Wednesday, January 22, 2014


It happened a few times when I was involved with the Klausner Foundation. A journalist, an intern, a student would get excited after he or she heard about all the work we were doing with our kids with Cerebral Palsy and wanted to do a story about it. Interviewed some people, did some research, heard inspiring stories of great dedication from the parents. Maybe recorded a sentence or two, perhaps videotaped some material for broadcast. Got attached or inspired by the children as they faced and rose above the limitation of their body. But then, after all the time, all the work and all the meaningful experience they'd hear that there was no story. Behind closed doors we touched people's lives, success stories, even the tiniest ones happened everyday. But to the outside world this wasn't newsworthy. "Business as usual" isn't news. That was one of the things that led to the school's demise. We weren't doing anything new or different for anyone to report on. We did good work, but good work isn't worth a story. There isn't an angle. Nothing is developing, nothing new is going on. A week ago a student approached me to do an interview with me for a local affiliate of PBS. She wanted to know about me. She wanted to know about my new foundation. Yes, we still hope to start putting the accessibility application together, but it's not happening tomorrow. We've struggled getting people interested in our entity long enough to help move our projects along. I could tell her plenty about how much of a revolving door this experience has been for us and how hard it is to put anything together with no to limited resources. And if we don't get some exposure, this is unlikely to change. I saw the passion, the excitement in her eyes as we were evaluating how wheelchair accessible the city is over a cup of coffee. She wanted to be an instrument of change. Yes, do her assignment and get a class credit, but still do something that makes a difference. But without something current, something different, something ongoing this isn't news. It might make a nice documentary. Or a feature. Interview or even work as a starting point for an opinion piece. But one thing describing reality as it is and has been for a while is not is news. And when I spoke to her on the phone today, I knew what the issue was before she even told me. She was upset and disappointed. She did a darn good job on that piece, felt a personal connection to it and wanted to make it her own. But it's on hold. Because at its current state, it's not newsworthy. And it's sounded exactly like all those other times when a journalist, a student or an intern wanted to do something good only to get shot down.

1 comment:

  1. You need to create a newsworthy event. Conflict is what makes it so. You need activists to organize your groups-doing-good-works for protests against a common "enemy" (sidewalk accessibilty or transit improvements are good rallying points). The media needs be alerted a head of time that there is "going to be a show" down at city hall, a board meeting. Get your affected folks out in force. Nothing turns heads like 100 wheelchairs showing up to testify with passion to the city hall about how bad the sidewalk accessibility is. Make sure the media has sufficient notice so they have plenty of time to get there. (Groundwork for media includes getting to know someone within each media outlet that you can count on to have their ear when you need it). AFTER the newsworthy event comes the followups and the human interest stories.

    Remember, the general public doesn't wanna know that there is a 30% chance they will join our ranks before they ever get a chances to retire so they don't wanna hear about daily struggles to overcome. The publice is invincible, don't you know, they don't want any reminders? The public also likes stories about David battling Goliath. The show is fun and you get to root for the underdog. You gotta show the public "bread and circuses" to slide the messages and information about other-ableness in there while the general public are not looking.