ARRL

Replies to Editors

Stay calm - play nice and win friends

How to reply to a newspaper article.

A case study

Often we may see a newspaper article that is misleading, incorrect or just out-and-out biased.  Our first thought is often to write a scathing response … and that’s the wrong way to go.  Reporters are, unfortunately, often clueless about the topics assigned to them.  Most do the best they can, but they often have little background to work with and can be drawn into positions that are controversial if they do not hear that opposing views even exist. 

Such was the case recently in a BPL article for a Michigan paper.  But, in this case, there was a happy ending. 

Remember – the FIRST goal of good PR is to win friends!  You don’t do that by blasting the editors!  You do it by pointing out the errors, providing correct information, and offering to be of aid in the future. 

This is what Dale Williams did.  Let’s look at the series of emails he sent and the results he got as an example: 


From: Dale Williams
Subject: Editorial

Hi, Ed.

One of our local papers, The Monroe Evening News, today reprinted an article form The New York Times proclaiming the merits of BPL. A copy is attached. 

Did anyone from HQ respond to the Times' article?  If so, I would like a similar (or identical) response sent to The Monroe Evening News.  The Times' commentary seems to ignore all of the negative aspects of BPL, financial, technical and the like, all in support of a failed design. 

I look forward to hearing for you,

Thanks,

Dale Williams WA8EFK

Section Manager - Michigan

 

His first action was to provide information (copies of the article) and see if there was something like this already available. 

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From: Hare, Ed W1RFI

Subject: RE: Editorial

Hi, Dale, 

I will ask Allen Pitts to send you a copy of the letters he sent to the Times. 

Michigan may be a bit unique, though, in that the Shpigler Group is putting a Motorola system into Michigan.  Our analyses show that there should not be harmful interference to amateur radio, although we are most interested in seeing the first systems installed in the field. It will also be interesting to note what happens to other spectrum.  So the message really needs to be that BPL that uses Amateur or shortwave-broadcast spectrum will cause local, strong interference, not that BPL is bad in and of itself. 

Ed

Ed Hare provided him with important information.  Remember, our issue is interference, and not all BPL systems cause us problems.  In this case, there was a system going in (Motorola) which should NOT be a problem and we needed to define the target as systems using our frequencies.   Ed Hare also alerted the PR Manager to the request.

 

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 Pitts, Allen W1AGP wrote:

Ed is correct that "all news is local" and that a local response to the paper increases the liklihood of it getting printed.  But I am more than happy to attach the draft of the information sent to the Times.

Please note the yellow highlighted section at the very end.  You definitely would want to change this part for yourself. 

Allen

While a national association has political “clout”, in this case the best possibility of getting a response in ink for a local paper was through a local resident.  Rather than a far-off media person write an editorial, it was most effective to provide Dale with the information he needed and allow him to edit it into his own situation.  Dale did just that and sent it in.

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From: Dale Williams

Subject: Re: Editorial

Well, guys we hit a nerve.  The Monroe Evening News just called and I am meeting them Wednesday morning to have my picture taken to go along with "my" letter on BPL.  I'll forward a copy when it hits the news stand. 

Dale

By NOT flaming or ranting, Dale made an ally out of the editor who now not only wants to hear more, but will be highly skeptical of BPL’s blue-sky claims in the future. 

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Pitts, Allen W1AGP wrote:

GREAT!

Please DO send a copy of the article as I would like to turn it into a "how to"  piece for PIO's in general.

This is the way to do it right!  :-)

Allen

 

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Hi, Allen. 

Here is the article.  It ran Friday.  

Thanks for all the help.

Dale