Webinar: Same Old Story – Strategies to Combat Media Misrepresentations

Webinar: Same Old Story – Strategies to Combat Media Misrepresentations


The broadcast is now starting. All attendees are in listen-only mode. Hi, thank you for attending the Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s Pacific Alliance on Disability Self Advocacy webinar series. The Pacific Alliance is a project funded by the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. We’ve worked to provide technical assistance and training to self-advocacy groups in California, Oregon, Montana, and Washington. Technical assistance is a big word for basically providing one-on-one support in a specific topic that we have expertise in. So sometimes that means helping groups learn about fundraising, other times it can be helping groups learn about social media, things like that. So today we have Julia Bascom. She’s the Director of Programs at ASAN and she’s going to be talking about how to combat media misrepresentations. Julia is the Director of Programs at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. She is interested in the creation of independent living supports and systems alternatives as well as the unique challenges and promises of self-advocacy and service provision in rural areas. She served on the New Hampshire DD Council as well as on her state team for revitalizing state-wide self-advocacy. She is the founder of the Loud Hands Project. She writes about autistic identity, community, and language, disability rights, theory vs. praxis, and autism acceptance on her website, Just Stimming. Thank you for joining us, Julia. I’m going to turn on the power for you now. Oh, and actually, before we begin, we’re going to start by doing a poll because we’d like to find out who all is listening at your site. So there should be a poll on the screen and it says “How many people are listening in today at your site?” and please answer that question. So we’ll give it another 20 seconds. Okay, great. So most of you guys are listening on your own, which is cool and then 18% are listening with more than yourself but less than three people. So thank you, that’s helpful for our figuring out who’s on the call. Okay, so Julia the floor is yours. – Can everybody hear me? – Everybody’s miked and so… – Can everybody hear me? – So, just so you know, Julia, everybody is… – Right, but, can you hear me? – Yes. – Okay, great. Hi everybody, my name is Julia Bascom and today I’m going to give a presentation called Same Old Story – Strategies to Combat Media Misrepresentations. So like I said, my name is Julia Bascom and I’m the Director of Programs for ASAN, or the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. I’m in charge of all of our non-policy work, which means I do our leadership trainings, I run our technical assistance projects like the Pacific Alliance, all of our communications, etc. A lot of my work involves setting messaging for ASAN, which means deciding what we want to say about a given topic and how we want to say it. Now, on to the presentation. This presentation is about tricks you can use to make reporters say the right things – it’s actually pretty simple. In this presentation we’re going to focus on four main skills. Those skills are: setting a message, responding to problems, understanding when and why reporters get things wrong, and telling good stories. First we will talk about understanding the media. So, understanding the media. “Media” is a word that can mean a lot of different things. To understand the media, we need to know which media we’re talking about. So let’s think about that for a second. For the purposes of this presentation, when we say “media” we mean news media. Their job is to tell a story, and I’m going to go into a bit more detail about that now. Who is the media? The media is the news media, like we said, but there are some examples of some different names for news media, some different words you might hear that all mean the same thing are: television reporters, newspapers, journalists, reporters, and any other people who work on the news. Usually we call these people reporters, and that’s what I’m going to mostly use during this presentation. What is their job? People think a lot of different things about what a reporter’s job is. People might think their job is to provide the public with information or to report on current events. People might say their job is to only tell one side of a story or to tell all sides. But none of that is quite true. A reporter’s job is actually very simple: their job is to tell a story. To tell a story. To a reporter, news is a story. A reporter’s job is to tell a story about the news – to tell a story about what is happening. Our job as people who talk to reporters is to help them tell a good story, about people with disabilities in this case. So, the power of stories. Stories are very, very powerful and you’re going to hear me talk about that a lot today. So think about it. Stories can make you feel or think certain things. A good story can really change your mind. But there are lots and lots and lots of different ways to tell a story which means there are lots and lots of different ways to change how a person feels and what they’re thinking about what you’re telling them. So think for a minute about the last time you told a story, and I know you guys can’t actually tell me about it but think for like 30 seconds about the last time you told a story. So, how many different ways could you tell that story? What if someone else was telling it? What did you put in, what did you decide to leave out? You have a lot of power over how you told that story and how you telling that story made other people think and feel. So one of the things we’re going to do in this presentation is we’re going to go through some case stories I’m going to actually give you stories and we’re going to think about how they illustrate the points we’re making. So for our first case study we’re actually going to look at the story of the three little pigs. We’re going to tell it two ways and see how the way we tell a story can really change how people think. And I chose this story because it’s a story that I’m pretty sure everybody’s going to know. My dad used to tell it to me all the time when I was little. Once upon a time, there were three little pigs they went out in the world to seek their fortune, they built different houses and then the big bad wolf blew down their houses and chased them around and tried to eat them but he couldn’t blow down the brick house, so finally they caught the big bad wolf and then everything was awesome again. So that’s the story from the perspective of the three little pigs. But now imagine it from the point of view of the wolf. Maybe if I told a story from his point of view, from his side, it would go like this: Once upon a time, there was a big wolf and he wanted to be friends with some pigs. So he went to each of their houses but they locked their doors and they wouldn’t let him in no matter how much he asked and then they ran away. And finally he got them all in one place but then they caught him and they were really mean to him. It’s more like the story of one little wolf and three mean pigs. So you see, I told you the same story but I told it to you in two very different ways, and so we actually ended up not with one story but with two very different stories. Stories are powerful stuff, and they’re what the news is all about. Every news report is a story. They literally call them news stories. So, now that we’ve talked a little bit about stories let’s go back a bit and focus on reporters and how they tell us stories about people with disabilities. A lot of the time, reporters have a big problem where they tell stories about people with disabilities but they always tell the same old story. These stories – Powerpoint okay? What’s – Thank you. So, a lot of the time reporters have a big problem when they tell stories about people with disabilities. They always tell the same old story. And these stories have – What? Okay, are we good? – work now, Julia. If that happens again, just give it a second and it’ll be back but it shouldn’t happen again. – Okay. Well it – it has. I’m looking at the webinar screen and I’m not seeing – yeah, there we go. Okay. So we’re going to talk now about some of these common problems that a lot of stories about disability have. We’re going to talk about those problems, what causes them, and some solutions. Common problems There are four common problems in many news stories about people with disabilities. Those problems are: wrong information; wrong information is when a reporter says something that’s just not true. Stereotypes, which is when a reporter tells a story that supports stereotypes against people with disabilities instead of telling an accurate story about real people. Stigma, which is when a reporter says something in their story which spreads stigma and fear about people with disabilities. And the last common problem is consequences. The problem with wrong information, stereotypes, and stigma in stories is that these things all have real-world consequences for real people. For example, I’m autistic. If a reporter tells a story about autism that says that autistic people are scary people in the real world might be scared of me or treat me differently, and that’s a pretty big problem for me. These common problems have three basic causes. The wrong information, stereotypes, and stigma can all be caused by: ignorance, so, the reporter just doesn’t know any better. We can also have a case of same old story where the reporter thinks this is just the same old story, so they think they already know what story to tell, how to tell it, how it ends, and so they just sort of fill it in all themselves and don’t really pay attention to the details. And then the last cause of all these problems unfortunately is just plain old ableism. Prejudice against people with disabilities is a big part of our story and it affects the stories reporters think they should tell. Any time you’re going to be talking to the media you need to keep this in mind. So, solutions. Thankfully these problems have solutions. We can fix how reporters tell stories about people with disabilities, we can help reporters tell better and new stories, and we can do this by sharing accurate information, getting ahead of the story and taking charge of it, and telling a new story instead of the same old story. And I want to come back to something I keep saying over and over again: Same old story. I keep saying that. Same old story. So what does that mean? When I say same old story, what I mean is that there are a few common stories about people with disabilities. We all know them, and on the next slide I’m going to list them for you. They’ve been around for a long time. They’re old, and they are boring. When you hear one of these stories start, you already know how it ends and you can just fill in the blanks by yourself. And this is the problem reporters have. They start telling a story about people with disabilities and they think, “hey, I’ve heard this before! I already know this.” So instead of telling a story about what’s actually happening with real people and right information, they just tell the same old story and it might not match what’s actually going on at all and that has consequences. These are the big four same old stories about people with disabilities. These stories are: number one, violence. People with disabilities are violent, we are scary and dangerous, we hurt people because we have disabilities. Obviously as a person with a disability I don’t believe this but I’m just telling you what the story is, and what the reporter’s going to expect they need to write. The second story is burden People with disabilities are burdens, we are hard to deal with and hard to take care of, we are expensive and exhausting it’s a drain on society. The third story is science and these are stories which report new miracle cures about disability or some other really dramatic thing instead of actually providing correct information. And the last story is fraud and this story says that people with disabilities are stealing from the government, we aren’t really disabled, and we’re cheating and lying and stealing our benefits. Does that sound familiar? If you talk to a reporter about people with disabilities they are probably trying to tell one of these four stories because they’ve already told them over and over again. So now you have a basic foundation. We’ve talked about who the media are we’ve talked about how a reporter’s job is to tell a story and we’ve talked about how powerful stories are. We’ve talked about some common problems reporters have and how we can help them by giving correct information and telling better stories. So now – oh sorry, and we’ve gone over the four big stories we hear over and over again when we hear stories in the news about people with disabilites. And like I said, if you talk to a reporter they are probably trying to tell one of these stories. So now that you know all of that and now that you understand to know what you’re dealing with we’re going to practice with some real life examples. We’re going to talk about three different stories and each time we’re going to think about the story itself, we’re going to think about what story the media was trying to tell, we’re going to think about what story the disability community and self-advocates wanted them to tell, and then we’re going to talk about how we did or we didn’t make that happen because these are all real stories. So our first case study is the school shooting that happened a little more than a year ago in Newtown, Connecticut. And what happened was a person with a mental health disability, he was actually diagnosed with autism, took some guns and he committed a school shooting. He killed 26 people. It was a horrifying national tragedy. So, when terrible things happen people try to make sense of them. They want to know what caused this, how can we stop it and so that’s very understandable and to help us understand we tell stories. So there were two different stories we could tell about this tragedy. The first story, the story is that the shooting was caused by the shooter’s disability. He killed 26 people, according to this story, because he had a disability. To stop this from happening again, we need to make sure that people with disabilities can’t get guns and maybe we need to just keep them away from other people, like in an institution. That’s one story. The second story would say that this shooting was caused because guns, especially big guns with lots of ammunition, are too easy to get. The shooter was able to kill 26 people because these guns are easy to get. So to stop this from happening again we need gun control. So we have two different stories – can you go back one slide? Thank you. We have two different stories. One story blames the shooting on people with disabilities and the other on guns. Both of these stories have consequences. If we blame the shooting on people with disabilities, we might make people scared of people with disabilities and we might take some rights away from people with disabilities. If we blame the shooting on guns, we might make people more scared about guns and we might think about gun control. So, like I said, this really did happen which means that we can actually think about which story won and we can learn something from it. And this time unfortunately the story that won is that one that says that people with mental illnesses are violent and scary. So, initially the disability community had a very strong response to this tragedy. We reminded people that people with disabilities are not violent, that there’s no connection according to the literature and according to research, between mental health disabilities and violence and that we are actually more likely to be the victims of crime. And for a while we made a lot of progress but, and this is going to happen a lot in these case studies, time went on and we had to focus on other things and so we stopped paying attention to this story and we stopped responding and we stopped telling our version, and so now there’s a bill in Congress that would take away rights from people with mental health disabilities as a direct result of this shooting. So the lesson there, if there is one, is to always pay attention. Okay, our next case study is the Stapleton case. And what happened here is that a mother, Kelli Stapleton, tried to kill her autistic daughter and she said it was because her daughter was so hard to raise. And this is actually something that happens many times over the past few years, across the country. It’s a single crime but it exists as part of a larger pattern of parents killing their child with a disability and then saying, well, it wasn’t my fault, it was understandable, they were just such a burden. And again we can tell two different stories about this crime. One story is pretty simple: parents shouldn’t kill their kids. The other one is also pretty simple: maybe, people would say, maybe disabled kids are just harder to raise. Maybe that makes it okay to kill your kid; we shouldn’t judge. These stories always say we shouldn’t judge even though in any other circumstance we would judge a parent who killed their child. And these stories have consequences. If we say parents shouldn’t kill their kids, then maybe Kelli goes to jail and we send a strong message that disabled people will be protected by the law. But if we decide that killing your disabled kids is okay or understandable or something that we shouldn’t judge then disabled people everywhere are suddenly in a lot more danger because now our lives matter less. This is also a real story. The trial isn’t over yet – this only happened in September – so it’s not clear which story is winning but I can tell you that what we’ve learned through our involvement with this case is that persistence really does pay off. I said at the beginning of this story that this is part of a pattern. This thing, a parent killing their disabled child, happens many times every year and for many years what we’ve said is that parents shouldn’t kill their kids. And every time we’ve said that we’ve heard, well, you shouldn’t judge, people have told us it was bad for us to judge them. But over this past year, people have actually seemed to be more receptive. More and more parents and family members have been saying, you know what, this isn’t okay, and I don’t want people to think that I want to kill my child or that that would be okay if I did. So the conversation has started to change. It’s taken years of us being persistent and staying focused and chipping away at the same old story and telling a different one but progress is happening. Okay. This is our last case study, and then we’re going to go back and look at some of the tools that you can use. What happened in this study is that the CDC, and the CDC stands for the Centers for Disease Control, counted the autistic people in the country and the number of autistic people in the country went up. This scared a lot of people because a lot of stories about autism make it sound very scary and the numbers keep going up. So again there were two stories you could tell about these new numbers. One story is that we’re getting better at counting autistic people. The other story is that autism is an epidemic. The consequences of getting better at counting autism is that more people know about autism. The consequences of calling autism an epidemic is that everybody is scared of autism and therefore they’re scared of autistic people like me. So which story won? Again this is a case of persistence paying off. Some people still told scary stories about autism I’m sure you all heard about how scary it was that now autism is 1 in 68 people. But there were more stories than there were last year that were calm and helpful and informative. We’ve been working on changing this particular story for a very long time. ASAN’s been working on it for as long as we’ve been around and we’ve been around for eight years but other people were working on this even before us. So progress can be very, very slow but it does eventually start to pay off. So what this tells us is that we have to really be persistent and we have to understand that when you’re trying to change the same old story that’s been told for years and years and years you really have to be persistent and you really have to know that you have to stay in it for the long game. So now we’re actually going to talk about some tricks that you can use when you’re talking to a reporter. Tricks that you can use, little skills for helping reporters tell different stories about disability. And there are five main tricks, and we’re going to go over each of them individually but just ahead of time, the tricks are: provide correct information, reframe – so, if they ask you a question and you don’t think that question is helpful you might answer a different question. Decide your line in advance, so, you should go into the interview knowing what you’re going to say already. Keep it simple, and stay on message. So the first trick for responding is to provide correct information. There are actually a couple of little details about how to do this. So for example in the case of the school shooting one of the questions we got a lot was people would come up to us and they would start to say something that implied that people with disabilities are more likely to be violent. And so the first thing we always had to make sure to say was actually, there’s no connection between a mental health disability and violence and research shows that we’re actually more likely to be the victim of crime. So, providing correct information obviously changes what story you can tell because now you have new information. And then the other trick to doing this is to not contradict the person. Don’t say, “no, actually…” don’t say, “disabled people aren’t more violent” don’t even engage with what they’re giving you in the first place. Just provide the correct information like it’s its own complete, independent thing. So instead of saying, “people with disabilities actually aren’t more violent,” I would just say, “There’s no connection between disability and violence,” and that’s a fact all by itself, as opposed to a fact that relies on contradicting something they have already said, because then they have to report on both things they’ve said as opposed to just my fact and my story which is that there’s no connection between disability and violence. The next trick is to reframe. So let’s say a reporter asks me a question that I just completely don’t agree with and that’s just completely setting up a whole different story than I want him to tell. A reporter might say to me, “Julia, do you think autism is an epidemic?” or “Julia, aren’t these new autism numbers just terrifying?” and instead of answering his question, because I don’t like his question, I decide to pretend that he’s asked me a different question. So I decide to pretend that he said, “Isn’t it great how we’re getting so much better at counting autism?” and then I say, “Yes, I actually think it’s really wonderful that we’re having – that we’re able to more accurately count the number of autistic people that exist.” That can be – this one can be a little bit tricky for me to do in person because I have to do a lot of very quick thinking so a trick here might be to practice some interviews ahead of time with someone you’re working with or a friend and you can just think about all the really obnoxious questions that you might get asked and then think about ways you can answer them as though they were questions you actually wanted to answer. And this actually goes with the third trick, which is to decide your line in advance. One of the things you should always do before you talk to reporters, you should already know what you’re going to say before you pick up the phone, before you go to see them, before you do an interview, you should know exactly what you want to say. You should think about questions that they might ask you but you should also decide on your general message and you should try, and we’ll talk about this in a little bit, to boil it down to a sentence or two. This is an especially useful trick for people who have communication disabilities. I have a communication disability; I have a very hard time saying complete sentences when I’m faced with, like, an unexpected question or something. So it’s very, very helpful to prepare in advance. The next trick is just keep it simple and I use the KISS acronym for that, so, Keep It Simple, Smartie. And that’s basically, if you can boil down what you want to say to one sentence and then say that sentence, you know, five or six different ways if you get asked different questions, you’re telling a story that’s simple, that’s powerful, and most importantly for a reporter, a story that’s easy to remember. We do this with pretty much any story we respond to. So if it’s a story about gun violence the story that we’re telling is: 1. there’s no connection between disability and violence, 2. people with disabilities are actually more likely to be the victims of violence, and 3. this is a distraction from meaningful gun control policy. Those are my three lines. I’ll say them a bunch of different ways in a given interview or a given press release but it always comes back to those three same things and it’s very, very, simple and it’s very hard for a journalist to walk away from talking to me without knowing those three things and having heard them over and over and over again. Okay, and this brings us to our last point. This is the hardest point for a lot of people and it is also one of the most important. And this point is to stay on message. Some of you might have heard the term “message discipline”, and it just means this. It means stay on message. Reporters will try to get you to talk about different things they will try to get you to answer questions you don’t want to answer or to say something that agrees with the version of the story they want to tell or again, the same old story that they already think they know how to tell. Your job is to remember the one or two or three things you’ve decided you want to say and to keep saying them and not to get thrown by all the different questions and all the different curveballs they’re going to give you. An example of this… I can’t think of an example of this off the top of my head. But often, you know, we’ll do a general article about autism and we’ll have a couple of things that we’ll want to communicate ahead of time and then the reporter will try to get us interested in the controversy of the day or something dramatic or silly we’ve just read. And it’s always really important, if you don’t want the article to become about that silly thing they just heard of, to stay focused on your message. So in case – this stuff is really simple but it takes a lot of practice, it takes practice, practice, practice. You should practice before every interview you do until you can do them in your sleep. And you should practice these skills just as you go about your day. It’s the kind of thing where it really is simple. Almost anyone can learn how to do this but it’s not natural for a lot of people. It’s a different way from how we talk, usually when we’re talking with our friends and our families we’re not thinking about, you know, what’s my overall message? What kind of story are they going to tell? Who else are they talking to and what stories might those people tell? How can I make sure they’ll tell my story? Talking to reporters is just a very different mode of communication. And so you need to take these simple skills, these concepts about stories, these concepts about preparing in advance and having one message and making sure that that message is basically the story you want them to tell, and then you just need to practice until it’s automatic, until it’s like breathing, because that’s the only way you’re going to be able to actually have an interview with a reporter where they ask you questions that you don’t expect and things come out of nowhere and it’s live and it’s on camera, and if you’ve practiced enough you’ll still say what you want to say. So we’re actually going to do a practice case next and after that we’re going to open it up for questions; I think I went a little bit faster than we were planning. So this practice case, we want you to think about how you would handle this. And the practice case is basically that fourth story we heard about: benefits fraud. A reporter tells you that one disabled person – one disabled person in the whole state was found to be cheating and getting benefits that they didn’t need. So what do you say? – So, everyone… – and I think, Stacy, we’re going to – – Yeah. So everyone, you can either put your answer… there’s a few different places. One way is that you can raise your hand. There’s a little icon that is a hand symbol. You can click that and then once you do, I can turn on your microphone. Another option is you can type in your response into the chat box or the question box. So we’ll give people a few minutes to respond to this prompt. And just to repeat the prompt, this is a practice case of benefits fraud. So a reporter tells you that one disabled person was found to be cheating and getting benefits they didn’t need. What do you say? And if you aren’t sure how to raise your hand you can ask that in the chat box or the question box too. Okay, so Rhonda Greenhaw says, “I would tell them about the significant number of disabled people living without adequate resources and then have a specific story about someone who did not have adequate support resources.” – And that’s actually – Stacy, am I still… – Yeah. Your mike is on. – Great. Okay, that’s a really good example of just changing the subject completely and telling a completely different story. Because if you tell a story about the number of people who could conceivably be stealing benefits, then the story is still about people stealing benefits. What Rhonda’s doing is saying “I don’t want to talk about that,” basically, and giving them a story about something that really matters to disabled people. So I like that. Does anyone else want to – – So, Scott, I’m going to unmute your microphone right now so we’ll be able to hear you. Scott, can you hear us? So Scott, feel free to speak up any time that you can. In the meanwhile, Matt Young says, “Thankfully these kinds of cases are very rare. Unfortunately, when this happens, people think it’s much more common than it actually is because of the attention it gets, and that makes things much harder for those of us who deserve and need the benefits.” – So that’s interesting. There are things I like about that and there are things I’d be careful about with that. The stuff I like about that is that you’re also giving an alternate story where you’re stressing, one, this is very uncommon and two, this makes things harder for disabled people who really do need those benefits, and those are both different stories that you might want the reporter to pursue and that’s really good. The thing I would be careful about is, and we talked about this a little bit in reframing but I might not have been as clear as I could have been, is that when you say things like, “Unfortunately, when this happens,” what you’ve just said is, “Well, this does happen,” and that brings the focus back to the story the reporter was telling, the damaging story we don’t want them to tell anymore. So, and this is one of the trickiest, slipperiest things to do, is to try to find a way to say “Unfortunately, stories like this really make it difficult for people with disabilities who really need their benefits” without saying, “and yes, this is a thing that happens.” Even if it has happened this one time, we don’t want to focus on that we want to focus on telling a completely different story. Does that make sense? – And then…so, I’m going to read Samantha’s comment too, but Scott we got your message and feel free to type in what you were going to say into the question box since your microphone’s not working. So Matt says, “Yes. Thanks very much.” So Scott says, “Many are discharged from hospitals from fear of institutionalization and do so without services in place. Many don’t know where to find supports.” – Yes. – “Wait list too.” – Yeah. And so, this is actually something that we’ve seen in the conversation about mental health and about gun violence, is a lot of people have tried to make the story a conversation about mental health services, which are absolutely inadequate in this country. But unfortunately, if we say – if we respond to a story about violence by saying, “Well, services aren’t adequate enough,” then the story that gets told is, services aren’t adequate enough, therefore people with disabilities are violent. And so that’s actually how we got the bill that’s in Congress right now which essentially takes away rights from people with disabilities for fear of violence. It’s a tricky situation and you don’t always know what the consequences of your story will be but what we do know is that that particular story, that services are inadequate, when told in this consequence has some – when told in this context, sorry – has some really nasty consequences. It’s absolutely true, services are completely inadequate, but we’ve found, and this is also similar in stories about parents killing their kids, is that those conversations need to happen at different times. Otherwise, they get confused. – Scott said, “Ah!” Or maybe it was “Ah.” – Yeah! Yeah it’s really tricky. It’s a lot of – I don’t think we knew even five years ago that that would be the consequence of that particular story but we’ve definitely learned it since then. – So this question is from Samantha, and she says – or maybe it’s a response – but she says, “Have you spoken to the individual directly? Or are you making assumptions based on hearsay? You should not talk about someone without including their voice in the conversation.” – I don’t know who or what that’s directed at. – Samantha, I’m guessing that maybe you would, you’re saying that you would say that to the reporter to see if they have accurate information? Can you clarify though? Samantha says, “It is what my response would be.” – Is that to the benefits question? – “Yes :)” – That makes a lot of sense. Um, a trouble – a potential pitfall of that could be that it turns out that this person really was stealing benefits but a solution might be to encourage the reporter to talk to several people individually to try to get a complete picture. And that would go I think very easily with what you’re saying. Let’s see if we can get maybe one more response to this and then we can just go into a general question-and-answer. – And Samantha said, “Good idea. Thank you, Julia.” – Oh any time! Rhonda and Samantha’s responses are actually kind of complementary in a way in that they both focus on sharing very specific personal stories about people with disabilities in a variety of circumstances without adequate resources. So that’s cool. Okay, does anyone want to do just any general questions about anything we’ve talked about or this topic in general? – And again, you can write it in the question box or you can raise your hand and we’ll unmute your microphone. So Donna, I see your hand raised so I’m going to unmute your mike. And we should be able to hear you now. – Okay. Well the question I have is we have chapters that have tried to get media coverage for some of their events like candlelight vigils, etc. And it doesn’t seem like we can get anybody to show up. Is there a secret to how to write a press release or how to get people interested in our issues? – Okay, that’s a really good question. So, honestly that’s a media training in and of itself and we might want to do that in some future month but off the top of my head, often the secret is to be developing relationships with specific reporters and the way you can do that is by providing them with perspectives and information that they can’t get anywhere else. So when they’re covering a story, and they want to, you know, say something new they know that they should talk to you. And then often they will actually read your press releases when you send them. Most reporters get tons and tons and tons of press information every day and they just can’t read all of it. In a press release, the same general principles that we’ve been talking about here do apply, so you want to tell a story that’s very simple and very strong and you want to give people immediate concrete information about why they should care and how they can act on it. We’ve had – are you talking about the Day of Mourning vigils? – And Donna, you’re unmuted again. – No actually, it was something that we did in Washington state that was around abuse and neglect. – Okay. So, okay, that’s a slightly different answer. But what we’ve found with chapters and groups who are trying to do localized vigils is that knowing where to send it helps and that’s unfortunately something that varies widely by like, local newspaper to local newspaper and failing that, sending it out to as many places as you can. But honestly that’s a whole topic in and of itself and there are a lot of very specific skills in that that I don’t think I could cover in the time we have. Does anyone else have a question? – So, let’s see. Samantha asks, “What is the name of the bill before Congress that you have mentioned a number of times, including its number? – Let me look that up. It’s sponsored by Representative Tim Murphy. Let me see…and it’s the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act which is a very deceptive name. It basically takes all the language about increasing access to services and then redefines services as involuntary commitment and removing people’s civil rights. ASAN actually has an action alert, I think on our website that you can find about this if you want. Are there other questions? – So, Rhonda wants to know how do you respond to a reporter that has written a story and gets it wrong? – So there are a few different things that you can do. One of the things that we often do as an organization is that we’ll issue statements or press releases saying, you know, ASAN objects to this, this, this, and this. And we’ll try to get a reporter to cover the story, in which case the story is us objecting to this other story. Which is a little bit layered. You can also write a letter to the editor that’s often very effective but your two main tools are either letting the newspaper or the reporter directly know hey, this wasn’t accurate for this reason, this story that you told is going to have these consequences, these real-world consequences. Or you can say, hey, why don’t you tell this story instead, this other story you might not have known about and try to get them interested in it that way. I see a lot of people with like exclamation points and questions marks. Are those also questions? – No, that’s just some kind of internal thing. – Okay. – The only question is the hand raised – the hand raise. Okay, Anne has her hand raised, so I’m going to unmute you Anne. Okay we can hear you now Anne. – Can you hear me? – Yes. – Okay. What do you in the case of, especially like, as autistics, people basically try to divorce you from whatever thing discussed, like, “oh, you don’t seem that way,” or “this isn’t relevant to your version of the disability,” or whatever. – That’s a really obnoxious problem. I have a couple of strategies. One strategy is to try to get out in front of it and control the story and basically say, the autistic community feels this way or, you know, ASAN represents everybody, etc., etc. But often they will still end up saying, well but this doesn’t apply to you, in which case I try to reframe it. And I try to say, you know, autistic people have a wide variety of support needs, it’s very difficult to know a person’s abilities and impairments and needs just by talking to them, it’s not respectful to assume those things. This broad issue of – say we’re talking about employment, so I’d say, this issue of employment, or this issue of education, or whatever is actually a cross-disability issue and so on and so forth. It’s mainly a question of not engaging, and then when you have to engage trying to reframe it as broadly as possible and just be very firm on basically one or two sentences about all meaning all, and autistic people meaning all autistic people. Does that make sense? – Yes. – So Julia, here’s another question. “Has ASAN ever responded to positive events, or are they mostly around negative things that happen?” – It’s actually really important to do both and that can be really tricky sometimes but just like you might release a press release or a letter to the editor saying, we did not like the way you covered this, when there’s coverage that you like, you need to make sure to let them know that as well. You need to make sure to let people know, this was a great story, it was really interesting and informative and different and then, especially if you want to build a relationship with this reporter and encourage them to talk to you again, you might say “and did you know?” and tell them about a related thing or an additional thing that might not have been covered, and give them more information in case they want to cover it again. Again it can be really hard sometimes to find those positive things but when they happen it is important to jump on them, as part of your general media strategy for an organization. – Any other questions? Julia do you have any last comments? – Honestly I want to say, you know, before we end, the hardest trick is that reframing trick, is figuring out how to refute or argue with something they’ve said without actually repeating in any way what they’ve said and lending it any more strength or support at all, and I would really urge everyone to practice that. I mean, practice all of this but especially that one. It’s the trickiest but also one of the most powerful tools. – Thank you for joining us today, Julia. – I had a great time, thank you. – So if anybody would like to contact Julia, her email is [email protected] and thank you for joining us. Our next webinar will be next Tuesday – – Thank you for having me. – at one o’clock Pacific Time, and we’ll have Julie Petty, who is a renowned self-advocate, talking about what to do when your allies aren’t really your allies. Thank you.

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