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Making Connections/Building Alliances: Working with the Media to Support our Writing Programs

Darsie Bowden
(DePaul University)
Dominic Delli Carpini
(York College of PA)

This institute is designed to give WPAs hands-on practice working with local and national media toward framing and delivering messages that support the work of writing programs. Participants will leave this institute with concrete strategies for building alliances with media outlets and for putting a face upon our work that will be interesting to members of the wider public.

Since most of our day-to-day work is geared toward academic environments, we sometimes forget the importance of delivering messages to wider publics in ways that are framed for those audiences. An effective media strategy can help WPAs to build support for our efforts within the wider community, and to respond to media messages that are inaccurate, short-sighted, or uninformed. This session will help participants to build a public face for your writing program.

The morning session of this institute will offer a case study to help educate participants on ways to respond to media issues, to pivot from media depictions toward our own messages, and to work with the common interest of local and national stakeholders. Participants will be supplied in advance with materials on this common topic, and be asked to consider both the nature of media depictions of this topic and ways to re-frame our discipline’s knowledge base on the topic toward wider audiences. We will work together to create and frame positive and effective messages that would interest to media outlets and practice language styles that will allow for wider interest and consumption. We will also practice ways to respond to questions (including those by aggressive reporters or in “crisis” situations) in ways that are likely to have positive outcomes. And we will offer strategies for building ongoing relationships with local media representatives. Our focus will be on realistic situations we would be likely to face as WPAs.

Then, the remainder of the session will be devoted to working groups on specific issues that individual participants have faced, or anticipate facing in the near future. Participants will be asked to supply specific issues for discussion (which they have developed in advance of the institute) and to detail the salient surrounding circumstances. These individual issues will be workshopped, allowing participants to apply the principles from the first session to local circumstances. The approaches generated in working groups will then be critiqued by other participants and the conference facilitators. This process will allow each participant to leave the institute with focused strategies and concrete messages that can be put into effect in one’s own community.

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