Taking a Stand: A Postcard Campaign for Nonviolent Media
On January l5, l993, Mary Beth Boesen went to enjoy Denver's annual celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King, one of the U.S.' great non-violent heroes. "It was a beautiful day," Boesen recalls. "There were speeches and a huge birthday cake. Lots of people turned up, old and young, people of all colors." The press attended too. Boesen noticed a reporter from Channel 4 News who was interviewing people about what the holiday meant to them.
After the commemoration, Boesen went home and turned on the TV news to see if she would see anyone she knew. The lead story that night on the local news was about 30 neo-Nazi counterdemonstrators who got into a screaming match with the mayor. The second story was about another group of kids that got into a brawl and beat up a young woman and threw rocks into windows. The peaceful, joyous celebration that Boesen had attended was the third story in the news line-up. Boesen, a member of Stand Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) a project of the Loretto Women's Network, was furious. "That was the message kids were getting," she says. "If you're violent, you get news coverage."
She picked up the phone and called the TV station. "I was pretty 'wrathy,'" she says, "and they finally let me talk to an associate producer." As a result of Boesen's phone call, the station re-organized and re-edited their coverage for the l0 o'clock broadcast. "They put the peaceful demonstration first, they gave it equal time, and they cut out the kids screaming at the mayor," Boesen says.
That night was the beginning of what became a coordinated campaign among the approximately 650 members of the Loretto Women's Network. Members began sending postcards to national media and calling local media (followed up by a letter) when they saw violence glorified or when they saw a news station doing a responsible job.
Boesen and SAVE's work didn't take a lot of time or money. They use standard issue, pre-paid post office postcards. It's an idea that any individual and any group can readily adapt.
Here are some sample postcards that SAVE used. And be sure to see How to Organize a Local Postcard Campaign for tips on how to implement this activity in any community organization.