About a week ago I had 2 seconds of fame. I was at my desk finishing some notes for our enviro group when I received a call from the roving reporter from Channel Nine National News. That's CNNN not CNNNN.
She said 'I am in a helicopter hovering over the dead whale at Thunderpoint. Would you like to comment?' I said, ' Helicopter? Dead whale? Me?'
She explained that they were looking for a local environmentalist's perspective on the death of the whale and on the vandals who had stood on its carcass pretending to surf it and posted photos of the event on you tube.
I was taken by surprise but thought it might be a good opportunity to raise awareness about the effects that seismic testing and drilling for gas off our coast was having on whales and other sea animals who rely on sonar for migration.
When we met in Liebig St. I was faced with a camera and mic and she interviewed me for twenty minutes on the death of the whale. I didn't say that I knew exactly how the whale had died but rather, that the whale could easily have died because of seismic testing all along our coast and further out to sea.
Then she asked me what I thought of the vandals. 'Vandals?' I asked. She explained that the vandals on You Tube had caused an uproar and what did I think of the way they had desecrated the whale. I said I had no opinion on the vandals and that I was sure the authorities would deal with them appropriately.
She then asked me about the importance of whales to the local tourism industry. Each year we are visited by Southern Right whales who either give birth or nurse their young here in the ocean of the coast of Warrnambool. Many thousands of tourists come to us annually to watch the whales and their calves in the Lady Bay.
There was a silence and then I said 'Well, tourism is huge here in Warrnambool and we must be looking after and respecting our sea creatures because we depend on them for local revenue.'
And so, after a twenty minute interview, which two seconds was broadcasted around Australia? You guessed it. The two seconds about the vandals in which I was not actually talking about the vandals. Channel Nine wanted vandals so Channel Nine got vandals.
So next time you see any of our wonderful Green politicians on TV and they have two seconds to respond to a question, know that there is probably a twenty minute interview not being shown and their words are more than likely being taken out of context to fit the spin of the story.
The best two second bite I have heard was from Marcus Ward, our lead upper house candidate in the passed few Victorian elections. He was asked 'What's your response to those who say that Green policies are too extreme?' Marcus's face lit up and he said ' I say yes. They are EXTREMELY GOOD!'
What is spin anyway? I believe, it is when what you would like to say isn't necessarily what you can say or it is taking someone elses words and using them out of context to support your story.
So, how does one use the media to best advantage? You must be extremely adept at thinking on your feet and try to spin it right back at them. If, like me, you're not born with such skills, it takes very much practice to develop them. Bob Brown has become the king of frisbee spin. Now he's retired and using his hard earned skills as an activist. Richard Di Natale seems to be a natural and Christine Milne practices it with steely determination.
I love the Greens.