As our last Friday News Roundup demonstrated, news stories about homelessness are prevalent during the winter holiday season. Holiday stories take a range of forms: they may share the story of a specific homeless individual or family; they may detail community programs working to serve people experiencing homelessness; or they could cover any number of other angles.
These stories present a wonderful opportunity for advocates to try to shape the message and impact of the media’s coverage of homelessness. There are several ways in which to engage the media, including:
- Letters to the editor and editorials;
- Press releases; and
- Pitching a story;
Press releases and pitching a story allow you to proactively work to place a story in the media by focusing a reporters’ attention on current homelessness-related events, including: a recent report your organization or community released, the impact of recent federal, state, or local budget cuts on your program’s ability to serve people, or the success of a program at preventing or ending homelessness for people in your community.
But what if a reporter is already writing a story? Stay on top of current events and be prepared with talking points that connect the issues of the day to your ideal messages for the season, such as a focus on solutions to homelessness or the impact of budget cuts.
And if the story has already run? Letters to the editor are great forums for responding to stories that have already been published about homelessness. You can try to relate the story to the message you hope to get across. For example, if your local paper runs a story about the local increase in homelessness, you can respond with a letter that focuses on the importance of providing permanent housing for the growing number of people in need in your community. Like letters to the editor, editorials are also a way to respond to an article or a trend in your community. Please keep in mind that editorials are usually harder to publish than letters to the editor and that both are subject to minor edits by newspaper staff.
These are just a few examples of how you could engage the media this holiday season. With homelessness likely to be in the news in the coming weeks, your organization and community can think about ways to ensure the coverage has the maximum impact on raising awareness of the issue and promoting efforts to prevent and end homelessness in your community.