire State of California. This situation - the devastation of a program which serves immigrants, disabled adults, job seekers, parents, seniors, and young adults in need of GEDs, High School diplomas and job skills - is of huge import to everyone.

But few know about it.

Few really understand what is happening and why.

We need to change that. And we can.

There are many publications out there - locally and across the state. Locally, there is the San Francisco Chronicle, The San Mateo Times, The San Mateo Daily Journal, The San Jose Mercury News, The Oakland Tribune. In Southern California, the Los Angeles Times covers news about both local and state issues.

People often say "So goes California, so goes the nation." There's no reason not to contact national publications to cover this issue. California's Adult Education system was once the bench mark of "how to do it and do it well." If California's system is falling apart, other states need to wake up and pay attention. We are not the only state with aging boomers, a large number of immigrants, high numbers of high school dropouts, and job seekers who need skills and support as they attempt to re-enter the market. How about a good piece in The Nation or Newsweek?

We as a people can't make good decisions without good information. In our culture, we rely on the media to provide that information. Those of us who know what is going on need to make sure the media has truth to share.

Here's a few ways to get that done:

1. Letters to the Editor – every publication has specific guidelines. Read the publication and check their websites. Some, such as the San Francisco Chronicle, accept only email Letters to the Editor now.

2. Contact columnists and specialty writers and editors. Many publications have columnists. Many also have editors or writers which specialize in certain areas, including education. Read their publications and check their websites to know who might be interested and able to write a good research or opinion piece on what is happening in adult education. Send them a letter or email briefly describing the situation. Suggest that they look into it further and cover it in their publication.

3. Write your own personal opinion piece. Some publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, have forums such The Chronicle's "Open Forum" or Sunday Insight Commentary. Read their publications and check their websites for more information.

4. In general, keep things brief and to the point. No one has time to read pages of information and many people do not like to.

5. There is no single “right” or perfect message which must be conveyed to the media. We all have pieces of a larger truth which the public needs to know about. It is a truth that affects the public. And a truth the public can make choices about. The media’s job is to get that truth to the public. Our job is to get what we know about it - facts, experiences, context, ideas, problems, possible solutions - to the media.

6. If you have a personal tale to tell, tell it. If you want to provide facts, provide them. If you want to make a point about the big picture, make it. If you can present a point a view or a way of solving the problem that is rarely discussed, present it.

7. If you feel nervous about what you are writing, ask someone else to read it over before you send it. Then send it. Don’t worry too much about your writing being perfect or about knowing absolutely everything about the story. Let the media worry about perfect writing and tracking down every fact. That is part of their job. And they have editors and fact checkers to help them do it

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