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MATTERS OF SUBSTANCE Media strategy and media access for harm reduction organizations Carson Benowitz-Fredericks MSPH Student, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg.

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Presentation on theme: "MATTERS OF SUBSTANCE Media strategy and media access for harm reduction organizations Carson Benowitz-Fredericks MSPH Student, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg."— Presentation transcript:

1 MATTERS OF SUBSTANCE Media strategy and media access for harm reduction organizations Carson Benowitz-Fredericks MSPH Student, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

2 Purpose To assess the influence of local-level Baltimore, MD, harm reduction actors in local and national press. To propose feasible, effective media outreach strategies for harm reduction organizations.

3 Why engage the media? Media has influence in popular perception in four ways: 1. The issues it covers are accepted as the public interest. 2. It selects the details that are emphasized. 3. Shapes individual and community attitudes towards risk. 4. Informs political debate and decision-making. Lancaster, Hughes, Spicer, Matthew-Simmons & Dillon 2011 “[M]ost Americans rely on the mass media for information about the scope of the drug abuse problem ….” The imprimatur of a recognized authority increases public acceptance of interventions, including needle exchange. Blendon & Young 1998 Levels of community support for HR organizations is not always recognized by policy-makers and authorities… Treloar & Fraser 2007 …but quotes from policy-makers and law enforcement are “privileged” They are more frequently quoted, and their perspectives are often “internalized” in article narrative. Korner & Treloar 2003

4 Find another “other” Drug users are represented as an “other” and imbued with inherent threat. Taylor 2008 This means that their health is less important that the perceived threat they carry. Note that news inherently implies novelty. The immediacy of threat can create a more attractive story than the ongoing challenges faced by individuals.

5 Practical goals Raise profile of organization or philosophy. Improved access to funding and other resources. Opportunities for collaboration. Direct vulnerable populations to needed services. Through direct education or through normalization. Diffuse opposition to organizations operating extra-legally. Increase pressure for policy change.

6 The perks of being a wallflower Media exposure may not be in the best interests of organizations operating extra-legally. Raise “target” of organization if climate turns increasingly hostile to vulnerable populations. Acceptance of drug users/harm reduction may trivialize challenges and poor health outcomes. This may involve time and resources organization doesn’t have.

7 “Driving the news cycle” Setting the ground rules for how an issue is presented. The Democratic party is a party that believes in democracy.* The Democrat party is a gathering of democrats. * Your mileage may vary.

8 “Driving the news cycle” Defining the questions through which debate is conducted. Pre-OWS: “taxing the rich is un-American and bad for the economy” vs. “no it’s not”. Post-OWS: “the wealthy should be called upon to contribute their fare share” vs. “no they shouldn’t”.

9 “Driving the news cycle” Establishing the narrative. Melky Cabrera’s season ended with a suspension, making him useless to the Giants. Before Melky Cabrera’s suspension, he had been one of the most valuable player on the Giants.

10 The BSHRC dream To promote harm reduction as a foundational philosophy for the treatment. Media access can be valuable in this effort.

11 Methods – Local search Analysis of media coverage LexisNexis searches performed from collection of All News (English). 6 month time frame.* Search for Baltimore-specific IDU coverage; Search for Baltimore-specific coverage including HR orgs, “harm reduction” as a keyword; Baltimore Sun searched for general addiction coverage. * LexisNexis only returned results for the previous 6 months of the Sun

12 Coverage of Harm Reduction - Local Identify harm reduction organizations operating in Baltimore (n=4) 1. Power Inside 2. Staying Safe 3. Baltimore City Needle Exchange 4. Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition How often do harm reduction organizations receive coverage in the local press? In what depth?

13 Baltimore coverage in 6 mos. Total mentions of HR topics in 6-mo. period25 HR efforts explicitly mentioned3* HR efforts explicitly mentioned in the context of stilt walking 1** Direct quotes from HR actors on addiction topics0 Mentions of heroin or other substances within HR stories 1 Mentions of heroin or other substances AND specific HR organizations 1 Frequency of stories involving addiction (per week)1 * 2 for the needle exchange, 1 for the power inside. ** Of those 3, the Power Inside was described mostly in the context of its directors attempts to, again, walk on stilts. This was not a metaphor.

14 Observations Addiction remains trenchant in Baltimore press. Local harm reduction organizations are not well represented in the ongoing media narrative surrounding addiction Local actors within harm reduction organizations not regarded as go-to sources for addiction topics. Needle exchange relatively higher profile than other efforts. Follow-up: comprehensive content analysis Are addiction stories + or - ? Is addiction portrayed as intractable or solvable? How often are expert sources cited? From where are sources recruited?

15 Baltimore Sun, last 6 mos. Sun coverage of addiction, by section.

16 Baltimore Sun, last 6 mos. Sun coverage of addiction, by topics. 5 stories were follow- ups/responses to previous stories.

17 Results – National – since 01/01/10 * Excluding mentions of DPA’s advocacy for marijuana legalization; this qualifies as harm reduction, but whether it reflects HR in addiction is arguable. Without mentions of marijuana excluded, n=94. References to HR in terms of substance use25 References to DPA*13 References to HRC2 References to HRI0 Mentions per week0.71 Mentions per week per paper0.08 Top 10 papers by circulation per 9/12 ABC FAS-FAX, minus Chicago Sun-Tribune.

18 Limitations Baltimore has an unusually high level of IDU and IDU-borne morbidity; official sanctioning of HR strategies. May not be projectable to all communities. Small sample sizes. Double-coding was not performed; no reliability measures. Local findings do not properly represent the regional print ecology; weeklies and local news magazines underrepresented. Comprehensive search not performed for individual contacts; actors involved with HR orgs may be interviewed under different institutional accreditation. Newswire articles included in cross-pub local analysis—these are not automatically picked up by subscribing publications. Web-only publications excluded.

19 Such things as zines are made on Weeklies and other alternative publications have historically been more friendly to progressive issues. Including HR. Their audience may not be the one HR promotion needs to reach. Likewise with internet. Alternet, Wired, The Fix, etc. may preach to the choir. Demarginalization requires mainstream news access.

20 How to speak journalist The journalist is the audience proxy. Not necessarily sophisticated or nuanced. Not necessarily well versed in the topic. Thus, do not assume familiarity with a topic. Reach out with leads. Do not overcontextualize—establish HR as the best practice. Remember a journalist has 4 hours to know “everything” about the topic. Provide well referenced, clearly explained background. Be up front with ground rules if anonymity is desired.

21 Journalists are people, too. The page each morning is a white hole that must be filled. By providing a compelling HR story, you are helping them do their job. Extinguish the fire—”this fills your page.” Don’t start the fire—”you are f***ing up by not covering this.” Be proactive—sell the story. Be accessible; journalists are on deadline and cannot wait for a response. Likewise, they are drawn to sources with a reputation for accessibility. REACH OUT. Direct to specific writers, as well as press releases for editorial desks. Even if no pick-up, you are ID’d as source.

22 “Be the press.” Have a record of opinion and information on the topic. Blogs, social media as well as conventional collateral. Know the current story landscape for the paper. Piggyback on national efforts Contextualize national news with local illustration. Persistent and accessible. Persistent and accessible. Persistent and accessible. My number is Call me if you want to hear me say, “Persistent and accessible.”

23 In conclusion Visibility has benefits for harm reduction both in terms of organizational prestige and furthering reform of treatment. HR currently underrepresented in local trends in Baltimore. Responsiveness to media landscape. Know your journalist and treat them well.

24 Acknowledgments Judith Prochaska, PhD, MPH Stanford Prevention Research Center Ashley Sanders-Jackson, PhD UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education Jennifer Kirschner, MSPH Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition David Downs East Bay Express Presented in conjunction with the Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition


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