Coalition opens up to local media

In another attempt to promote its cause, the Student Coalition for Justice launched a new campaign on Wednesday, called Operation: MediaMatters.

The group submitted a letter to several media outlets in the local community to kick off the campaign. Through this new approach, members of the organization said they hope to change the media’s focus on news coverage.

The letter questioned the media’s national news coverage of issues that affect the black community. Their campaign is not just geared toward the Martin Lee Anderson case, but other issues as well.

“Most people rely on the major news networks to compile, dissect, analyze, and deliver the NEWS. Every morning millions of people tune in to CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews for their daily dose of local, regional, national, and international activities. And many mornings, CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews deliver a heaping portion of Britney Spears, Ellen DeGeneres, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton. Is this news? Are stories about sexual and social exploits of Hollywood’s fallen starlets more important than the rape and torture of Meagan Williams or the murder of Martin Lee Anderson? Judging by the airtime, it would seem that way. Where are the hour-long specials? Where are the two-day CNN events,” the letter stated.

The letter also addressed the relevance of marching.

“The great state of Florida has forced us to march MILES in the pursuit of justice but, as we listen to the same voices and see the same faces we should wonder, will marching really get us anywhere? Many argue that marching and rallying have rewarded us solely with sore calves and throats,” the letter stated.

The coalition, made up of Florida A&M University, Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College students, showed up with almost 40 supporters at the WCTV station in Tallahassee on Wednesday at about 4 p.m.

Members of the group asked to read the one-page letter at the top of each of the station’s evening newscasts.

As the group waited in the lobby, Mike Smith, the station’s news director, greeted the crowd and a few representatives talked to Smith about their request. Smith denied their request but answered several questions during the 45-minute impromptu meeting.

Smith said the group’s request was difficult because if he gave them a chance to just speak on the air about their cause, it would open the floodgates for other organizations to do the same thing.

“This is different than us covering an event,” Smith said. “I’m a broadcaster not a narrow caster.”

Smith said that his approach is presenting what the audience needs to know first and what they want to know second. But he said the national media functions differently.

“The national [media] is going to look at what they think will appeal to the largest group of people,” Smith said. “It’s like the train wreck mentality. People say they don’t want to see train wrecks but when a train wreck happens, they watch.”

He said for their local station, if the group were to do something newsworthy then it would most likely be covered but he said he could not guarantee coverage. He also said they could give them tips about news stories because that is how the best stories are discovered.

Smith offered them other alternatives like having newsworthy events or meetings and possibly appearing on a show the station has called “The Usual Suspects.”

“There are venues to do exactly what you’re doing,” Smith said. “If more people talked about this stuff, there would be no need to talk about this stuff.”

Phillip Agnew, former FAMU student body president, said they did not take the rejection as a loss, but rather a learning experience.

“I think next week we are going to put together a newsletter that chronicles the stories of Martin Lee Anderson and Megan Williams ect.,” Agnew said.

He said he wants to use the local media to send a message to the national media about its unbalanced coverage.

“If that doesn’t work, then we will make it work,” Agnew said.

He said they will continue to make efforts to change the media’s coverage.