Did you ever try to use the media as an ally to mediation?


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]

I used the media strategically during the Skokie-Nazi case at the height of the conflict when it appeared that in two weeks tens of thousands of people were going to be converging on Skokie. We were in negotiations and I was confident the protest in Skokie would not occur. I arranged a story through a friend who was a lawyer for the Chicago Sun Times. He had called the managing editor and said I would give them an exclusive interview. They one of their star reporters to my office and I gave her a story that ultimately read "A Justice Department official who was trying to mediate a settlement in the Skokie case is confident the matter would be settled without a demonstration at Skokie.” That sort of set a tone that encouraged the parties to work for a solution and also discouraged people from coming into Skokie.

Question:
Now why did you think that was going to help, as opposed to inflame things further?

Answer:
To say there's going to be a settlement?

Question:
Yeah, I could see where the Nazis had gotten up to that point with that statement.

Answer:
Well, then an alternative would be found that would satisfy them. They did want a settlement, but they didn't know what was going to happen. I didn't either at that point. Not only did it ease tensions of people who thought there were going to be real problems in Skokie, but the people involved in negotiations gave a positive twist to that too.




Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Could you talk about Rumor Control Centers?

Answer:
That is where there have been civil disorders. One of the ingredients of civil disorders always is that misinformation is going around. There's a lot of fear; there's a lot of people picking up bits and pieces of information and spreading it. Rumors come out and most of the time they're very destructive. The police pick up things like, "Carloads of Hispanics are coming up from Boston." This was in Lawrence. There are all these type of rumors. How do you control that and get the correct information out both to the authorities and to the community? What we recommend very strongly is setting up a rumor control and information center so that information can be filtered and rumors can be investigated and properly handled. People are told to call the police or whoever is doing the verification process. There's a whole protocol of how to set it up and how to do it and to assure that there is a centralized type of information center that basically is there to end the rumors and to dispense proper information to the public and the media.

Question:
Who generally manages that?

Answer:
Our recommendation has been that they get a person from the city, usually from the Mayor's communication center, to be in charge of the center and the people who answer the calls can be a cross section of persons from the community. A centralized number is issued so that persons hearing rumors or wanting reliable information are urged to call the rumor control and information center. The team at the center checks out each rumor with the proper authorities and provides the accurate information both to those calling and to the public through the media.

Question:
How do the people know that this kind of thing is set up and created?

Answer:
Through the media, especially the electronic media, television, radio and the press.






Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Do you ever try to use the media as an ally?

Answer:
Oh sure, absolutely. They call us to find out what's happening. Here in Boston for example, from '74 to the '80s we developed excellent relations with the media.






Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Earlier, when we talked about the changes in CRS, you thought that from 1986 on, they sort of got concerned with numbers and media and things like that. 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."




Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did you, as an employee of CRS, ever use the media as an ally?

Answer:
Certainly, if the issue was part of it, we would.

Question:
Can you think of any examples?

Answer:
The black coaches case is an example. The media was there and the black coaches themselves had personal friends in the media, so they came to some individual agreements as to how much information was going to be released. And in some cases, even while we were in negotiations, we would learn that, because of the nature of who they were, they were able to put some pressure on the case itself with very well-placed leaks.




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.




Ozell Sutton


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

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.




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.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

We got some media there because there was a United Press International reporter up there for a while. He did a feature story on this band of seven people huddled in a church basement trying to keep the peace, moving back and forth stealthily between the parties.





Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

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. 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.



Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Other times, you may have a friend with the press who would be kind of empathetic to your concern or cause, and then you try to work with them on that particular situation.






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