I had Dateline on my mind. Wait, perhaps they could do a piece on this on "I Shouldn't Be Alive". Haven't seen that show? How about "I Almost Got Away With It"? No? Maybe "America's Most Wanted". Seriously, 60 minutes, Dateline NBC, Nova, all good. I'm sure there are many more. I'd like to see what Bill O'Reiley or Jon Stewart would do with this. On second thought, perhaps I wouldn't.
Many stories center on allegations of wrongdoing and corruption on the part of corporations, politicians, and other public officials. Said figures are commonly either subjected to an interview, or evade contact with the 60 Minutes crew altogether, either by written notice or by simply fleeing from the approaching journalist and his camera crew. Instead of summarizing an interview or providing direct commentary on an issue, 60 Minutes prefers to air the interview itself. When the subject is hiding a secret, the viewers witness the evasion directly."
I sent letter to 60 Minutes in January. No response. But more news now and if a whole bunch will contact them, maybe they will do something. More people contacting them about it tells them there is larger public interest.
Well, I already sent my letter, and it didn't lead to anything.
So maybe I wouldn't be much help. From my experience...
News media, in general, are interested in things that are:
affects a lot of people or has broad interest
public servant betrayal
A show such as 60 Minutes is more interested in the last three, but nightly news would be more interest in the "new" or "different" feature of the topic.
They usually use an anecdote as the lead, a personal account. But that is just the lead to get the viewer interested through their empathy to what the real story is. So in pitching, put the other stuff first before you mention anything about yourself personally. Stories of one person's illness does not have broad interest. There's a lot of sick people with lots of different illnesses. What makes one rise above the other is the other things I mentioned.
I still say the blood supply has the broadest public interest, which then leads to discovery of it, how many affected by illness, then CDC failure.
Or, can start with CDC failure, which then leads to blood supply threat, which leads to virus and discovery that leads to illness.
It is sad to say, but a letter from an organization might get more attention than from independent individuals. Maybe Cort could send a letter from the "Phoenix Rising ME / CFS Information Exchange Center" (or whatever it is called). Describe it as "the largest international patient based information exchange center on the Internet." Seems like it is.
Or one of the other organizations, even small ones, (anything with a letterhead) might work. Of course, a few public demonstrations would work.
They get hundreds or thousands of press releases or news tips. So how can you make yours stand out? Same way you would a newspaper article.
Strong headline (focusing on why news worthy)
Quick summary in first paragraph
You have ten seconds or less to get their attention. So you have to capture them early and not lose them.
But, be very careful that any claim of fact be something provable or reported in a respected news source. You don't want the news reporter to feel tricked. But, you can speculate in questions, such as "Why would the CDC use vials that other researchers know are not effective in detecting pathogens?"
Reporters are curious by nature, you might get them to say, "yeah, I want to find that out. Why is that?"
Just don't take any leaps of ulterior motives. (But feel free to quote someone else who did who is a recognized expert or speaks for an organization.)
Including the front page of the two journals that covered it would send the subtle message that this is big deal in science community, thus worthy of their coverage.
One aspect that stood out to me in reading another article was :
1. Why is this story important NOW versus a month or months from now? Emphasizing the blood issue would do this as well the holding of the NIH/FDA papers.
2. How will this story differentiate the program? I can imagine for other stories, multiple news programs might do the same story and your pitch would have to include why they should listen to you. But for CFS, we have the unfortune of not having ANY major news network or program covering XMRV or CFS and this should be pointed out.
Tina's "conflict" and "betrayal" angle falls into the conflicting studies of FDA/NIH vs. CDC and government interference into free exchange of scientific information. I think this point has not been pounded in enough to the public: this issue doesn't just affect CFS; if scientists have any findings in the future that are not "convenient" to the government, does this mean the government has a right to just pull the paper it disagrees with? What if the "inconvenient" paper turns out to be correct and many are harmed because of it? Who watches the government? I think this issue was brought up previously in regards to ?global warming where the prior administration did not want to listen to internal scientists contradicting their agenda.
That's great you got the direct email address of an exec producer! Is it someone you know personally?
I agree with bluebonnet on focusing on a new retrovirus (XMRV) potentially being in the nation's blood supply. Also mention the conflicting paper CDC and NIH/FDA papers and people involved. You might also show the quote of Reeves saying he suspected they would not find the virus even before they looked (bias). The Corante article linked above is also a nice synposis to refer them to.
One question that I've been thinking about is - do we think the WPI has already pitched these stories? I mean, is their press person's responsibility to get the word out or is that a no-no? I honestly don't know and want to know what you all think - do we think this story has been pitched by higher ups than us?