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e-mail: beth@ebcxm.com
Lower Hutt, New Zealand

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University essay written in 2004, for a Media Studies paper.   Graded B+.

Brief Note:

This was written as a report on a mock press conference held during a Media Studies university lecture.

Media Strategies 101

The ways to organise a successful environmental campaign were outlined during a lecture this week, attended by MDIA 304 – Journalism students.

Media Studies students at Victoria University, Wellington, were treated to a mock-press conference last Thursday.   Dr Sean Weaver, formerly Education Officer for Native Forest Action, took the opportunity to reveal NFA’s media strategy for their anti-native logging campaign in the late 1990s.

To educate and inform the broader public the NFA needed to get their message out, to public and government alike.   The best way to do this was to attract the attention of the news media, and making a ‘spectacle’ is the easiest way to achieve that.   Something dramatic needed to happen for the media to be interested, Weaver explained.

While Dr Weaver admitted there are other ways to communicate to the public and decision makers of the country; for example writing a letter to the local minister.   He pointed out that letters could be ignored easily, but once on television it is much harder to ignore.   The public is aware of the issue, and new supporters will hopefully be drawn in, to increase the pressure on the government.

Dr Weaver informed the students that it was also necessary for the NFA to make sure the media was informed in advance of their plans.   And at other times the actions were scheduled in remote locations, too costly and time consuming for the media to cover.   In this case it became common for the NFA to film these actions themselves, with broadcast quality equipment, and courier the tape to the news desks in time for the six o’clock news.

Another crucial aspect to the success of the NFA campaign was keeping to their non-violence creed.   If the actions turned violent the organisation would risk alienating the public, and wipe out any credibility the campaign had.   To this end it became necessary for the NFA to film all their actions, to have a record of their actions in case events did turn ugly they had evidence of their part, proving they were not responsible.

Dr Weaver joined the Native Forest Action in April 1998, after returning to New Zealand from Fiji, where he had worked with locals and conservationist on environmental issues.   Upon his return he saw a need to bring conservationists together with the West Coast residents, to convince the government to re-think the logging policy of the time.  

Now lecturing in Environmental Studies Lecturer at Victoria, Dr Weaver reasoned that “The locals are not the enemy of nature”, and went on to talk about the marginalized economy of the West Coast.   He explained that most of the resources from the West Coast were taken to other regions for manufacturing and developing, leaving the West Coast with a low employment rate.   This made it understandable that the residents were loathe to lose yet another source of employment in their region; logging.  

At the same time Dr Weaver clarified why saving these lowland rainforests was so important.   The lowland forests are more accessible; the average person can walk and enjoy some of the country’s best scenery, whereas to hike highland forests, a higher level of fitness is needed, among other things.

Taking into account all the aspects to the issue, and the steps the NFA took, Dr Weaver felt they ran a successful campaign, the media coverage helping to make the issue a national one, instead of just regional; people across the country joined the NFA, some actively supporting the campaign.   And the success became more evident in 2000, when the government ceased logging of native forests in New Zealand.

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