Time to be Proactive and Educate The Media by Steve Chase
I just took one for the team by watching the infamous Ellen Hahn interview again.
It is just as reprehensible and disgusting as I remembered. I had visions of Jack Nicholson choking Nurse Ratched but a little nicotine calmed me back down. Don’t get me wrong I think Ellen Hahn is a despicable individual but since she is a professional spin-doctor I expect sensationalism and lies from her. The major problem I have with this interview lies with the television station that produced it. It seems obvious to me that Ms. Hahn’s organization initiated the idea for this interview and from her point of view it was a splendid success. The correspondent was pitching softballs and lapping up every response like they were gospel. The reporter and the station were being played like a Stradivarius and didn’t care that their integrity was on the line. Clueless, used, irresponsible, incompetent…take your pick.
It is the responsibility of any news organization to have qualified reporters who have the skills and knowledge to conduct an interview. Someone who has done their homework so that they will know the difference between facts and mule muffins. No research or fact checking here though…apparently all that is needed with this station is a title from a government agency and a guest can say anything they want and the validity of what they are saying is beyond question. The pitiful thing is that it is the same throughout the media…and even worse, they are giving credibility to shills whose existence relies on the advertising arm of the pharmaceutical industry.
Let’s give credit where credit is due, big pharma knows how to play offense very well. By funding humanitarian named advocacy groups they buy their way into credibility and at the same time are able to hide under the radar. The average citizen never sees what’s going on behind the scenes. All they see is a benevolence organization with a name like “ Keeping Children Safe from Smoking” and their message is “We just want to help you to quit smoking and we recommend only FDA approved products to accomplish that”. Unless average Joe takes an extraordinary step and does a little research for funding sources they have no idea that these organizations are being propped up by drug companies. The message they are receiving is really a commercial designed to let zealots peddle their products for them and vilify almost any other option.
I also have to give a big thumbs up to the Vapor community for the defensive effort that is displayed every time one of these hit pieces sees the light of day. The response is fast, numerous and spot on. However, my concern is that while the average Joe citizen might watch the original report, chances are pretty good that he will never read the responses. It’s time to quit playing defense and go proactive and try to educate the media before the anti-ecig groups contact them.
The chances are slim to none that a reporter is going to confront me out of the blue and ask my opinion about vaping. That’s probably a good thing because I would clam up and look like a deer in headlights. But let’s suppose it happened…I see myself better suited as being a source of information for this reporter and not someone to put on camera. I definitely want to take advantage of this opportunity however and I would want to turn the tables and interview the interviewer. I want to understand their motives and to make sure they have a clear understanding about electronic cigarettes and Tobacco Harm Reduction. My hope is that they will take note of the following questions and follow up with some thorough research.
1- What prompted this story? The newsroom or an outside source?
2- What is your knowledge about the product and what are your sources of information?
3- Do you plan to interview local health care professionals or bureaucrats that have the
credentials to speak on the subject?
4- Are you aware of CASAA or anyone on a national level with expert knowledge
about ecigarettes and Tobacco Harm Reduction?
5- Are you aware of the testing that has been done over the past several years?
6- Are you aware of the cost and success rate of FDA approved cessation
products…and the same for electronic cigarettes?
7- What are your thoughts about Chantix?
8- Have you ever considered that big pharma sees the ecig as a competitor?
9- Are you aware that government and big pharma are the funding source for most of
the advocacy groups that are trying to ban electronic cigarettes?
10- Would you like the names of local people who have had success converting from
smoking to using electronic cigarettes?
Since the chances are pretty slim that the above scenario will happen all by itself, what can we do to preempt the issue? We can take the initiative and do just what the big pharma/advocacy groups have been doing and contact the media before they consider a story about vaping. By getting to the press in advance the chances are much better to get the whole truth out.
I wish I could tell you that I have had great success with this strategy. I have not…yet. I have contacted several media outlets in my city and so far there doesn’t appear to be much interest. In a strange way I see that as a positive sign that the people in my area don’t see ecigs as a problem…but I am sure that will change. I have no doubt that sooner or later the ANTZ will start up a campaign and my contacts with the media will finally pay off. Now they will have information from the positive side of the issue and be able to question the misinformation they are receiving from the “ban” wagon crowd.
The bottom line: Go proactive with the issue. We have seen time and time again how inept the media is and if we want fair treatment we need to educate them BEFORE the damage is done.