Non-formal chat transcript - media and the message - March 26, 2007

These are the "minutes" of the first online chat for the nonformal group - on media and sustainability education.



Hello everyone,

Welcome to the first chat session of the sustainability educators who gather at We�re a network for British Columbia sustainability educators.

We�ve organized these chats so that people from around the province can share ideas about sustainability education. Today�s theme is �The Media and the Message: Engaging the Media in Sustainability Education.�

We�re here to share ideas about:
� What�s worked for you
� What hasn�t worked
� Ideas for the future � what is the role of the media in sustainability education?
� Ideas for collaboration

II�m anticipating that we�ll �be� here for about an hour, but this is new to most of us � so feel free to come and go as you please, of course.

I�ll post the minutes of the chat on the walkingthetalk web site, too.

So, first question: What�s worked for you, and why?

Bonnie from x.x.x.55 joined the chat 9 minutes ago

Bonnie: Hi Tricia,

Bonnie: This is the first time I've ever tried this sort of chatting so am not quite sure how it all works, but it was certainly easy getting here.

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 31 seconds ago:

Hello - posted the first message early - maybe we can start with introductions?
I'm the education coordinator at the Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre in North Vancouver.

Shelby Tay from x.x.x.1 joined the chat 5 seconds ago

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 2 seconds ago:

Yeah, it took a while to find something this easy!

Shelby Tay: Hi Tricia and Bonnie!

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 2 seconds ago:

Think of this as a conference call via email. Jump in when you'd like, pick up on the threads that interest.

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message:

Hi Shelby - I forget - what is your background?

Shelby Tay: I met Janet a few years back in the second year of their summer sustainability course that focused on the central valley greenway, I graduated from UBC last November and I now work for a local environmental non-profit called Post Carbon Institute as a program coordinator

Shelby Tay: we also run an interactive website that uses the drupal framework

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 2 seconds ago:

Hmmm - ok, I'll start with the first question. Positive experiences with media and sustainability.
- We've developed a great relationship with our local editorial assistants. They think of us when they have a gap! This took some years.

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message:

Oh yes, Shelby, NOW I know who you are!

Shelby Tay: : )

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 2 seconds ago:

Other positive experiences -
Well, this isn't really an experience, but I've realized over the last few years that media folk are just people like me - trying to do a good job, looking for an interesting story. And that helps me when I am working with the media. I try to think about what "they" need.,

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 3 seconds ago:

Bonnie, what about you - you're involved primarily in biking education, yes?
Any "success stories" you want to share?

Bonnie: Hi Tricia. Sorry my phone just rang. I'll answer you in a second...

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 2 seconds ago:

Anyone out there?

Shelby Tay: I think we've been finding that while mainstream media is starting to focus a lot more on sustainability issues, there are more and more media outlets (film, tv, press, online) that are devoted to reporting about sustainability and what people are doing to get us there. The goal of our website, like with the walking the talk website, is to provide a space for the exchange of ideas and resources, so that we're not constantly re-inventing the wheel - and I guess, with that in mind, more and more people are starting to use those tools to publicize events and spread news themselves, rather that trying to work with local media groups.

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message:

No prob Bonnie - I am entertaining my daughter too! The joys of chatting.
Shelby, how about your experiences with the media?
Looks like we might be an "intimate" group today. :-)

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message:

Yes, indy media, to a degree, hadn't really thought of that. How does it work for your organization?

Shelby Tay: hmm seems like there might be a bit of a lag in displaying messages

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message:

I find the variety of self-directed groups and sites out there to be - wow!
(But then, I've just been doing a lot of research in this area)
How do you promote yourselves and gather membership/organize?

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 2 seconds ago:

Time lags, that's ok, keeps us on our toes :-)

Shelby Tay: Well honestly we haven't actually done much active outreach - except with our Director who travels a bit and gives lectures and presentations and introduces people to our programs. A lot of it just seems to spread with word of mouth (or word of online message posts!).

Shelby Tay: With the Relocalization Network program, local community groups will approach us to join the network, and when they do, they get a space on the website for their group and they can post forums/events/blogs etc

Shelby Tay: It seems like most groups also maintain an email list that they send news to - some are more active that others, with multiple postings per day and if it's a list serv like google groups, they may have multiple people respond to a posting in a day.

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 3 seconds ago:

How about working with mainstream media - I don't know if Bonnie has finished her call - but I am curious to know if any of you have any great ideas - or the the opposite - giant flops to share.

I've found that innovative ideas do get some press, but what about the ones that are not "sexy" and just do not appeal? For example, climate change is all the rage right now, but what about - oh, I don't know - something unsexy like I'm into, like watershed renewal?

Shelby Tay: Online communication only really works for people who access computers often and are somewhat web savvy, with of isn't the case for everyone.

Bonnie: Hi guys. sorry about that. I couldn't get off the phone. I'm back.

Bonnie: As far as successes, as often as not, it seems we don't have control over it.

Bonnie: I mean it's connected to what's going on in the media. It's the "hook" that you can link into.

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message:

Yes, Shelby, you're totally right about the online thing - so how do we work with other forms of media to get "the message" to those who aren't online? Or not seeking us out?

Shelby Tay: Yeah it's interesting how media coverage seems to go in waves. I'm guessing if you can relate it somehow to whatever is getting all the buzz at the time.

Bonnie: I find it's being ready to jump at a media opportunity. If you can hook into something that's current, you've got a better chance of being "picked up"

Bonnie: The other thing is, it's a question of - like so many other things - building relationships over time.

Bonnie: Just with regard to watersheds, it's a bit extreme but you can draw attention to that too. Fin Donnelly swam the length of the Fraser to draw attention to riversheds.

Shelby Tay: Maybe it's approaching groups that are working on issues that are getting media attention, and then trying to work with them to collaborate on linking messages

Bonnie: Shelby, can you give an example?

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 4 seconds ago:

So - what is the role of the media (mainstream, indy) in advancing the "cause" of sustainability education?

In my mind, part of it is getting the fervour going - like the current interest in climate change. Sparking that groundswell. But I think that the spark that ignites the media is often something much larger, like groups of scientists putting out messages on climate change, or the movie "An Inconvenient Truth." The power of those big individuals.

Shelby Tay: I'm not sure I can think of a past example, but maybe something like - if the David Suzuki Foundation is getting publicity for a new report that they've issued on the impacts of climate change, contacting them to see if they have included information on how climate change will impact watersheds?

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 4 seconds ago:

Yes, Bonnie, I think that monumental sorts of tasks like swimming the length of a river make just about anything "sexy". That's something that I am working on at the moment - ideas that are crazy, intense, and inspiring. Mostly in regards to diabetes education, but that's one of my other lives :-). Diabetes is distinctly un-sexy.

Bonnie: I see what you mean. But I think that's where opportunism comes in. If they put out a release, you need to be ready to jump on it and connect your issue to what they've put out. Then you can establish your own credibility and name too.

Shelby Tay: or if they are focused on laying out the 'problem', then seeing if they will provide some sort of link to other educational programs that focus on 'responses'

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message:

Good idea, Shelby. And using other reports (bigger, more impactful) to sneak in a bit of our own PR - how devious :-). Or efficient.

Bonnie: I'd call it efficient (and opportunistic)

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 2 seconds ago:

You're giving me some ideas. Thanks!

Shelby Tay: : )

Bonnie: I'll also come back to the idea of relationship-building. You need to do it with journalists as much as you do with anything in life.

Bonnie: If you can demonstrate your credibility and reliability to a journalist, they'll come back to you again.

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 2 seconds ago:

Yes, I totally agree about relationship-building. We have an excellent relationship with the editorial assistants at our local newspaper. They think of us when they have a story. Just the other day, they called me up because they had a space in the "What to do on spring break" segment. It was lovely, and I jumped on it (not very well, but that is another story - I didn't fully understand the size and scope of the article).

Shelby Tay: Would that be a matter of sending them updates now and then on issues that have covered in the past? keep you in their minds.

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 2 seconds ago:

Speaking of journalists, poor Ethan - I think that he may be stuck in an internet cafe trying to get a good connection.

Bonnie: Occasional updates are probably a really good idea (without overwhelming them).

Bonnie: I was just wondering about him. What happened?

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 2 seconds ago:

Yes, updates are a grand idea - we do follow-through press releases sometimes. Also, over time I've gotten a good sense on the angles that our local paper likes to follow. So, I can figure out what meets those angles, and work on stories like that.

Bonnie: I was also going to say campus (or other small) papers can also be a good place to go. They're usually keen for stories and they can sometimes be picked up by larger papers.

Shelby Tay: also a good way to start relationships with budding journalists who might go on to write for bigger papers!

Bonnie: Very true!

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message:

Bonnie - he's on dial up from home today. I think that might have something to do with it. C'est la vie, though - this is our first attempt, and "intimate" though it may have turned out, there was a fair bit of interest.

Plus, it's fun!

So - where do we want to take media and sustainability? Is there a different role that the media could play in the future? Or do we turn to more indy media as an "outlet"?

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message:

Hmmm, campus papers. Never thought of that!

Bonnie: I've seen things picked up from the UBC or SFU papers before.

Bonnie: As for indy or mainstream, probably both. Indy media gets a better message out but it can be preaching to the converted.

Shelby Tay: it seems like indy media tends to also be more local media, whereas mainstream media may not be, and their focus may also be more broad, so your message may be competing with a lot of other news

Bonnie: It would be nice to see the media taking a more critical and investigative role in sustainability-related issues.

Bonnie: I'm thinking, for example of the province's plan to twin the highway and at the same time reduce emissions by 33%. Disconnects like that need to be examined.

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message:

This may be a contradiction in terms, but are there other forms of media that are not the standard paper-tv-radio? Or indy media? But "new media" forms that are totally accessible to the general public?

Oh, we've also had success with local community tv - they always need stories!

Bonnie: I'm kind of confused about exactly what "new media" is. The internet? Somethingn else?

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 2 seconds ago:

Yes Bonnie, and I think that sometimes they are examined in the blogosphere and also on more in-depth, traditionally "lefty" venues like CBC radio - but not always even there.

Bonnie: My concern is that the blogosphere is often the same people talking to themselves.

Shelby Tay: one of the things that came up in another meeting that i went to is that it's much harder to get an idea out when it's coming from many separate places put slightly differently, so the idea that was discussed was having more collaboration between groups so when you approach a media outlet, you can put for a unified message that is supported by a number of groups

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message:

New media - I'm not sure. That's kind of what I'm asking. Are there other forms that reach everyone? Like blogs, walkingthetalk, maybe even cell phone ads...emerging forms of mass communication.

Except I'd be interested in ones that either:
- give "the converted" more in-depth information
- or form an initial link for those who don't know muchabout this sustainability thing

Bonnie: That's definitely a good point, Shelby. We need to focus on the commonalities and get that message out.

Bonnie: I think there are lots of sources of info for the converted who are looking for it. Does either of you read the Tyee?

Shelby Tay: so not only do you increase your chances of getting picked up you also increase the credibility of your message

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 3 minutes ago:

Yes, blogs are good for that in-depth thing, but unless you stumble across one (or it's famous), they're unlikely to be your first encounter with sustainability.

Bonnie: Yes, and I guess that's connected to the "hook" idea I was talking about earlier. Every issues seems to need to be attached to something current.

tricia from x.x.x.22 left this message 109 seconds ago:

Yes, blogs are good for that in-depth thing, but unless you stumble across one (or it's famous), they're unlikely to be your first encounter with sustainability.

Bonnie: And I'm not sure blogs are the best source of credible information anyway.

Shelby Tay: yeah the Tyee is a great media site (do they do print?) one of my friends used to do some freelance writing for them

Shelby Tay: well in terms of using media to get people thinking about sustainability for the first time, we might look at putting information in places where people don't have to go out of their way at all to find, maybe having more signage - maybe in grocery stores or places where people routinely go




End of chat as of Sat Mar 10 00:43:38 2007 GMT




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