On being a media source

I've been attending and organizing protests since late 2003. By 2007-2008, I was leading them. 

That means I've spent a solid 15 years talking to the media.

In the last decade, I've averaged 100s of them a year. 

Even though I originally applied to Carleton for journalism and media studies, I hated it and switched to Women's Studies and Canadian Studies. 

I have zero formal media training. Zero.

But practice makes perfect and I've had a lot of practice.

And as any ballerina or stand-up comedian will tell you - making it look easy is a sign of being good at your job.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that views visibility as currency. We think "paying people in exposure" is a legitimate form of payment and we think that every time we see someone in the media, that's a cheque in their pocket.

Nah, babe. Not even close.

This is what being a media source really entails: 

- Unless I am organizing something and am named on a press release, I do not solicit media. They come to me. This could be "I/my colleague have interviewed you before and have a similar request" or "I saw you say something interesting on Twitter". I say no to lots of things that aren't my purview and always refer to women I know who are better positioned instead. 

- Being ready at the drop of a hat to meet up with a journalist in studio, on the phone or on location. I can't let people come to my house, so it's always a scramble to find a location if they want to come to me. They will tell you they're accommodating but they rarely are.  You gotta get there and you gotta get there quick.

- Being flexible and damn good at improv. I've done live media interviews in countess cars; in alleyways; in the shower; in the closet of an office building; with my cat screaming in the background; with a construction crew replacing the windows in my bedroom. I have lost all ability to feel shame and my years on the high school improv team has allowed me to just barrel through distractions. 

- If it's TV or print, you better be feeling fly because there's no makeup, wardrobe or hair. I've had my makeup done for media twice in the literal hundreds of times I've done it. (FUN FACT: Both times were for Radio-Canada. French media is vain media AND I AM HERE FOR IT.)

Sometimes, a photographer takes a couple pictures and you have no idea that the media monopoly means multiple outlets now own those photos and so those photos show up again and again and again. Which has happened to me twice and in both cases, I wasn't expecting it; was wearing no makeup; had barely brushed my hair; was not prepared. And these photos showed up EVERYWHERE for fucking yeaaaaaaars. 

This series of photos ended up being the inspiration for my logo because I figured if I couldn't run from it, might as well lean in.

 

- If you're coming in studio, you might get your parking validated (if you can find a parking spot). I've never had my bus ticket or cab fare reimbursed.

I have never, ever, EVER been paid for doing media. Not once. I've done literal hours in a row of live radio interviews (what's called Syndication), I've spent literal hours in a row in the CBC studio, running from one outlet to another (and one language to another) with no cheque or compensation. The only media I've ever been paid to do is writing, because it's freelance writing and that's how that shit works. But if you've ever seen me on TV or in the paper, my ass was volunteering. 

And then sometimes you follow all these steps and your story gets bumped. Or you rearrange your whole day to come to their studio and they send you a quick e-mail to say "We're going in a different direction." That happens a lot, too. 

Some petty folks who have never been through this process have complained that I have no right to say media work is hard or thankless because it's a choice. Some take it a step further and say that I have no right to complain when I'm hogging the mic from others. 

I am a public educator. I understand at a fundamental level that there is no bigger educator on social issues than the media. We don't talk about sexual violence, violence against women, ageism and poverty, abortion access, etc in schools. And even when we do, it's piece meal and a patchwork of progressive educators. It's not system wide. But if people like me fight hard, we might get it into the media and the media can be a conduit for our message.

I believe in doing media because the media is the biggest educator we have so why not use it? 

I am confident in my ability as a messenger. I only accept interviews on topics where I'm well versed. I stay in my lane. 

But I get a lot of questions about what it means to be in this role and a lot of misconceptions. Remember: Seeing me in the media doesn't mean I'm making bank. Chances are that I lost money. Not to mention how I had to endure Tweets, e-mails and a comment section from hell. That's the added free bonus. Woo! 

And that, my friends, is how the proverbial sausage gets made. 

So if you're a consumer - Be kind.

And if you're the media - Be kind, too. And grateful.