Human Rights Practitioners Coached in Media Strategies
February 4, 2016

Rebecca Hamilton (front) Coaching Human Rights practitioners and students on Media Strategies.

Rebecca Hamilton (front) with participants at “Skills-Building Session: Media Strategies for Human Rights Practitioners”.

On Wednesday February 3, Bec Hamilton, Deputy Director of the Robert L. Bernstein Institute for Human Rights and a Research Fellow at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ), coached participants with strategies and techniques for attracting media interest in their work as human rights practitioners. The session was part of a series of inter-disciplinary skill-building sessions jointly organized by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) in collaboration with the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and the Robert L. Bernstein Institute for Human Rights. The purpose of this series is to enhance the practical skills of NYU law students interested in pursuing public interest careers and non-traditional lawyering jobs.

Because so much of the work that human rights advocates do relies on narratives, the workshop sought to explore when drawing media attention to a human rights story helps and when it hurts. Hamilton addressed the role that media can play both in informing the general public and in informing policy-makers. She also explored the potential role of grassroots journalists and social media in bringing human rights cases to light while demonstrating to participants ways to navigate through media traps meant to divert one’s attention away from the human rights component.

Throughout the workshop the facilitator mainstreamed attention to complex ethical issues and explored the balance between ‘newsworthiness’ and rigorous reporting on human rights issues, offering participants useful strategies to go against the reigning paradigm of sensationalism in journalistic writing. She also addressed negotiating strategies with editors and suggested a two-track strategy of going with the existing paradigms in order to get one’s story out while at the same time trying to influence the way editors think about what the general audience should read.

Finally, she also stressed the importance of setting up websites, being active on twitter, writing blog posts and contacting wires in order to get a story ‘picked up’. The likelihood of reaching media agencies through social media engagement has increased particularly as newspapers limit their foreign correspondents and increasingly search for alternative news sources.


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