Braille Monitor                                                                  January 1985


Taking it to Talk Shows

by Charles Biebl

This article will explain how I have been able to get Dr. Jernigan and other Federation leaders on talk shows. This is an area which we all can do something about as long as we can use a typewriter or have a friend to help out.

Even in the media we are treated as second-class. I am trying to change that. I have not been as successful as I would like to be, but if we all pull together, we can accomplish a great deal.

Two national talk shows I need your help with are: The American Focus, located at Focus on Youth Network, P.O. Box 6460, Lawrenceville, New Jersey 08648; and the Michael Jackson Show at KABC Talk Radio, P.O. Box 7802 0, Los Angeles, California 90016. I have sent material to both of these shows and have only received worthless excuses.

Whether we get on a particular show will be determined by whether we try, our persistence, and our method of presenting our case. When I wrote to Focus on Issues, for example, I told them they had interviewed other minority groups but not the blind. Thus, we were interviewed. First, you may ask what NFB literature should I use. Dr. Jernigan's resume plus "What Is The National Federation of the Blind"--and when the need presents, I send Monitors and fact sheets on both national and state. Secondly, you question, how do I get started? Listen to a talk show and see if they meet your needs. Contact the station or host of the show. I have found that direct calling is more effective. Third, when should I call? During regular business hours. Fourth, who should I speak to? Ask for the producer or talk show host. What do I say on my first call? Explain to the party that you would like to arrange an appearance on the show for someone in your chapter. You need to know the person to be interviewed beforehand. This is every effective. If you are asked for information, mail it immediately. Have a list of questions which the host could use during the interview. Be prepared to mail these questions if requested to do so. Sometimes you are asked for this.

I had the experience when a talk show host wanted a list of questions before a guest would be scheduled and I thought it was a nuisance. But if this movement means anything to you (and it does to me), the bother is minimal. Get our story out in the open. That is our goal.

Another very important item is to have a list of available dates handy. Also, have a second person ready to take over in case your first person is out of town or is sick. Be prepared.

Finally, you should, after the appearance, send a letter of thanks and appreciation to the producer and talk show host. Be courteous and win support.

If you should want to schedule an appearance on a show that is out of state or will require a long distance phone call, send a letter. Include your phone number and any other information that you think will be helpful.

As you do this, you will find some stations are more eager to interview than others. There are rules for stations, such as one guest appearance a year, though this is rare. As large as we are, you would imagine that we would have more coverage; and we will have if we work at it--all of us, and all of the time. The adversary is doing everything possible to hurt our cause. The adversary being NAC, the agencies for the blind that do not like us, and groups of sighted that could care less about us or our needs.

Let's see how many shows we can be on on the local and national levels. I will continue to do my part, but I certainly cannot do it alone. Remember, the world is not going to ask us to tell our story. That is our job, and we must do it with dignity and earn respect.