[Note: I’m a staff member at CEA]
I have been thinking a lot about this exact issue lately and agree. I think that as EA is becoming more well-known in some circles, it’s a good time to consider if — at a community level — EA might benefit from courting positive press coverage. I appreciate the concern about this. I also think that for those of us without media training (myself included), erring on the side of caution is wise, so being media-shy by default makes sense.
I think that whether or not the community as a whole or EA orgs should be more proactive about media coverage is a good question that we should spend time thinking about. The balance of risks and rewards there is an open question.
At an individual level though, I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of clarity recently on best practices and can give a solid recommendation that aligns with Gordon’s advice here.
For the past several months, I’ve sought to get a better handle on the media landscape, and I’ve been speaking with journalists, media advisors, and PR-type folks. Most experts I’ve spoken to (including journalists and former journalists) converge on this advice: For any individual community member or professional (in any movement, organization, etc), it is very unwise to accept media engagements unless you’ve had media training and practice.
I’m now of the mind that interview skills are skills like any other, which need to be learned and practiced. Some of us may find them easier to pick up or more enjoyable than others, but very few of us should expect to be good at interviews without preparation. Training, practice, and feedback can help someone figure out their skills and comfort level, and then make informed decisions if and when media inquiries come up.
To add on to Gordon’s good advice for those interested, here is a quick summary of what I’ve learned about the knowledge and skills required for media engagements:
General understanding of a journalist’s role, an interviewee’s role, and journalistic ethics (what they typically will and will not do; what you can and cannot ask or expect when participating in a story)
An understanding of the story’s particular angle and where you do or don’t fit
Researching the piece and the journalist’s credibility in advance, so that you can…
evaluate and choose opportunities where your ideas are more likely to be understood or represented accurately versus opportunities where you’re more likely to be misrepresented; and
predict the kinds of questions you’re likely to be asked so that you can practice meaningful responses. (Even simple questions like “what is EA?” can be surprisingly hard to answer briefly and well).
Conveying key ideas in a clear, succinct way so that the most important things you want to say are more likely to be what is reported
This includes the tricky business of predicting the ways in which certain ideas might be misunderstood by a variety of audiences and practicing how to convey points in a way that avoids such misunderstandings
Clearly understanding the scope of your own expertise and only speaking about related issues, while referring questions outside your expertise to others
I think having more community members with media training could be useful, but I also think only some people will find it worth their time to do the significant amount of preparation required.
This feels very timely, because several of us at CEA have recently been working on updating our resources for media engagement. In our Advice for talking with journalists guide, we go into more depth about some of the advice we’ve received. I’d be happy to have people’s feedback on this resource!
This seems to be a private document. When I try to follow that link I get a page asking for me to log in to Google Drive with a @centreforeffectivealtruism.org Google account, which I don’t have (I’m already logged into Google with two other Google accounts, so those don’t seem to give me enough permission to access this document).
Maybe this document is intended to be private right now, but if it’s allowed to be accessed outside CEA it doesn’t seem that you currently can.
Thanks, Gordon; I’ve fixed the sharing permissions so that this document is public.
In our Advice for talking with journalists guide, we go into more depth about some of the advice we’ve received.
The Media Training Bible is also good for this.