1. Get out the Science
Speaking as a geek, science is our greatest tool against myth. It's difficult in SA, however, to separate the junk science sponsored by the pharmaceutical and diet industry from the truly objective study. When a study does come out, it's often ignored or misinterpreted by the press. That's why it's important to broadcast objective studies as widely as possible. This may involve blogging to spread the study to other Size Activists, but from there it needs to go wider. Send studies to your local paper, especially if one of the reporters has a history of fat-friendly coverage. Send studies to national news organizations such as NPR or BBC, Time, Newsweek, or even traditionally fat-negative publications like Reader's Digest. Keep an address book group in e-mail, or a snail-mail address list for these contacts, and send the information every time a new study comes out. If the study data is fat positive but the summary isn't, include a note re-interpreting the data or pointing out discrepancies in the conclusion. This is a hands-on but not a face-to-face confrontational method of spreading information."
Those connected to the blogosphere, especially to the fatosphere, will often read about new studies which challenge traditional understandings of fat and weight. Often the question is, "why isn't everyone talking about this?" The answer is generally that they don't know about it. There are so many conflicting studies, many with the advertising clout of the pharmaceutical industries behind them, that real science tends to fall into the cracks. To bring it back out into the light where it belongs so that it can be judged alongside the popular pseudoscience involves some effort by those who would benefit most.
News reporters, contrary to belief, don't choose their stories by tossing the Reuters feed into a sac and drawing a release at random. They often follow up on a story because a reader sends them a tip or brings a problem to light. That being said, they are also often overwhelmed by information and the more help you can give them, by way of a summary of primary points in a study, the more appealing it might seem as a subject.
1. Find the science: Monitor blogs and do an occasional google search to see what people are talking about. When a new study is released, you will often be able to find a link to it, or to a Reuters feed of it, or to coverage on a respectable blog such as Junkfood Science. If you are submitting the story online, be sure to include these links so that the reporter does not have to search it out themselves.
2. Summarize: Don't simply cut/paste/print blog posts unless you get permission from the blog owner and credit them. Some may be willing to let you do so since it will be for a good cause. Some may prefer that you summarize, possibly with the occasional quote. Remember that you don't have to write the article FOR the reporter, but a few main points may provide them with a starting point. I'll use the recent study by Blair in the JAMA as an example:
- Intro: (name/position): "I think you may be interested in the following study for a future article/report, it's generating a lot of discussion online and your readers/listeners may be interested in knowing about it:"
- Begin with the main point of the study: "Fitness may be a better indicator of health than fat"
- Follow with a very brief (1-2 sentences) summary: "A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has shown that fitness levels were a better predictor of longevity than an individuals weight or body fat. Even obese individuals who were fit were shown to be in better health than sedentary people of average weight." Ok, I used the "obese" buzzword because it has a good chance of catching the reporter's attention. You may prefer "people with a high percentage of body fat" or some other less-loaded terminology, but at this stage it may be more important to catch their eye than to be precisely PC.
- Provide a link to the study or summary if possible: http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/298/21/2507
- Include links to some of the blogs where the study is being discussed. Try to choose those with low "hater" to rational debate ratios.
- follow each link with a brief quote from the blog to show the conclusions people are drawing from it: "...The study does indicate that body fat itself is not as dangerous as a sedentary lifestyle. Also, because a large percentage of the heaviest patients were physically fit according to the fitness test, it's clear that you cannot judge a person's health or fitness by their weight...." Try to use quotes that show rational analysis, not emotionally charged responses that could smack of extremism.
- End by thanking the reporter for her/his time (especially if sending a paper letter): "Thank you for your time, and I hope that this study proves to be an interesting topic for you and your readers to explore."
- If you are willing, follow with something like "If you would like help in selecting professionals to contact for additional information I would be happy to help." or even "If you would like additional information on this topic, I'd recommend the following people who have been involved in similar research: " and include names like Glen Gaesser. A few organizations are assembling Media Guides with contact information for Fat Acceptance contacts. These will be excellent resources for lists of fat-friendly contacts for the reporter to get a fair evaluation of the study.
- Sign your name and e-mail address. Your real name. Anonymous tips look shady and are often taken less seriously than if you were willing to sign your name. If you're concerned, open a new e-mail address through a free provider specifically for this purpose, so that you can delete it if you begin to get negative mail.
3. Keep records: Make a copy of the letter, either electronic or paper, and track who you've sent it to (publication, department, name, date). If you get a response, note whether it is a form letter or personal response and whether it is positive or negative. If they publish an article or present a report from the study, note the date, and whether the article treats the subject positively, negatively, or objectively. This helps you keep track of who you've contacted and gives you a template for future contacts. It also helps you decide if you want to contact that publication in the future, how you may want to re-word the letter next time, or if you want to try a different reporter. Not to mention you then have a physical, measurable record of the difference you've made as an individual!
4. Keep a list of addresses: It can be electronic, or even a paper address book from the dollar store. Keep track of the publication, the contact person, the mailing and e-mail addresses or website for electronic tip submissions, and maybe a few notes on the types of articles they run.
5. Share your success: If you blog, let others know what you've sent and where. Others might be inspired to follow suit, and multiple tips on the same study might help it stand out from other potential stories that week.
To get started:
National Public Radio(U.S.): http://www.npr.org/about/pitch/ (to pitch an idea or even submit a freelance article)
BBC news story tip: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4995300.stm
251 W. 57th St.
New York, NY 10019
Senior Editor and Science Columnist Sharon Begley
Anne Underwood, Reporter (specializes in health, medicine, science and fitness)
(more staff writers at: http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/pr/pages/newsweek-staff-bios.aspx)
USA TODAY / USATODAY.com
7950 Jones Branch Drive
McLean, VA 22108-0605
New York Times:
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018
Want to contact someone specific at The New York Times or NYTimes.com? Send a blank message to firstname.lastname@example.org for an automated response containing the e-mail addresses of New York Times staff members who have made them available to the public.
That's only a partial list of course. Don't neglect your local or state papers, they're usually interested in stories that interest you as a local reader!