Sunday, June 05, 2011

Talking to the Media

I rail pretty regularly about Pagans who, IMHO, shoot themselves and the rest of us in our collective feet when they talk to the media and defensively announce, "We don't eat babies/worship Satan/dance naked around a fire (which we, you know, do)/do spells (ditto)/etc." I think it's also important to point to examples of Pagans who do a good job dealing with the media.

Here's local Pagan, Iris Firemoon, showing how it's done.

First, note Iris' picture. It matches her objective of coming across as someone you might work with, a person you might know.

Then, observe how Iris starts out with a positive definition of what Paganism is and then moves on to explain the positive things about Paganism that attracted her to this religious path. In that context, her discussion of the discrimination that she faced is perfectly logical.

It's midway into the article before Iris mentions that one of the questions people ask when they find out about her religion is whether she casts spells. That's not reinforcing a negative frame; it's answering a logical question about a religion that involves, you know, casting spells.
Yes, I am a witch and cast spells, but we have a strict code of ethics. We don’t do magic that harms people. People think magic is a big deal, but it is just the willed movement of energy. For me, it is akin to prayer, but more active. Rather than will someone or something to intervene on your behalf, with magic you seek out the action yourself. The hard thing about spells is that you can never really know if things happening can be attributed to your work, but I don’t believe in coincidences and sometimes the gods like you and may work in your favor.

There's a perhaps subtle, but hugely important, difference between defensively volunteering that Pagans don't do something that we, of course, don't do, and explaining why we do do something that we actually do. (You know, I doubt that I've been inside a bookstore in the last 25 years when I didn't check out the Pagan books. And I've seen hundreds on casting spells. I've yet to see one on how to prepare babies for dinner.)

Iris answers the question in a straightforward manner and moves on to explain that many people in DC are open to her religion.

She closes with a plug for a cause she cares about (raising funds for a Pagan community center in DC) and provides a reliable source for those who want more information. Positive, upbeat, focused. This is how it's done.

(Of course, the capitalization for this article is terrible. Iris explains elsewhere that the article was adapted for non-Pagans, although I can't see how that makes discriminatory language ok. But it's pretty clear that this problem didn't arise with Iris.)

Picture found here.


Teacats said...

Yes!! Very well done indeed!

Succint and positive and calm and clear.

Iris Shaelynn Firemoon said...

Thank you, Hecate. I was a little aghast by the final product at first, because People's District paraphrased my words put them in quotation marks, as they most likely do with all of their interviews. The message is there, which is what is important. The other lesson here is that no matter what we say, the media always has the potential to take from our words what they want. We loose control over them when they come out of our mouths, so choose wisely. The stories on are great, and I am honored for him to have reached out to the Pagan community to let us be represented as a part of the District. I am also honored to be mentioned here on your blog.

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