I first learned this lesson from the Miss Canada beauty pageant, but on Thursday three Informed Opinions’ “grads” reminded me of it…
If a reporter calls or emails to solicit your informed opinion about an current controversy or topical story, that’s an opportunity for you to provide additional analysis — that you have more control over — through an op ed.
Almost 25 years ago, as a newly minted board member of MediaWatch (now Media Action), I agreed to comment on the demise of the national beauty contest. It had just been cancelled due to lack of advertiser interest, which I saw as a good sign.
I worked hard to wedge my context-informed celebration into a 10 second sound bite, and felt fine about the clip aired by the Vancouver TV station. But I had a lot more to say than 10 seconds, and so I wrote up the rest of my analysis into a 750 word argument and submitted it to the Vancouver Sun.
Since then, I’ve often written op eds as a result of being alerted by a reporter to an emerging story, knowing that the existing media attention increases the likelihood that an opinion editor will make space.
This week’s reminder, however, came courtesy of three other women and Corey Allen, of UBC’s media relations office. Corey sent me a link to a story published in the Vancouver Province that quoted UBC education professor Lisa Loutzenheiser. When I read the article, I discovered that in addition to Lisa’s comments, it also contained insights provided by University of Victoria political science professor, Janni Aragon, and University of Ottawa law professor, Rakhi Ruparelia.
All three of these women have participated in Informed Opinions’ workshops, and I was elated to see them agreeing to share their perspectives. And I was inspired to add my own context by writing an op ed in response to the story, which will be published in tomorrow’s paper, and is available online here.
It’s already attracting nasty comments, some of them sent to me directly via Twitter, but — inspired by widespread commentary about the NFL’s response to Ray Rice’s knockout punch — I had already spent time earlier this week reminding myself of some of the bigger picture reasons that women’s perspectives are so needed. That piece is published in today’s Toronto Star.
Women are raped, beaten and killed in this country every day; those of us who write op eds or get interviewed by journalists can handle a few haters compelled to object when we seek to make clear the connections.