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Awaken the MSM Campaign

By Michael Clark

Since June first, I've been publishing a series of diaries entitled "Awaken the MSM" at Daily Kos.

Initially these diaries were aimed at lifting the virtual news blackout on DSM. After a month of pushing for coverage, relatively little had been achieved. At the time, it seemed to me that if web-based activists continued to operate under our tactics up until that point--primarily a scatter-shot approach to contacting media outlets--we were unlikely to make significant progress soon. I wanted to begin a focused, coordinated, and above all sustained effort to get the attention of the news media.

Therefore every weekday this month I have been posting a diary listing contact information for three news outlets, which change every day. The list is diaried on Daily Kos around 8 AM EST, and is crossposted at other sites including several members of the Big Brass Alliance. In case you miss the diary at dKos, the surest place to find it posted all day is at I ask that people email, fax, or call all three media outlets on that day requesting politely that they report on DSM. I'm confident that we can force news outlets to pay closer attention if we inundate them, one by one, with letters and calls requesting that they report on this important story. If any targeted news outlets don't respond with serious coverage, the campaign will revisit them several days later.

I welcome other activist groups and blogs that wish to collaborate on this campaign, and I urge all who are in a position to do so to publicize it as best they can-especially by posting the daily lists at their own sites or by linking to the updated list. These diaries will also be a useful place to share information about coordinating our efforts, identifying useful resources, and so forth.

The "Awaken the MSM" campaign apparently has had a series of successes, to judge by any number of indicators. For example, on the first day we targeted C-Span's Washington Journal (which you may remember had treated DSM dismissively in May when callers asked to discuss it). On the second day, C-Span contacted us to say that they'd gotten the message and planned to schedule several shows on DSM in coming days.

Once Bush and Blair were put on the spot about DSM on June 7th, it became much easier to convince the news media to write something on DSM. It remains difficult to get them to investigate the story systematically and aggressively, however. Therefore the "Awaken" campaign has evolved with the cirucmstances. We are looking much more to rebut the falsehoods and half-truths that the Bush cheerleaders have been promoting; to point the media toward resources where they can bone up on the issues quickly; to highlight the issues that seem to us to be most significant about what DSM reveals; to keep the media apprised of new revelations; and to point out to them the ways in which the story keeps evolving and refreshing itself. We are now less interested in complaining about inadequate coverage, and more concentrated on trying to help the media to improve and sharpen their coverage.

Advice on writing a letter to the media

Please write your own letter, rather than sending a form letter. Individualized letters have much more impact. You can easily re-use that letter again and again once you've composed it, and it need not be long or detailed since each target will be receiving hundreds or thousands of such letters that day (they'll soon figure out what DSM is all about, if they haven't already). The most important thing will be to maximize numbers, and to ensure that every target receives an equally large number of letters. Phone calls typically make a bigger impression than an email, faxes more than phone calls.

Angry, condescending, hyperbolic, or overblown letters are likely to carry much less weight than polite, precise, succinct ones. I would advise against accusing the targeted media of failing to cover the story in 2002 or indeed May 2005; this is unlikely to achieve anything useful. Instead, try to appeal to the better nature of the journalist you contact (put yourself in his/her shoes) and urge them to dig into the many unanswered questions that face us now. You might want to state briefly why you believe the leaked document is significant for the future of democracy in the US, or mention Rep. Conyers' letter to President Bush seeking clarification regarding DSM.

In any event, I urge you to mention some of the recent stories and revelations that have developed the DSM story in the last week or two: the RAF documents that confirm that the US had initiated a major air war over Iraq in summer 2002; the "Military Action Memo" just published by the London Sunday Time; the Bush/Blair press offering in which both leaders falsely alleged that DSM is inaccurate; Rep. Conyers' planned hearing on June 16th; and the AP report on John Bolton's role in preventing chemical weapons inspectors from re-entering Iraq in early 2002. News outlets are much more likely to continue to pursue this story, and hence to dig deeper, if they are convinced that the story has new angles. Above all, if this becomes a story of stone-walling and lying (following the preposterous answers given by Bush and Blair on June 7th), the media will be much more eager to pursue it assiduously. We are already seeing something like this taking shape in news reports, so help it along in your letters.

If you are at a loss about what to say about the significance of DSM, you're welcome to plunder bits of letters that were posted on the first of the Awaken the MSM diaries back on June 1st.

Michael Clark ('smintheus')

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