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Columns: Editorial OutreachSuccess with the Media
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Making diversity news

Editorial Outreach

One of the most widely read sections of the newspaper is the editorial page, where the newspaper declares its views on a range of issues, initiatives, and candidates. Used infrequently by academics and advocates, outreach to editorial page writers and editors can be a powerful tool.

Before contacting a newspaper editorial staff, explore past editorials on relevant topics. A newspaper that is strongly against affirmative action may not be the best outlet to approach. However, most editorial staffs recognize their responsibility to consider the views of readers in the community, are relatively open, and will welcome your input.

When approaching editorial staff:
  • Write a letter requesting a meeting. Include a short synopsis of the topic, why it is timely and interesting to readers, and who will attend the meeting (three or four people is best). Include concise, accessible background on the topic.

  • Follow up with a phone call requesting the meeting.

  • When the meeting is scheduled, ask whether you will meet with one editorial writer or the entire board. Do not be surprised if the education reporter is asked to sit in.

  • Plan your presentation. Decide in advance who will talk about what, the questions most likely to be asked, and how to handle them. Expect to be challenged. Frequently stress the need for a strong, timely editorial.

  • Bring materials for everyone who attends.

  • Send a thank-you note afterward, and continue to press for an editorial. Keep the editorial staff apprised of relevant new developments.

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Success with the Media

A group of progressive faculty at the University of California faced a difficult challenge when the Board of Regents voted to eliminate all consideration of race and gender in admissions and hiring.

The Faculty Committee to Rescind SP-1 (affirmative action ban in admissions) and SP-2 (affirmative action ban in hiring and contracting) (FCRSP) was formed on the Berkeley campus, and faculty coordinators were identified on each of the other nine campuses. The FCRSP developed strategies to force a new vote by the Regents. One strategy used was the editorial board meeting.

Four editorial board meetings were arranged with the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, and San Francisco Examiner. Two of these meetings were in person and the other two were by phone. The phone meetings worked well and saved time and money. The intention was to pressure the Regents through strong editorials in influential papers.

FCRSP decided to frame the problem as a significant violation of shared governance and failure to protect the university from political intrusion rather than on the merits of affirmative action, since faculty support for affirmative action was split.

All newspapers did publish supportive editorials that highlighted the governance issue. Though the Regents' policy did not change, the supportive editorials helped to educate opinion leaders about the governance issue, reinforce opponents of the Regents' policies, and provide increasing legitimacy for the faculty position.

For more information, contact: Larry Wallack, Professor of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley. Or e-mail him at lwallack@UClink4.Berkeley.edu.

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Media watch
News clips

University of Washington

To train the next generation of journalists to better understand diversity and to help generate diversity news coverage, the University of Washington (UW), Seattle Central Community College, and Seattle University have launched a diversity news lab. Run by UW's School of Communications, the lab has three students working as campus correspondents and three students working as interns in college and university public information offices. The work of the correspondents is distributed to regional newspapers. One student intern has already placed a front-page story in the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Three additional community colleges will join Seattle's diversity news lab in January.

For information, contact Roger Simpson at 206/543–2660; e-mail newsboy@u.washington.edu.

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University of San Francisco

"To dismantle affirmative action and, by extension, to limit diversity is to weaken the overall quality of education on college campuses, where the exchange of ideas is the cornerstone of education." Reverend John P. Schlegel, president of the University of San Francisco, at one of three news conferences where top-ranking administrators from more than one hundred community colleges and private universities came out against the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI). The CCRI did pass in November, but it is currently being challenged in the courts.

From "Unusual Alliance Fights Against CCRI," San Francisco Chronicle, 18 October 1996.

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Colorado State University

"Increasing diversity at Colorado State University requires continued strong efforts in recruitment of faculty and students; providing financial-aid opportunities for low-income students; offering student-assistance groups; and a commitment among faculty to inject multiculturalism into the curriculum." A positive editorial on diversity education in the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

From "Continuity, Creativity Are Keys to Developing Diversity at CSU," Fort Collins Coloradoan, 13 October 1996.

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Providence College

"People who are going to succeed in the twenty-first century can't have limited skills. They can't be intimidated by skin color or language. My generation has to be the last monocultural generation." Providence College Dean of Multicultural Students Willisse A. Comissiong speaking about the need for all students to be active at the multicultural student center.

From "Balfour Center Offers Alternatives to Ignorance," Providence Cowl, 12 September 1996.

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Institute of International Education

An increasing number of American college students are choosing to study abroad, according to a report by the Institute of International Education, a nonprofit educational and cultural exchange organization in New York. Richard M. Crasno, the institute's president, says that the rise in students going abroad is partly due to increased awareness of and exposure to diverse cultures on American campuses. The number of American students studying abroad rose 10.6 percent in 1994–95.

From "More U.S. College Students Are Studying Abroad," New York Times, 2 December 1996.

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University of Virginia

"The University of Virginia, once known for its Confederate flag–waving football fans, is being recognized for its success in retaining and graduating black undergraduates.'Virginia has the highest graduation rate for blacks of any state-supported institution. Eighty-four percent of black students who entered between 1986 and 1989 graduated within six years, according to The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

From "University Helping Blacks to Graduate," New York Times, 1 December 1996.

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