Introduction to DawnWatch

Bill Maher, host of HBO's Real Time, and great friend to the animals, likes to say, "The Media is dumber than the people. And that's not easy." Thankfully, that's not true of all media, or all people. And dumb or smart, the media are powerful. They affect the way we think. From the media we get information on what is important, what is hip, what is healthy. They influence how we spend our money and for whom we vote.

Journalists, editors, writers and directors control what is in the media. The good news for us is that two variables influence their choices:

The first is simply their knowledge -- what they are exposed to. If a health journalist gets hooked on kickboxing, kickboxing will be on the news that week as the hot new thing.

The second is perceived interest. People in the media want to know that what they are putting out is going to be popular. Popularity translates into high circulation or ratings, and thereby into vital advertising dollars.

I call those factors good news because they put some of the power back in our hands. A well written letter can broaden someone's knowledge. Many original notes making the same point will drive it home. We can easily influence the knowledge of the decision makers.

We can also send strong signals regarding story popularity. Station managers know that most people do not write letters to express their opinion of programming; they vote with their remote controls. Newspaper and magazine readers vote with their subscriptions. So for every letter a station or publication receives, it is assumed that a great number of other people feel the same way but didn't bother to write. I have heard the number of voices for which they assume each note speaks estimated at a low of 50 and a high of 500. That is an extraordinary amplification of one voice.

The DawnWatch website is a base for the news alerts -- a place you can look to for pointers on various topics. News alerts are emailed to you, at a rate that averages about one per day, depending on what is happening in the major media. Each news alert will cite a story or article that concerns animals (sometimes a story on health or nutrition) and provide an email link to the media source. You only have to click a button to dash off a quick note and make your voice heard - or amplified 50-500 times!

DawnWatch will generally alert you to front page stories in major papers, or national animal media stories. But the point of DawnWatch is to encourage activists to stay in friendly contact with the media. That includes, particularly, your local media, which DawnWatch may not cover. So please don't rely exclusively on DawnWatch alerts. Your local station wants to know what you think of its programming. And some local papers, which are widely read,  print close to 100% of letters they receive. DawnWatch is pleased to help you find the correct address for feedback to your local media, or to help edit your letters. 

Before joining our band of email correspondents, I ask that you take a look at the page on Email Etiquette. It provides pointers on effective persuasive techniques and on elevating, through our communications, the standing of the Animal Advocacy community.

Remember, the media are incomparably influential but surprisingly easy to influence. Thank you, on behalf of the animals, for speaking out, ensuring that the voice of compassion is part of the public dialogue, and for using the media to amplify your voice.

Yours and the animals',

Karen Dawn