Conglomeration is shrinking the number of dailies, so that most cities support only one main metropolitan paper. There are very few afternoon papers left, so newspapers are often reporting stories broken the day before by TV and radio. This can work against action coverage – what seems exciting on live radio or TV may be shrugged off by the newspaper as old news.
As breaking stories, actions are usually covered by a general assignments (GA) reporter. GAs are versatile, but don’t expect them to know much about environmental issues. They’ll focus more on the police aspects of the action – what laws are you breaking, who got arrested – all the more reason to refine and deliver a simple, unmistakable message.
Is a picture worth a thousand words? Yes: A dramatic newspaper photo of your action will draw many more readers than an article – and the wire services may pick it up and move it around the world.
An essential step in planning your action is to work backwards from the photograph you’d like to see in the next day’s paper. (This imagery should ideally translate well to television.) Ask yourself: If the only coverage of this action is one wire service photo, what single image will best convey our message? Consider everything: lighting, camera angle, visibility of the target, size of the banner, even the clothes your activists are wearing. In the absence of a banner, effective messages can be delivered by symbolic costumes.