Working With the Media
By Susan L. Carpenter and W.J.D. Kennedy
This Article Summary written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: Susan L. Carpenter and W.J.D. Kennedy, "Working With the Media" in Managing Public Disputes, (San Francisco: Jossey- Bass, 1988) pp. 182-186.
Carpenter and Kennedy discuss the importance of working effectively with the media to successfully manage public disputes. Often participants and conflict managers would prefer closed meetings. Attempting to exclude the media often antagonizes them, and may infringe on the public's right to know. Reasons to hold closed meetings include the presence of proprietary information, of a party who has been misrepresented by the press before, and so refuses to participate in open negotiations, or by particularly poor relations between the parties which makes conciliation under the public eye very unlikely. Meetings should only be closed by the consensus decision of the participants, so that there are no dissenting parties who can use the decision as leverage against the other parties. Closed meetings should be followed promptly by a press conference and press releases.
Public officials may be wary of the press, but outright hostility will provoke antagonism. Instead, officials should seek out interested reporters and attempt to provide clear, detailed and thorough information regarding the project at hand. The clearer the presentation, the more likely it is to be accurately reported. Members of the press can also be valuable resources for conflict managers. Reporters are often very informed about their community. Giving thorough information and seeking the reporter's advice helps create mutual respect.
Finally, officials should develop an explicit strategy for dealing with the media regarding the project at hand. The authors recommend a cooperative approach, which treats media members like interested members of the community. When approached in such a spirit, the press can actually become a valuable source of support.