How did you deal with the media? Were they an asset or a liability to your work?


Edward Howden


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
One of the areas we haven't gotten into is the media. Did you ever get involved with the media, and if so, how? And did you find them to be a help or a hindrance, or some of each?

Answer:
As you're aware, the basic policy and approach of CRS in mediation was not to initiate media contact. We did not try to involve or use the media in any way. Sometimes the media were there first, and were aware of a problem and CRS came in, so there was media attention to it. In most of my cases, mediation cases, as well as the others that were not mediation, there was little or no media involvement. One of the points in mediation, one of the understandings we would have as a basis for the process, was that it would remain strictly confidential. Nobody would talk to the media, other than the mediator. He would only do that to answer limited informational questions-- obviously without going into issues or where it stood. "A useful session, good progress was made, we are hopeful," all that stuff. Most of the parties found that quite acceptable. Usually in a memorandum of understanding, the agreement would be released to the press in a manner that the parties would agree to in advance. Sometimes we would do this with the parties present, at least the team leaders. Often the mediator would summarize the agreement, team leaders would each make a comment or two and a copy of the agreement would be handed over to the press. I remember specifically doing that in one situation involving one of the California Indian tribes and the sheriff's department. We had a full dress press conference in a hotel in a nearby city, to get it into the public domain. At least in those days, none of us assumed that these agreements were enforceable, but we figured getting the agreement made public helped with compliance. Gradually, toward the latter part of the time I was with CRS, there began to be some thought that maybe some agreements were enforceable, and I guess the field has moved along in that regard now. But we relied on public pressure, and media attention as a means for enforcement, so it was important to make a good splash if you could.




Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

How did you deal with the media?

Answer:
It's a hot potato. In this case, the media had no awareness about what we were doing, and I certainly didn't go to them. I point out to them that the Community Relations Service guidelines spell out how to deal with media. This is helpful to me. It's not my position, it's the agencies position. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Nobody initiates any contact with any representative of the TV, radio, or print media. Secondly, if you are approached by a representative of the media, you have to commit yourself and refer them to the mediator. When a media person contacts me, I may give them an explanation of the process that we're going through, I may make some general statements about the progress that's taking place, but I won't be discussing specific details about what we're doing inside. There will be a time for that later. Going to the other item in the guidelines, which are at the conclusion of the mediation assuming that we have an agreement, then I will arrange for a press conference to be held and we will have each of the parties represented with the spokespersons. Then, I will explain to the media what we've done, the process that we've gone through, and that this is the result of that mediation. I'd hand them copies of the agreement, which would have needed to have been approved by that point. That's not always possible. For example, a board of education has to meet in public, so everybody knows what they're doing, so you kind of do the mediation at the same time. But you would distribute copies of the written signed agreement. The policy on media relations no longer applies and the representative of each of the parties is here, and the media is free to ask them any questions. It's part of the ceremony, if you can call it that. We might have the signing of the documents by the representatives. Hopefully, there will be publicity around the solutions side.

Question:
Was there media presence at this signing?

Answer:
No. I don't think the media would've cared. They had not heard of this, and it was not my role to inform them of this. At least at this point, we made our breakthroughs and made an eight point agreement. At the conclusion, after it was signed, it had to be taken to the three tribal counsels, and signed off by each of them. We negotiated through the day as I recall, and then had to take it to the tribal counsels that night, and once we got the tribal chairperson's name on all the documents, then it was my job to take copies of the agreement to the media. So, I spent the rest of the night, literally, taking copies to television stations, to radio stations and to the print media in Seattle. The results of all that effort was one little blurb about an inch long in the Tacoma paper. Good news is no news.




Ernest Jones


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
How did you deal with the media as far as this particular case goes? Did you find the media to be a help or hindrance?

Answer:
The few times we came in contact with them they were curious. So the helping and hindering weren't the factors. I had written up some kind of a process about how we were going to deal with the media but it's very likely something along the lines that if you're approached by somebody from the media you'd simply give them a standard CRS spew which is basically that we're here to provide assistance to the community, and officials, and that's all. Do you want more information or do you want to talk about this any further? My recollection was we just gave out the office number and told them just to call. A lot of the times there wasn't any media at that protest site because there was no newsworthiness attached to it. The focus was all on the athletes and everything so we just didn't run into the media that much. There weren't any hot issues to deal with exclusive of the dart throw or whatever.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Several times you mentioned the media and their involvement. Did you see their involvement as a help or hindrance to your job?

Answer:
Good question because it's very critical all the time. They always want to know what we know, what we're up to. But we can't let them know all we know. So we check with the community elements first of all and see if they want us to let the media know this or that. Sometimes they'll say, "Sure go ahead." But most of the time, we just tell them about our process and not about the particulars of who's doing what. The media knows we're there, they know what we're trying to do. The media knows whether or not we're making progress.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

But I had enough background in media and the Washington world to know how to handle this. I was able to get the support from the commissioner, getting a letter when I needed it. We got an editorial in the Minneapolis Star praising the process, saying maybe this is what's needed. As long as we had this support, my own director in Washington supported the effort.

Question:
So when you said "background in the media,” it suggests that you placed the editorial or you encouraged it?

Answer:
As a former newspaper reporter for Sun News, I know how to work with the media.

Question:
Feed them information?

Answer:
No, I didn't feed them information. But what is appropriate, and what I often had my staff do in high visibility cases, was to offer background briefings to newspaper editors. I routinely did this when we had a school desegregation case to let the media know what we were doing and understand how we worked. This helped assure accurate reporting and sometimes resulted in favorable editorials. Also, the inmates were free to talk to the press. That was one of their rights in Minnesota.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
How did you deal with the media?

Answer:
Well I dealt a little more boldly than many CRS people because I was a former reporter and editor. So I tried to use the media positively when I could to help the case or the agency. Typically we would have to be cautious with the media. What I would try to do, when I didn’t want to engage with the media, but the case had visibility, would be to have a prepared brief comment and say no more. I counseled my staff to do the same.

Question:
At the end of each day or how often?

Answer:
Sometimes when you arrived in a community. If the media knew you were coming, reporters might be waiting for you or the would call you in your office. Again you reach into your box of stock phrases and know what to say, such as, "We’ve been invited,” and again you don’t say who invited. "We’ve been invited to come in and talk to people involved in the school issue that has been so widely publicized in the community. When we heard about it we called some of the individuals locally involved in the problem to see if we can be of assistance.” "What are you going to do here?” "We’re going to see if we can be of assistance.” "Do you think…?” "I don’t know, we just arrived and we just don’t know.” You just stop talking and get out of there. Or in the break of a mediation, "The parties have met and we’ve talked for four hours today and we will resume tomorrow. We’ve made good progress in exploring the issues.” And you’d say no more. "Are you optimistic?” You might say, "Our people are listening to each other.” You try to do something to focus positively on the parties and get out of there. Often in mediation, you work out a press policy with the parties. They might want to make a statement or they may want the mediator to do it for them. Now, the most important rule to me was that the parties involved in the conflict often were seeking recognition and heightening public awareness of the conflict no matter what side they were on, and they don’t want the mediator hogging all of the newspaper space. So if you stay out of the story, it leaves room for coverage of the parties and they want their voices out there, they want their names in the paper. So I tried to not get in the way of that.

Question:
How often did the parties say things to the press that would have been better not said?

Answer:
I don’t know. It happened, but I can’t make that judgment for a party because maybe I didn’t like it, but from their end it may have been important.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
How did you deal with the media?

Answer:
Well I dealt a little more boldly than many CRS people because I was a former reporter and editor. So I tried to use the media positively when I could to help the case or the agency. Typically we would have to be cautious with the media. What I would try to do, when I didn’t want to engage with the media, but the case had visibility, would be to have a prepared brief comment and say no more. I counseled my staff to do the same.

Question:
At the end of each day or how often?

Answer:
Sometimes when you arrived in a community. If the media knew you were coming, reporters might be waiting for you or the would call you in your office. Again you reach into your box of stock phrases and know what to say, such as, "We’ve been invited,” and again you don’t say who invited. "We’ve been invited to come in and talk to people involved in the school issue that has been so widely publicized in the community. When we heard about it we called some of the individuals locally involved in the problem to see if we can be of assistance.” "What are you going to do here?” "We’re going to see if we can be of assistance.” "Do you think…?” "I don’t know, we just arrived and we just don’t know.” You just stop talking and get out of there. Or in the break of a mediation, "The parties have met and we’ve talked for four hours today and we will resume tomorrow. We’ve made good progress in exploring the issues.” And you’d say no more. "Are you optimistic?” You might say, "Our people are listening to each other.” You try to do something to focus positively on the parties and get out of there. Often in mediation, you work out a press policy with the parties. They might want to make a statement or they may want the mediator to do it for them. Now, the most important rule to me was that the parties involved in the conflict often were seeking recognition and heightening public awareness of the conflict no matter what side they were on, and they don’t want the mediator hogging all of the newspaper space. So if you stay out of the story, it leaves room for coverage of the parties and they want their voices out there, they want their names in the paper. So I tried to not get in the way of that.

Question:
How often did the parties say things to the press that would have been better not said?

Answer:
I don’t know. It happened, but I can’t make that judgment for a party because maybe I didn’t like it, but from their end it may have been important.




Renaldo Rivera


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
You've had some experience in the media before coming to CRS. How do you deal with the media as a CRS mediator?

Answer:
The media is often times not helpful to CRS's work, particularly mediation because they are trying to follow a local story and their local story is based on the local controversy. What will happen when you are in a mediation is that some of the parties will try to go to the media. Even though you had a ground rule around it, somehow it will leak out. Usually you can pinpoint or by and large have a good idea who it was based on what was said. Whenever that occurs the media account tends to disturb one or the other parties anyway it's done and it interferes with the mediation process. So it is preferred by me and by CRS that if there has to be a media contact during the mediation for it to happen from CRS so you can give us a more impartial accounting of what's taking place and it's not going to interfere. It's your process and you sure as heck don't want what you say out of the media's mouth to interfere with the work that you are trying to do with the parties. The media tend to be difficult. They very rarely shed more light. Wherever possible we would like it to be with CRS and then as limited as possible. To describe the process, the CRS role in relation to it and then CRS mission.

Question:
How do you respond to media when they come to you during an early phase of a case?

Answer:
I'll mention what we do, the prevention response to community tension that has a basis in race, color, or national origin and that we are currently assessing the situation to see if there are services that we can make available. I would describe the mission and the mandate in the assessment phase. Usually that will be enough. Of course I'll get probed for more, but that is all I'm willing to say in the assessment phase. I used to have a Regional Director that I could kick that question to, but now it's me. They would catch me when I was a conciliator too, but now the conciliators all put them to me. I don't blame them. We try to respond. Sometimes we are caught onsite and they'll pretty much respond the same way in terms of trying to provide clarifying comments or contextualizing comments for the difficulty that's taking place. That's the approach that we are trying to take with the media.




Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Do you see media coverage of your work as an asset or a liability?

Answer:
I think the media has been a major asset in the work we do.

Question:
How so?

Answer:
The first thing they do is uncover the problems. By uncovering the problems, CRS has an opportunity to deal with them. If they are not publicized, we may not know about them. Secondly, it puts a lot of pressure on the actors, the players, the parties, to at least respond to what the media say.

Question:
How about the coverage of CRS?

Answer:
I think it's helped us. First they uncover the problem, then their attention is directed to the problems. When the media say the Justice Department is coming in, everyone is on notice that we are there dealing with the matter. Most of the time they have been very responsive. They call. In my dealings with them, they have been very active and positive. They get the message out. Sometimes it's up to us how we want to steer that information.






Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Who handled the media?

Answer:
The mediators handled the media when we got started in mediation. We would talk to the media afterwards and indicate to them the developments. We preferred that the parties not talk to them about any of the specifics that were taking place.

Question:
Did everybody agree?

Answer:
Oh yeah.




Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

No. The newspaper was covering the mediation sessions and it would come out with periodic reports on it. So did the Globe. The information was going back to the general campus and public. That kept the sense of getting information back to the community. The students did a lot of reporting back. They had meetings with their constituents after the sessions.



Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

You spoke about the media and that you set some ground rules that during mediation you would speak for the teams. Were the representatives with you when you met with the media? Was there any resistance to them not being able to communicate with the media or did they anyway?

Answer:
No, the only time we had everyone together was at the last session. Other then that they let me be the spokesperson. It was more a perfunctory type of thing. We worked out a progress report at the table. We wouldn't share with the media any of the specifics that we had agreed to during the interim period. It was more pablum in many ways, just to reinforce that we were meeting and that progress was being made. We really wanted to get out the message that the groups were very serious about these issues. The media spokesperson for the university worked closely with us. She referred all the media people to us and the students abided by it as well.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Was there any media coverage of this?

Answer:
There was no media coverage of this that I know of. But I actually saw a picture...there was a gentleman named White Owl who came in to bless the mediation process. He came in and chanted a blessing and took a picture. And I didn't think anything of it...but what we didn't know was that he was writing a book.

Question:
And no one knew he was writing a book?

Answer:
I didn't know he was writing a book. I don't think he said anything about it. But one day a friend of mine said, "Steve I saw your picture in this book." He had written a story about Native Americans' spirits and beliefs and in it there is a picture of myself and the Dean of the Anthropology Department, and Larry Myers and a caption saying, "this is a mediation case dealing with remains." So it's not as though it was not made public, but we did not have a press conference at that particular time.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Speaking of the press, do you work with the media? How do you address the media? How do they address you?

Answer:
I'm not real strong with the media to be candid with you. I work with the media because I know it's an important part of controlling rumors for school riots and things like that. I was asked to be the spokesperson with the district in that situation, and I was brought into every media event. The key question that was always brought up is, "Was it Racial?" And I fixated, and we encourage the districts to fixate on a statement that you can support and sustain and say to the media, so that you can spin it in a way that is more positive. That question always came up, and I would say, "No, it was not racial." Just because you see African Americans, Latinos, Asians or whatever, two groups with the appearance of going at it, it usually starts with something very simple. The real motivation for the conflict was believed to be the lack of recognition of ethnic celebrations. Once two students get involved in a dispute other students join in because they feel a sense of allegiance to their ethnic group. That's really what gives that flavor of a racial disturbance. But in fact, what was the real cause is very rarely totally race. A lot of times it's gang instigated, because a lot of recruitment goes on through playing off on race. In this instance, you could observe the way they threw the bottles at each other. Did you ever play the game where you toss balloons, and you see who can go the farthest before it breaks? That's the way they were throwing these bottles at each other. The bottles weren't being thrown at a straight level, they were tossing them very high so that the other side could really catch it and throw it back. So it was disturbing in the sense that you had bottles being thrown at each other, but it wasn't malicious in a sense that they were really out to hurt each other, and they happen to be African American and Latino. And then when I saw the kids disperse when the police came in, nobody was hitting anybody. Even if two students of different racial groups were caught facing each other alone, they didn't bother each other, they just kept going. So, when the media asks, "Was it racial?" I say "No, and this is why," and I talk to them about the bottles, and I talk to them about what I saw, and how the students didn't physically fight, and then they don't ask me the race question anymore because I won't give them the headline they want.






Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Can you tell us how media affected your job while you were at CRS?

Answer:
The media had very little effect on me, personally. I don't think the media had much affect on CRS as a whole, even though they sought out that kind of thing. I think in some rare instances, they got in the way because they wanted you to play the case out through them and you had to say, "No, I don't want to talk to you." You didn't say it that way, but you told them that you wanted to deal with the people by yourself. Then when it was over, sometimes, if they were interested, we would talk to them. But if we talked to them, we'd have representatives from the parties there to talk about it and introduce themselves. But the things that we got into weren't that big. They were just local community kinds of things, so they weren't really that earth-shaking. Even with the training we did in San Diego. That was good publicity for everybody: Corrections, the Navy -- because they went from how the situation started, all the way through how we got involved -- the University, the school district, and the community were all involved and they painted a picture of what happened. Plus, they explained what we were doing in the training sessions. We got the media to agree to not hang around the training sessions. We felt that if they were there, some of these people would be playing to the cameras. So we said, "No, we don't want to do that." I think more in some cases, it was more of a trick on their part, where they would call the media first, and then they would call you. It happened to me in San Diego with a group of Mexican Americans. The problem was big enough to them, so they called me down there, and I went down there and I talked to them and they had set up a community meeting for that night. So I went to the community meeting and it didn't register, why are those lights so darn dim? So we sat down, the lights went on, "Alright, Mr. Alderete, tell us about what it is that..." It was the San Diego Tribune and I don't know who else. So I said, "Hey, you guys tricked me into this thing, I'm not going to talk." So the media agreed to leave and then we got down to business. But I had a good laugh because this is something that I at times had wished on other people.




Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Our goal, as two guys out there, was to keep each police unit and each group from going at each other, which in the global picture was to keep violence from occurring. We refused to use those kinds of words because we knew that they were designed mostly for the media, and we didn't want to do that. That's really it, a very simple kind of approach to a problem that anybody with common sense and a little experience would have been able to handle. It didn't take a PhD, it didn't take a rocket scientist, it didn't even take a guy with a B.A. necessarily. It just took a guy with common sense to go out there.

Question:
You know, it's interesting because the media didn't portray it that way. This is a whole different image than what I'm hearing from you, because it almost sounds sane, the way you're saying it. But the way the media presented it is that something is out of control, these are people that you cannot have a conversation with, people who are determined to kill you. I'm getting a different feel from you, that you were able to approach the people, have a discussion with them -- that they were receptive to what you were saying.

Answer:
Even that poor guy that got his head bashed in, that truck driver -- even that area wasn't as bad as they say made it seem. We drove through that very area a few days after that happened, and nobody ever hurt us. Nobody ever threw rocks at us. In fact, they waved at us. At night the LAPD would, if four or five African Americans were gathered on a corner, say "Alright, call the SWAT people out because we sense a potential problem." So that kind of activity gave the newspaper people and the people on the radio a real sense of mayhem. But nothing was really happening. I remember one time we responded to a call, and we got there and we couldn't find any problem at all. A bunch of people, ladies and kids, were running around with sodas in their hands, laughing. They had the cops sitting up there and they didn't do anything about it.




Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The thing we did in San Diego with the training attracted media, but that's because the Navy was involved and they wanted to make sure they were recognized. And I'm not being cynical, that's reality -- the Navy wanted people to know they were involved. So did everyone else, including us. But these were official people providing a service to another official group, so everyone wanted to share in the talking to the media. Had it been a community group and official group, I greatly doubt it.



Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Also they were upset with the Latinos because the Latinos were against the Vietnam war and they were against the sheriff, and all his shenanigans against the Latino community. Rubin Salazar had written a really devastating report against law enforcement. The chief of police of L.A. had gone to the L.A. Times and stated to the publisher that, "This reporter, Rubin Salazar is out there agitating the Mexicans and they're not ready for this kind of activity." It was like the former chief of Police of L.A. saying, "The Mexicans are just that far from running around from tree to tree with their tails." He was no longer the chief then. But the law enforcement types went up to him and said the Mexicans weren't ready to receive this kind of information that Rubin Salazar was expounding on. So then Salazar responded by writing this huge report about law enforcement and actually chastising the L.A. Times for even being willing to listen to the cops about the Mexicans' readiness to get this kind of information.



Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

And I said, "You don't have to get into any dialogue with these folks. Just say 'yes' or 'no' or 'I don't know.'" Then don't enter into any conversation with them, because all of the news media from across the nation and the BBC -- and one from Hong Kong -- were there. They were all there, so I arranged every morning for us to meet with the media. We would have a press conference, and in the evening we'd have a debriefing with the press to satisfy the media, so they were not as aggressive as they normally would have been. So this is the kind of thing you do in order to keep things from escalating. It wouldn't have any effect upon the trial, because had there been demonstrations outside the courtroom, it certainly would not have helped her in her case. It wasn't only CRS, it was the Wake County Sheriff's Department, the North Carolina State Patrol, the State Bureau of Investigation, and we all worked harmoniously toward keeping the peace with JoAnn Little.



Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

At different points, the media came to me and said, "If you can't let us into the meeting, will you have a press conference to tell us what's going on?" I did that and everybody was there, including TV and radio. This was the lead item on the news for days. During the protests and during this final period, all I could tell them was about the process that we were going through. "We have not succeeded in resolving issues in public, so now we're going to see if we can resolve it behind closed doors. And if we succeed, you will be notified as to the results and you can ask questions. But until then, we will give them this chance to get together and work it out in private." That seemed to go over very positively. The media coverage of this was expected of course, but they gave positive coverage to that meeting.



Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

We talked yesterday a little bit about power disparity and I think you said that you wouldn't mediate unless there was some close equality of power. I was thinking at the time in the criminal justice cases where you have the police and a minority community, it seems to me that would be an instance where you have a very vast power difference, yet you still, I gather, mediated. How did you deal with that kind of power difference?

Answer:
Well, you've got several elements here. Publicity and public opinion are factors. Say the police did not deal fairly, there is always the possibility of publicity around their decisions that would make them look bad if they did this. That's outside the room of course. There are always potential pressure points that the minority community can use if they so chose that would make for potential build-up of their negotiating position, such as in the Portland case I mentioned. They were up against a very strong rigid position yet they were able to change that position. That kind of potential is always out there if it's resorted to and usually does not reflect well on say the institution that is involved.




Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did you ever do any mediation with the press involved?

Answer:
No. Let me think if there was any. No.

Question:
So the way you dealt with the media was to tell them that there's a process and this is what the process and we'll tell you the results when they come out.

Answer:
Yes. And I don't recall any instances where either of the parties went to the media and violated that group rule.

Question:
Did any of the parties ever demand having the media present or give a report in order to continue any negotiation process?

Answer:
No, I don't think so. I remember one case where the media tried every way they could to get as close to us as they could. We were in that Portland case and we were meeting in this conference room and it had big windows. Low and behold I was facing the windows and the parties were on either side of this long table and I suddenly realized as my focus went out the window there was a camera team set up on the roof of the building across the street aimed right at us. To us it was a joke because of course they didn't know what was being said, but we laughed at it and closed the blinds or something like that, or waved at them, but that was funny.




Julian Klugman


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The media doesn't just report news, they sometimes make the news, and they do it in ways which don't necessarily have anything to do with really what's going on. They're selling something so they want to prolong it.



Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

For example, in this issue in Houston, the media finally got a hold of it because I made it public with the consent of the parties. I did a presentation for a national panel. I knew that it was going to hit the paper. I told them about the process and told them we were making progress and it's going to take us another month and right now the media is not allowed in the discussions. But they will be fully briefed. Especially one reporter. She'd been following the story, and at the request of one of the leaders she didn't reveal it any sooner. There has to be cooperation and some trust. They've got a job to do, and we've got a job to do. We just kind of negotiate, but they can be very helpful, the eyes and the ears of the community. Also the voice. The people read the papers, so it's best that they get the story right and a lot of times they don't. When they don't, they might cause problems.

Question:
What kind of problems did they cause or how did they interfere with your work?

Answer:
They might reveal some information some of the parties don't want to release. Especially the local media, they're part of the community too. It all comes back to self-interest and what role would be in your best interest. You might get a scoop, but then you've hurt your self interest by doing it that way. Be cognizant of the effects and that's all. Especially during assessments on mediations. The parties may be hesitant to express themselves or may play to the media if reporters are present. The parties should be addressing each other and in a frank manner.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Was it a problem to have a reporter at the meeting?

Answer:
No, that was a condition for the mediation, on the agreement of both parties. The police said, "We've got nothing to hide," but they didn't want a community meeting because it could be disruptive and it probably would have gotten out of hand. It wasn't that they were trying to act in private, just that they didn't want to expose themselves to a situation that would get out of hand. A situation where they would have to take more action because that was the original charge of police brutality and police abuse, so they felt that a private meeting with the media there would settle their purposes. And the community would know anyway, so let's have a reporter, and they agreed to it.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Which form of media was the most helpful or beneficial for you?

Answer:
Usually the print media because they can take time to analyze the situation, although they don't always know everything. But at least they reveal more. Electronic of course it's sound bytes and you kind of have to train for that. Answer direct questions, quick. We go through training exercises. It's like twenty-five words or less, and to some people in the audience, if they didn't see it on TV, it didn't happen. Right? Now if it's not in the paper, it didn't happen. Since TV has less time to analyze and put it forward, and they like to give intros, it may not be exactly what we are trying to convey. The thing is to repeat the question in your own way and answer your own question, not what the reporter asks. Although they may even cut that down later. Always answer your own question in your own way, that's the safest way.




Werner Petterson


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Well how about the media then, was that a liability or an asset? How did confidentiality play into that?

Answer:
I never wanted anything to do with opinion. That's always been a strange issue about contacting the media. I usually didn't want any part of it because they would always end up asking the wrong questions as far as I was concerned. In the case we've been talking about, that was something I think that was settled very quickly because the media was following the case and they knew something was going on. A lot of questions were being asked and telephone calls being made to offices. In most cases it was agreed that I was the mediator in the situation, and we just made it clear to the media that I was the person that they were to contact. The parties, in that case, were good about that. They directed telephone calls or media contacts to me. So in those cases, if there was a role, then I would deal with the media. If I was walking into a situation that was particularly sensitive, say there were demonstrations going on, it was probably my policy to avoid the media. And if they would call in certain situations, I wouldn't answer their calls, because I didn't see that they would get anything positive from me.

Question:
So you didn't see a positive role for them in this particular case?

Answer:
Not really. I'm trying to think of more cases. I think they're helpful when you're trying to reduce tensions in the community then I think it's important to talk to the media at that point. The fact that you're involved in the situation might help reduce tension.




Ozell Sutton


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
So, Mr. Sutton, when we left yesterday you were talking about dealing with the media. My question is, did you generally find the newspaper and television media to be an asset or a liability?

Answer:
Very definitely an asset. And the reason I say that, because when we came to the point of how our demonstrations were effective, it was the media that carried our story across the country. Had we sought to make the American public aware of the brutal and suppressive things that were happening to blacks, they were demonstrated beautifully in the media. They'd catch it and carry it all across the country. Now when the media, most especially the broadcast media, but the print media as well, would carry the stories all across the country and the minute the public would see it, they would say, "wait a minute now." You know, this kind of repressive action is not in accordance with Christian principles or the principles of democracy. I'm proud of the struggle to demonstrate to the people of America how repressive, how cruel, and how brutal the actions had been to blacks.

Question:
Ok, in addition to regular coverage of events did you ever intentionally use the media to your advantage?

Answer:
Yes, all the time,

Question:
Ok, say some more about that.

Answer:
I had the ability to do that back when I was leading Civil Rights Actions. For example, when I was leading the Citians in Little Rock, the officials of Little Rock tried their best to paint me as some wide eyed, militant young man who was not in touch with reality. This kind of thing. But they couldn't do that to me, because for 7 years I was a part of the media. The media knew me and they knew that I was not a reckless, wide-eyed whatever-they-wanted-to-call-me. They knew I had deep commitment and convictions, but being contrary and arbitrary and that kind of thing was not the nature of Ozell Sutton. The media knew that because I had been a part of it for 7 years, in that sense. So they couldn't even paint me in that corner as somebody who was just going out trying to stir up trouble for the sake of trouble.

Question:
How did you feel that your own media training or experience helped you in your CRS work, either specifically at Memphis, or in other cases?

Answer:
I knew exactly what to say to get my story told. That comes from my experience in media, I know the tricky words, I know what they want to hear, I know where they're going from the get go.

Question:
Can I ask you what are those trigger words are?

Answer:
Well, it all depends on what the situation is. When you start to explain what the situation is, you explain it in a way that the media will pick it up. You will say something like, "this is a blatant instance of discrimination," or "this is a blatant instance of police brutality." Or you will say that "black perception is that they are being repressed, and not allowed full participation." You use those kinds of words. Then they come out saying that Sutton said this or that. You learn the language of the media. Now understand when a reporter comes, he needs a story. If you're going to deny him the opportunity to have a story, you are making an enemy, because his newspaper sent him there to get a story. He or she has a responsibility to come back, so you need to say something that gives him or her the outlet they need to report on. Otherwise, they will concoct it and the story might be on your arbitrariness or your contrariness. I remember when I was a newspaper reporter and I went over to a little college across the river where the president of the college was having a great difficulty from the bishop. People were trying to fire him when I showed up. They put me out, right? I just went around to the window, it was in the summer like this, and it didn't have air conditioning like we do now, and the headline of my story was from the window. You see what I mean? I had the story, but from the window. It degraded everybody. Not that I said anything degrading, but the fact that I had to do the story from the window was not complimentary. I'm trying to say that reporters can do that to you if you don't know how to deal with the situation.




Ozell Sutton


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Do you have any experience with a time when the needs of the media perhaps interfered with your goals in a particular case? Lets talk about Memphis in fact, let's focus on that.

Answer:
Well, in Memphis, there was no question about how conservative the media was in its writing and its editorials. The newspapers all were on the side of the city. One of the unfortunate things about the media, let us say the reporter in city hall quite often does not fully investigate a story. He takes from the police report the information for his story, so if the police said that they had to strike a man in order to subdue him, they'd write it that way, and say the police had subdued a man because he was resisting arrest. The reporter won't check that out--whether or not he was really resisting arrest. So you have to know that too. You have to consider where the reporter gets his information.

Question:
In general do you think as an agency, CRS is media savvy?

Answer:
No, no. Most agencies are big enough to have a media relations person aboard. We used to have one aboard when we were bigger, who took the opportunity to project the agency at all times. For example, a good PR person will not just wait until the media catches something, they will write it and take it to the media. Then if it's good enough, the media will take it from there, since the story's well written, well documented, and so you get favorable coverage. That's why big corporations have media specialists that project them positively at all times. We are too small to have media specialists, and thus we don't get that projection at all times.




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
We want to move on from this particular point and talk about the media and your perception of the media.

Answer:
Well, my perception of the media...it has two answers to it. This has a lot to do with the thinking during certain periods in the agency. Initially, it was a situation where a lot of the bosses were, for some reason, media people. In other words, they had media backgrounds. I had no such background. But they were very careful about how you cross your t's, dotted your i's and everything else, which was okay with me, I didn't mind. I was a very decent writer, so I didn't care. I wasn't an expert, but I could put together a sentence and punctuate properly. The agency was concerned that when we became involved in the situation that we should maintain a low profile, not let anybody know that we were involved. The director at that time -- what he really wanted was for us to remain behind the scene. This meant no publicity about what we did, how much we did, or how good we were. You can kind of tell the way I talk now, because that brainwashed me. I knew what you could say and what you couldn't say. There were times when you needed to get the word out as to what was going on and who was responsible, and there were times when you needed to keep it quiet. Every now and then somebody would quote you out of context, and you'd get upset about it. Of course there were times too, when you were working on a plan or a strategy and you certainly didn't want the media to know about anything you were planning.




Wallace Warfield


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
How does the media play into this? We’ve heard from some people that, "Oh, we took a very low profile but then that caused us problems when it came time for refunding.....”

Answer:
I think that, again, it’s a situation of the styles of intervention that were, in fact, necessary from 1964 up through the classic Civil Rights era. The nature of intervention changed afterwards, and CRS didn’t, in many cases, keep up with the change. So it made sense, when you were in Selma, Alabama and white businesspeople would come to you privately and say, "We know this change has got to be made, we can’t talk about it, but we trust you to do this and that you will not talk about it,” that CRS would always be very low-key. The problem was that there was less of a need for that than in the South, and though the conflicts changed, the habit is still there. Now I hear, through the grapevine, that CRS was significantly involved in the Elian Gonzales situation in Miami. I could read the newspapers, I could read between the lines and I could see CRS’s fingerprints with nary a word about CRS.

Question:
No.

Answer:
So Janet Reno, who knows CRS very well – and who is a supporter of CRS, bless her soul – gets the limelight, but CRS was in there doing stuff. CRS played roles in convincing her how to intervene in the critical hours of taking Elian back from his relatives. Never got into the papers... it would have been a wonderful story.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The leaders are walking up the road with the men who were carrying the teepee. Bert and I were walking with them. As we approached the site where they were going to set up the teepee, about 50 yards from the federal roadblock, a helicopter landed at the road block and out stepped Frizzell and Helstern. There were about 50 news men and women standing around as well. Stan Holder turned to me and asked, "What the hell are they doing here?" I told him that I didn’t know why they came in before we radioed them to do so. "Well, you get their asses out of here or there's not going to be any talks," someone else said. So I went running up to the road block and called Frizzell away from the reporters and said, "I thought you were going to wait until we sent you a signal." "Well," he said, "I decided this is going to be done on white man’s time not Indian time. We’re going to start when we agreed to start, not when they decide it’s time.”



Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The leaders are walking up the road with the men who were carrying the teepee. Bert and I were walking with them. As we approached the site where they were going to set up the teepee, about 50 yards from the federal roadblock, a helicopter landed at the road block and out stepped Frizzell and Helstern. There were about 50 news men and women standing around as well. Stan Holder turned to me and asked, "What the hell are they doing here?" I told him that I didn’t know why they came in before we radioed them to do so. "Well, you get their asses out of here or there's not going to be any talks," someone else said. So I went running up to the road block and called Frizzell away from the reporters and said, "I thought you were going to wait until we sent you a signal." "Well," he said, "I decided this is going to be done on white man’s time not Indian time. We’re going to start when we agreed to start, not when they decide it’s time.”





Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

So you're saying that the publicity resulting from her case attracted other people to that and highlighted the other conflict?

Answer:
Yes, absolutely.




Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

You'll find that when you're dealing with people in the media, they have their contacts as well as you have your contacts. Many times, they will steer you to situations and to people that could really help. Then again, it's a measure of trust. So the media was very fair, very impartial, and they didn't try to make it more of a sensation than what was actually going on in the trial itself. The charge attracted a lot of people, not the media.



Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The media always wants us to investigate, and no matter how often you tell them, "We aren't investigating,” it shows up in the headlines that Justice is there to investigate.






Copyright © 2000-2007
by Conflict Management Initiatives and the Conflict Information Consortium at the University of Colorado