By Laura Echevarria, National Right to Life Director of Communications and Press Secretary
Editor’s note. This appeared in the January digital edition of National Right to Life News. I trust that you are forwarding your favorite stories to your pro-life family and friends. Please send me any of your comments to email@example.com.
From American Heritage Dictionary
3. communications (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
a. The art and technique of using words effectively to impart information or ideas.
b. The field of study concerned with the transmission of information by various means, such as print or broadcasting.
c. Any of various professions involved with the transmission of information, such as advertising, broadcasting, or journalism.
Communications is a complex process but at its most basic it is simply presenting or transmitting information from a sender to a receiver. NRLC is busy educating the public with our message of love for both mother and unborn child which means we work with reporters from many and varied outlets.
Of course, it’s not simple. Filters, such as a writer’s bias, the editors who edit the story, or television/radio producers who only interview certain people or organizations—or maybe they only ask loaded questions—all can and do influence what ultimately gets sent out to the public.
The Communications Department here at National Right to Life focuses on communicating our pro-life message to people all across the United States and around the world. We are the sender and a worldwide audience is our receivers.
After forty+ years, we understand that it is foolish to place our spokespersons in situations where they can’t possibly express their opinion fully and without having a fair chance to make our argument without constant interference.
For example, what sense would it make to book a spokesperson on a show where the host is known for interrupting and talking over guests he or she may disagree with? Of course, we’re not talking about every overly talkative host who disagrees with us, but it does apply to a handful who are determined not to give us a fair shake.
For whatever reason or whatever motivation, newspaper articles do misrepresent our position on an issue or misrepresent the organization. This must be handled directly. For example, if a reporter characterizes National Right to Life as an organization that cares only about abortion, the role of the Communications Department is to help the reporter realize that NRLC, from its very origins, has vigorously fought again euthanasia.
Several years ago, we had a newspaper explicitly state that National Right to Life had only recently become involved in end-of-life issues. Communications staff patiently explained that this was not new terrain for us. The reporter and the editor, however, refused to believe us and demanded proof in order for us to get a correction.
That was easy to demonstrate. We simply made copies of some of the earliest NRL News articles from the 1970s (including the very first issue) that flatly demonstrated NRLC’s opposition to euthanasia. (Assisted suicide was not an issue in those days.) We sent copies of those articles to the editor and the reporter who’d written the story. About a week after the initial story ran, we received a correction, but it was astonishing to see how both reporter and the editor “knew” they knew our position on these issues better than we did!
Today’s communication world is vastly more complicated and much, much more fast-paced. NRLC utilizes every outlet, from traditional press releases to tweets on Twitter to Facebook posts, to name just three. In some ways, communication in today’s world is more direct than it was in the past but barriers and filters still exist.
With social media, there is no filter but individuals may block messages they disagree with. Press releases can go out to hundreds of reporters but only 15% may actually open the email. The challenge is always getting as much accurate information to as many people as we can with the least amount of interference.
Whether it be NRLC’s Communications Department or one of NRLC’s 3,000 state affiliates, it is vital to continue to send information to the press (and therefore, hopefully, to the public) promoting the right to life, explaining the humanity of the unborn child, and defending the elderly and those with disabilities who are often considered less “worthy” of life.
We—all pro-lifers—do so in the hope and expectation that when people are exposed to the truth, recognize it, and embrace it, it will hasten the day legal protection is returned to unborn children.