WORKING WITH THE MEDIA
The news media often does not cover education issues well, and when they do cover education-related stories, the coverage is frequently negative in tone. However, reporters are also guided by this truism: they cannot report on programs, projects, and activities of which they have no knowledge. Many knowledgeable advocates are the recognized experts in gifted education in their communities. Take advantage of the opportunity!
Most news reporters welcome story ideas. You should plan to do the following:
- Make it a habit to send news releases to the education reporters - be sure to send them advance notices (at least 72 hours) about upcoming academic competitions in which your students are participating; VIP speakers addressing your gifted education program, student-generated service learning experiences; or the opening of a new school or program that serves advanced learners, to name a few. Small, positive stories in the local press help develop good relations for your organization with local reporters and also provide a steady "diet" of stories about high-ability learners for public consumption.
- Send "story ideas" to reporters and talk-show hosts. Over the course of the school year (and the state legislative session) there are various news "hooks" that gifted education advocates can take advantage of to help develop stories on gifted education. For example, public debate on school bond issues, plans to modify state content standards, teacher qualifications, the release of state and local test scores, and special education funding all offer opportunities to include gifted education issues in the news coverage. Provide the reporters and talk show hosts with:
- a cover letter suggesting the story idea
- general information on the state or local gifted education association and the general description of the audience interest for the story (e.g., "parents of the 10,000 gifted and talented students in the state")
- specific information on who the reporter may contact (include role in the association, day and evening phone numbers), or the name and numbers of the person who would be available to do a radio interview.
Commentary Pieces / Op-ed Pieces ("opposite" the editorial page)
- Identify the op-ed and editorial page editors for the daily and weekly newspapers in your area
- Be sure to check on other guidelines the paper may have (e.g., deadlines, length of opinions, whether the submissions may be made via fax or email)
Commentary / op-ed pieces are an opportunity to raise awareness about how pending decisions (by the school board, city council, state legislature) will affect gifted children. In the case of a state or local organization writing comments, it should be signed by an association officer, and should include a "call to action" - whether to the legislature or to the public at large. Keep in mind that the public knows very little about gifted education-related issues, so remember to spell out the basics in your commentary. You may also want to cite NAGC's official positions or recent national research to lend weight to your arguments or positions.
Letters to the Editor
Letters to the editor offer the opportunity to raise gifted education-related issues after-the-fact. For tips on letter writing, and samples of Letters to the Editor, click here.
Other Ideas to Maximize Exposure
- Invite education reporters from your papers to visit gifted education programs and events in your community.
- Forward information about gifted education events to the “family” reporter at your local paper.