Reactive Response And Proactive Encounter

Dealing With The Media

Ammond Shadowcraft - Oct. 1988

This is a description of what WindFire Coven does to attract positive media coverage:

During the latest period of Satanism hysteria the energies were flowing in a negative direction as far as Wicca is concerned. The media loves controversy and knows that to have controversy they must present more than one side of any given issue. Consequently when planning some report that may be negative in context they will go out of their way to present another view of that same issue.

Reactive Response

This, of course, is reactive not pro-active in nature. This is how WindFire got the media exposure the last two times. I'll start with the Denver channel first.

It was a few weeks after File 18 was given to each member of WindFire that we dedicated a full moon ritual for magickal work toward a solution. WindFire is not structured so every member got to focus their power in their own way toward the solution. The solution was to promote a positive understanding of Wicca in the local mundane communities.

The very next day, not 24 hours after the ritual, we got a call from channel 7, Denver. They were in the Springs and wanted to talk to some witches about ley lines and power spots. The two person crew was at Celebration Book Store but the attendant didn't want to be on camera. Fortunately the store attendant had our number and called us. We talked with the camera crew and arranged an immediate interview.

Two considerations are important here. The first is that just like any other form of magickal work the magick takes it's own form. So be ready for anything. And two, when the media calls they usually will not wait around for interviewees. Be prepared for anything, at any moment.

When the lightning strikes...

Channel 7 told us that they were doing the interview to balance out some of the reporting on Satanism, but they didn't stress the fact that the report was about Satanism. Further we didn't know enough to ask what the focus and content was for the report. Always ask what the focus of the report is. You may find yourself, just like WindFire, shocked that we are being visually, if not verbally, associated with Satanism.

For the interview, be positive. I can't stress that enough. Smile and let them see that you are sincere in your faith in the Goddess. Laugh. All the reporters see in Satanism is somber faces, confessing their sins. Let them know that you are happy with your path. Stress the difference between patriarchal monotheism and pre-Christian, pre-Hebrew Goddess religion. Have your resources ready for the reporter to look at if they need a quote for something. Trot out your tools and instruments if you feel comfortable with that. They love to see the various tools. You don't have to show them all or any of your tools but it sure helps them get a picture of what is going on.

The media people like robes so wear your best. Covert groups that have fears about discovery of illegal activities will not don their robes or show their tools. By doing so you show that you are not aligned with covert, illegal, fearful groups. And by disassociation you show that you are doing nothing illegal or dangerous.

There are three parts of the interview: the preview, the personal interviews and the ritual. In some or perhaps most cases, the ritual can be left out. [Please note that these terms are descriptive of their function, not their technical names. The reporters may have a different technical name for them.]

The preview is a time for the reporter to get to know the members of the group, circle or coven. They will talk to you for a period of time. For WindFire that was about an hour for each camera crew. Please remember to be civil as a group and not blurt things out all at once. Believe me it's hard not to do that in the excitement. During the preview the reporter will select who they want to interview.

Personal interviews last about 10 minutes. The reporter will generally select different questions for each interviewee. Be prepared for some hard and personal questions. At the end of the personal interview the reporter will sometimes ask if you have anything particular to say to the public. Please don't waste this opportunity. Have a personal message ready for the public.

The ritual can be anything you feel comfortable with. We generally choose a related focus such as increasing understanding in the mundane public. The camera crews seem to like this. Be patient, they may want you to duplicate some particular action for different camera angle. accommodate them when you can. We got through a partial ritual before the second camera crew ran out of tape. Don't forget to complete the ritual before them before you let them leave. Be complete.

Remember that there are generally two people in a camera crew, the reporter and the camera operator. When the reporter is previewing the coven have another witch talk to the camera operator, telling them what the tools are for and what incenses and crystals are used. Be discrete but talk to each and every camera crew member because they all have input into the editing of the tape. If the reporter has a good feeling about the coven but the camera person thinks you stink you may have visual problems later. Make sure each and every camera crew member goes away with a warm fuzzy feeling.

Offer them refreshments. They will generally refuse alcohol but water, sodas, coffee and fruit juices are welcomed. Help the crew as much as they will let you. If they need cables or furniture moved, do so.

Now for Channel 13 in Colorado Springs. This reporter was doing a report on Satanism alone. Unfortunately the ONLY resource she had was James McCarthy in Boulder. The reporter used the "S" word, the "W" word and the "P" word all in the same sentence without differentiating between the three. Admittedly the context of the sentence was ritual. Still no differentiation was made. We started a telephone campaign and had about 15 people call the news room at the station and complain.

Here it is especially good to not bitch unless you have a solution. If you complain to a reporter do not leave them hanging with no way to clean up the mess. Talk to them, give them your phone number so they can call you back later. They are busy people. Try to make sure they can successfully reach you, not your children, not your message machine, not your dog. If you give them your number and they don't call you back, call them. Find out what the problem is.

During the phone campaign we left the reporter numerous ways to contact us. She did and we scheduled a time for the interviews. We scheduled it for our regular weekly meeting time so that all the members could be there and a generic ritual could be filmed. Members who didn't want to be on film were situated so that their faces were not on camera. The camera crew will do this for you. They don't want to inadvertently expose unwilling and innocent people to possible harassment.

On the appointed day the camera crew showed up fashionably late. We went through our usually horror story about being butchered by the media in the past and they (both crews) were sympathetic to our concerns. Don't be afraid to stress how badly the media has treated witches, but don't bore them; everyone has a story to tell but boredom is out these days.

Let them see a generic ritual with a generic focus. The immediate focus was understanding in the local community. That works well so you might want to try that with your group or coven. It impresses the camera crew so that they will be a little more interested.

Proactive Encounter

Proactive means acting before something happens and puts you in reactive response mode.

Perhaps the best thing to do is to put together a packet that you can send to your local media: TV. stations, radio stations, and newspapers, which also include your local neighborhood weeklies if you're brave enough.

Send a well put together packet to these media and be sure they can get in touch with you on a few days notice. You might have more than one contact for your group, circle or coven. WindFire has three or four.

I suggest for this packet that you include three or four brief statements from willing coven members, a longer essay on Wicca with resources, the New Woman article, some artwork and poetry. Include also a reading list of your favorite Wiccan authors. Be sure to include names and numbers to call back. While the reporters won't read everything they will probably read the brief statements from your coven members and look at the reading list. You might suggest book stores the reporters can find the reading list books at.

The main time of the year for reactive procedures is Halloween. Funnymentalist just love to hammer us during Samhain. So be proactive and let the media know how you view Samhain. Send the media an article about Samhain about two weeks before. Let them know that there are other views and that the funnymentalist are slandering a perfectly good holiday.

In fact you could emphasize any holiday/s that seems appropriate for your area or group. Include your resources and/or Xerox copies of other articles you may find, with copyright if needed, on any holiday you deem appropriate.

Reactive Response Summary

Be prepared to act at any moment if they should call you. Be positive, smile and laugh a lot. Talk to all the camera crew members. Let them know your concerns, stress the problems of the past but don't offend the media people. Make it a magickal time for all the people involved including the camera crews. Remember to augment your mundane activity (interviews) before hand with magickal work.

Proactive Encounter Summary

Prepare a good information packet. Sound like you know what you are talking about. Don't be mousey. Be aggressive and call them if you feel the need. Make sure they can return a call to you successfully. If you get an interview be positive and firm. Media people are strong people, they like other strong people. Be prepared to act at any moment when they call you. Devote some personal and collective magickal time for magickal work to attract positive media attention.

I'm sure that you will be challenged by the opportunities your magick will bring you. The Goddess will bring your efforts to full fruit if you are ready to support Her when the time comes. It's not an overused saying to state that we should be prepared for the effects of our own magick.

An Update Of Immediate Concern

Just before Halloween Channels 5/30 in Colorado Springs interviewed WindFire Coven in the pro-active mode. The reporter was concerned that her boss wanted a sensationalized segment on witches to go with segments on Satanism and various local New Age groups and psychics. She told us that she would try to talk her boss out of sensationalizing the segment. No guarantees were given and we accepted her word that she would try her best to represent us fairly. WindFire Coven was filmed for four or five hours for the 3 minute segment and some promotional footage.

Some problems arose in the promotional and broadcast that we didn't anticipate.

In the promotional various members were visually associated with Satanism by default, that is, Wiccans and Satanists were shown together in the same promo without distinction. This caused quite a lot of concern when clients and associates of those involved either refused to speak to the involved or blamed them for some unspecified hardship in their lives. To complicate the matter one members face was overdubbed with a hags cackling. This hurt the member greatly as she is nothing like the voice indicated.

Make sure that your promo is your own with no visual association to any other segment without your knowledge and permission. Make sure that your members faces and voices remain intact through the promo and broadcast. Get it in writing unless you are willing to see this happen to your coven. Refuse the interview if necessary.

During the broadcast and promos various tools, icons and artifacts, including a piece of copyrighted artwork, were used in others segments without our permission.

Make sure that your tools, icons, artifacts and artwork are not used in another context without your knowledge and permission. Get it in writing unless you are willing to see your tools, icons, artifacts and artwork profaned by use in an inappropriate context.

Another problem arose when the editors inserted a Christian into our segment who said that Wicca was inappropriate because it is not Christian. When asked why such was done the reporter replied that it is good journalistic practice to offer two sides of an issue. WindFire Coven feels that should a contemporary religion be represented, such as the Jewish or the Mormon faith, the station would not be as quick to put in dissenting views. We feel that Channels 5/30 leaned toward promoting the stereotypical image of witches by having a Christian define what we are and are not. Such cannot be allowed to continue any longer.

Make sure that your segment is yours and yours alone. Do not allow the editors to insert dissenting views in your segment. Dissenting views can be presented in another segment dedicated entirely for discussion of differences. Make sure that Wicca is represented by Wiccans, not by Christians, not by new-agers, not by local psychics. Take control of the interview before it takes control of your coven.

Blessed Be!

This is an sample form to be used when reporters come to your home to interview your circle or coven.

Dated: ________________________

Note: For the purpose of this Agreement WindFire Coven is termed the Interviewee and ______________________ is termed the Interviewer.

The Interviewee agrees to accept reporters from the Interviewer into their homes and/or sacred space to witness and report seasonal and/or generic rituals, to photograph and film tools, icons, artifacts, artwork, poetry and songs, to interview the Coven and individual members, for a period not to exceed 24 hours, providing that the following agreements are made:

The Interviewer will employ the usable or airable video footage filmed, photographs and/or recordings of/during this interview for any segment and/or report as a singular complete segment and/or report and in such a way as to retain the original context and atmosphere intended by the Interviewee. No other individuals, religious faiths and/or religious groups will be included in this segment/report without the express permission of the Interviewee.

The Interviewer will employ the usable or airable video footage filmed, photographs and/or recordings of/during this interview for any promotion as a singular complete promotion and in such a way as to retain the original context and atmosphere intended by the Interviewee. No other individuals, religious faiths and/or religious groups will be included in this promotion without the express permission of the Interviewee.

The Interviewer will treat all persons, tools, icons, artifacts, artwork, poetry and music filmed, photographed or recorded as integral parts of the interview and will not use any cassette, video or photographic representations of these persons/items in any other context or external segment, report or promotion without the express permission of the Interviewee.

For WINDFIRE COVEN (Interviewee)

For __________________________________ (Interviewer)


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