DawnWatch Email Etiquette

Befriending the Media

Some of the greatest Animal Rights activists used to be hunters. Some of the most powerful members of our movement used to work in the meat industry. 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. That must be top of mind as we write letters. If we insult and alienate somebody who may have eventually, even years down the line, become a supporter, we vent our anger at the expense of the 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 or organization. Try to do it in a friendly manner. It is human nature to care more about pleasing a friend who has been wronged than an adversary. The reader of your letter is only human.

The reader of your letter is also busy. Keep notes short. Do not get sidetracked from your main point; save other points for future notes.

Use your spell-checker. Rightly or wrongly, people who can spell are assumed to be more intelligent, more educated, and are taken more seriously.

This page is headed "Email Etiquette" because email is preferable to standard mail when communicating with major media. The media function in real time. By the time the US post delivers your letter to the editor or station, the topic about which you are writing will be yesterday's news.

When writing a letter to the editor, always include your full name, address, and daytime telephone number. Most papers will call you, before printing, to confirm that it was you who sent the letter.

Never borrow phrases from DawnWatch alerts for use in your letters. And do not include sample letters if you forward DawnWatch alerts. While legislators, wishing to appease strong lobby groups, count the number of responses they receive in favor of pieces of legislation, the media wish to please their viewers and readers, not lobbyists.  Some leading editors have stated that they avoid publishing letters that are clearly part of campaign. If you are tempted to include in your letter a phrase from an alert, you can be sure somebody else was attracted by the same phrase. The letters editor, having seen a phrase more than once, will spot a campaign and might decide to avoid the whole issue. Therefore please send short heartfelt notes written entirely in your own words. 

DawnWatch keeps an eye mostly on major media in huge markets. You will have the most impact with your local media. Please respond to DawnWatch alerts, but consider this a training ground -- a place where you get in the habit of contacting the media. Then practice that habit in your local media world; your ability to influence it will surprise you. 

Of foremost importance: be nice. Though the reputation of the Animal Rights community is improving, there is still some perception of Animal Right's activists as odd and angry. We need to change that perception for the sake of the animals. We must make sure that our letters are always rational, to the point, and preferably concerned rather than outraged. Anger tends to put people on the defensive whereas a friendly argument can get a decent hearing. We will be heard most clearly not when we are shouting loudest, but when we are communicating in such a way that people are willing to listen.