Friday, August 19, 2011

Step two: Getting the media to notice

The Jordan Klausner Foundation is truly a grass root effort. None of our officers are getting paid for what they do, we don't have an office space and we rely on volunteers for most of our operations. James Klausner tends to present it as an asset. I think it's just our reality. Are we missing out on a lot of opportunities to get funding, exposure, launch new projects and reach out to new kids? Obviously, but it's all we can afford. I'm not ashamed to say we are doing a darn good job with little resources we have. It's amazing that the foundation and the school it supports even came together. I say this to point out that the Klausner family did not do it for their own glory. At some point they saw educational problems of kids with Cerebral Palsy that were not getting addressed, that the some school boards created problems and that a lot of times no form of structured physical activity was offered, so they chose to act. James Klausner is juggling running the school, the foundation that sponsors it and his day job - a career in Academia not because he was looking for something to do on the side. There were virtually no alternatives in the area and there aren't as many in the State as you would think. Medical practitioners don't really trust us, physical therapists don't like us and we get no  media exposure. How can we survive? We are glad to get any kind of mention in the press because however inaccurate at least it may inform the parents that something useful for children with CP is going on in the area and that they should investigate. We send out press releases that get ignored, we've made phone calls that never get returned. I can get the news media to write about me. I was the spread of the Independent Florida Alligator, The Gainesville Sun covered my story twice and the INsite Magazine chose me as Gainesville's 18 most interesting people. But this never translated to publications about the organization and not because we haven't pushed. There is an article written by Harold Rocha for InSite about James Klausner but it never got published. The Gainesville Sun wrote something about the program when it first launched in 2006,2007 and The Alligator never did.
 Once in a while a journalism student has  a project or is trying to pitch a story, but nothing has gotten published at all.

That's why we were very excited when WUFT decided to do a 4 minute story about the school. It wasn't perfect but it was something and the Conductors who saw how it went down criticized the piece mercilessly and some even called for the closedown of the school. Some criticisms were valid. The girl doing the project was a student, she was there only for under two hours, she saw and filmed very little and made it seemed like moving your head and arms is the essence of Conductive Education is moving your arms  and head. But then you really can't explain CE in a dour minute clip. We have no control over how the soundbites and videoclips come together and what impression and understanding she leaves with. She chose not to interview me, or James only the people who were at the school. : a Conductor and a handful of volunteers she trained to help her. But at least she chose to show up. None of the other news outlets did. This is where the message gets lost in translation where I talk to people in Europe. Over there the Conductors get respect and the method is somewhat known and understood. In Florida at least I may just as well be talking about magical beeds  that help children with disabilities. Conductive Education takes long to explain, is not a miracle cure that you can make a short and sweet story about. The more time you devote to it the less newsworthy it becomes. Kids working hard to work around their disabilities every day sounds more like a form of training, a gym routine or a diet. It makes more sense but is less attractive to the viewer interested in short clips about the latest celebrity  caught without underpants. American media is not BBC.I once watched a lengthy segment of CNN Headline News that was about nothing but social gossip and celebrity trials. And to be honest, most things you can learn about CE is too much information for the casual viewer. James is very diligent when presenting the theoretical grounds for it. Last week when he was showing diagrams to the academic community at the University of Florida, I think most of the room tuned right after "Verbalization" and it made me question how did this description fit what I experienced in the Peto Institute in the 1980's. That's the thing- we don't know what terms to use to excite people enough to care. And I don't know how to reach  the tv and newspapers. When there is nothing but silence, a blackout of sorts if you will, resources, opportunities are wasted. We want to bring hope to parents, but we can't afford a widespread campaign. Perhaps our European friends can help us set up some informational resource for Americans but until then we have to rely on the media.

To those who say that inaccurate reports cause irreparable damage to the world of Conductive Education I say that my first concern is Gainesville. My biggest concern is that there are mothers living four, twenty, forty blocks from us not knowing that they don't have to settle for   a lifetime in the wheelchair for their kids. My biggest fear is that there will be children who will never be the best they could've been  because they never heard about us. And if not for this school there would've nothing else. We're doing as much as we can and it has to suffice... for now.

1 comment:

  1. Ralph - can't see an email link for you on this page. Could you or James email me? pacesceo AT

    I'm keen to swap notes on areas of common interest in growing a Charter/Free School.

    Liked this piece.

    Hope to hear from you.