Here at LightBox, we usually argue that media is not an audience – they’re a conduit to reach your audience. Generally, the people who can help make the change you’re seeking are the focus of your communications efforts, and earning media coverage is but one way you can reach them.

But the exception is when your goal is to reframe how an issue is covered, and next week in the Bay Area is one of those exceptions.

On June 29, over 30 media outlets around the Bay – TV, radio, print, and digital – will devote at least a portion of their news coverage to the issue of homelessness. The San Francisco Chronicle will spend a week on the topic. Said Audrey Cooper, Chron Editor in Chief, in this New York Times piece on the event, “You will not be able to log onto Facebook, turn on the radio, watch TV, read a newspaper, log onto Twitter without seeing a story about the causes and solutions to homelessness.”

Unfortunately, The New York Times piece itself does a poor job of framing the issue, kicking off the article talking about how homelessness is a problem for people who have to encounter “clumps of humanity sleeping on sidewalks.” (This Salon piece does a good job demolishing the Times’ angle.) Personally, I hope this media spotlight is an opportunity to reframe homelessness in connection to the housing crisis we face in the Bay. Homelessness is not a problem to be solved by doing something about “those people;” it’s a result, at least in part, of the area’s extreme shortage of affordable housing.

While some outlets will simply be on the lookout for good stories, the Chron will explore solutions – something that’s unfortunately all too rare in everyday coverage. The Solutions Journalism Network – a professional organization for journalists interested in chronicling solutions to society’s problems – has a great list of pointers for smart and accurate coverage on homelessness, inspired by this day of coverage. It’s a great opportunity for advocates to put forth your solutions. How can you engage with this day of coverage?

  • If you’re part of a Bay Area-based organization working on homelessness or housing, by all means, reach out to reporters now to tell them about your angle. And check out our mad-lib style tool for help preparing your pitch.
  • Do some research first to increase your chances of finding the right reporter. The Chron and KQED News are leading the effort, but lots of other outlets have signed up to share content and resources. You can search most media websites for keywords to see who’s covered a topic recently.
  • Whether you’re in the Bay Area or beyond, use this day’s coverage as great fodder for your own communications channels, including blog posts and social media commentary. Expect at least a couple of hashtags to spring up that day. You could even consider hosting your own Twitter chat to draw the conversation in the direction you’d like.

Most importantly, June 29 is an experiment in shifting the conversation from problems to a focus on the ideas, people, and organizations who can solve them.

Post image courtesy of Boise Weekly. 

isobelIsobel White is a LightBox Collaborator who wishes all days were like June 29, with a spotlight for all the issues she cares about!