Introduction to DawnWatch
The DawnWatch mission is to encourage and facilitate positive coverage of animal issues in major media. The media is incomparably powerful and influential. The good news for those of us who wish to help animals is that it is surprisingly easy to influence. DawnWatch works on that in various ways:
DAWNWATCH MEDIA ALERTS: Since 1999 DawnWatch has been sending out regular alerts about animal oriented stories in the major media, encouraging animal advocates to respond with comments and letters to the relevant media outlets. The focus has been almost exclusively on major US media, but now that we have become a nonprofit and are growing, we are in the process of widening our reach to help people engage more with their local media where they are likely to have the most impact. (Learn more about alerts below.)
DAWNWATCH WRITING — OP-EDS, ARTICLES, BOOK CHAPTERS: Beginning in 2003, Karen Dawn has had opinion pieces published in leading newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, UK Guardian and Washington Post, sometimes solo written and sometimes co-written with Professor Peter Singer, who we are proud, at DawnWatch, to have on our board. She has also had articles published in The Progressive Magazine, and chapters in various animal advocacy anthologies. Writing those pieces is time-consuming and effective but not lucrative. DawnWatch’s new nonprofit status and fundraising ability makes it possible for that work to continue. Please check it out here.
DAWNWATCH TURKEY RESCUE: In 2008, two live turkeys, Bruce and Emily, were in Karen Dawn’s Pacific Palisades home over Thanksgiving. The aim in having the avian guests was to get positive, friendly, publicity for turkeys at their most vulnerable time of the year. The Palisades turkey pardon was such a hit with friends, neighbors and the media, that it became an annual tradition. It has been featured on local Los Angeles stations such as ABC, NBC and KTLA numerous times, as well as on national ABC Now CNN and the Fox Business News Network. It has been covered three times in the Los Angeles Times and has been picked up by the Associated Press, thereby being covered in hundreds of papers. As a demonstrably successful way to get positive media for the idea of vegan Thanksgivings it has become an official DawnWatch project. (Note: Karen Dawn and DawnWatch are entirely different from Karen Davis and United Poultry Concerns. Learn more about the DawnWatch Turkey Rescue here.)
DAWNWATCH MEDIA AWARDS GALA: Run by one of Karen’s mentors, Gretchen Wyler, the Genesis Awards took place every year at the Beverly Hilton, just like the Golden Globes. Under the banner, “Cruelty Can’t Stand the Spotlight,” celebrity presenters gave awards to members of the major media who had, in the previous year, shone the spotlight on animal issues. It was a powerful night, where media people who might be familiar only with the topics they had covered would learn about all the topics other journalists had covered, and often leave transformed. Plus it was like an animal advocacy United Nations — a night on which scores of animal groups gathered together to honor the media that had done beautiful work with the various groups.
A few years after Gretchen passed away the Genesis Awards, now run by the Humane Society of the United States, became online announcements. They still serve a beautiful purpose but the animal advocacy movement needs a non denominational live awards show, with the power that the Genesis Awards had. Karen Dawn served on the Genesis Awards voting committee for a decade and now DawnWatch is in the process of creating the DawnWatch Media Awards, in Gretchen Wyler’s honor, with the first awards gala, ocean themed, slated for early May, 2018. Stay tuned to our events page for more information!
The following explains DawnWatch media alerts, the backbone of DawnWatch work:
Station managers know that most people do not write letters or even leave comments on websites to express their opinion of programming and articles; they vote with their remote controls and their subscriptions. So for every letter or comment a station or publication receives, it is assumed that a great number of other people feel the same way but didn’t bother to comment. I have heard the number of voices for which they assume each comment or letter speaks estimated at a low of 50 and a high of 500. That is an extraordinary amplification of one voice.
The letters to the editor page is one of the most widely read pages of most papers – national and local. As letters pages and comments sections are seen by decision makers as barometers of public opinion, your letter or comment may have more impact than you can imagine.
DawnWatch will not tell you what to write. We will provide opportunities by sending you links to articles and links that make it easy to respond. Please send short notes written entirely in your own words. Some editors have stated that they avoid publishing letters that are clearly part of a campaign. They are looking for responses from their audience.
The only strict instruction from DawnWatch will be to be nice! The media are powerful and animals need powerful friends. DawnWatch hopes to help the animal advocacy world befriend the media.
It isn’t always easy to be nice. Sometimes a journalist has written something we find so upsetting we feel that the journalist deserves to be insulted. That’s when we have to remember that some of the greatest animal rights activists used to be hunters. Most of us used to eat meat. We changed our ways because somebody showed us a different way of looking at things, not because they insulted us. If we alienate a member of the media who may have eventually, even years down the line, become a supporter, we vent our anger at the expense of animals.
If you are writing a complaint to a show or publication whose stories you have enjoyed in the past, do not lose the opportunity to pay a compliment. Then, gently point out the current problem, making sure you tackle the issue, not the person you are writing to. Reread your note twice before hitting send, being sure to remove or rewrite any phrase that could have been put more nicely. Remember that anger tends to put people on the defensive whereas a friendly pointer can get a hearing and have real impact on future work.
DawnWatch will generally alert you to front page stories in major papers, or national animal media stories; perhaps two or three per week. But a major aim of DawnWatch is to encourage activists to stay in friendly contact with their local media, which DawnWatch may not cover (though we are working on changing that). So please, consider Dawnwatch a training ground, where you learn about major animal stories and get in the habit of responding. Then practice that habit in your local media. Some local papers print close to 100% of letters they receive.
Thank you, on behalf of all animals, for speaking out, using the media to amplify your voice, and thereby ensuring that that the voice of compassion is part of the public dialogue.