Talking with a reporter presents both an opportunity to be heard and the possibility of being harmed. For example, if your friends or family see your name and/or picture associated with sex work, they might become angry or embarrassed and take out their feelings on you.
Furthermore, you can become the target of people who are opposed to the sex industry or who are abusers or stalkers. You are taking a risk by allowing someone else to interpret and publish your commentary and picture. This is true for anyone who appears in the media.
You are under no obligation to talk to a reporter. It’s your choice. Reporters can be extremely persistent when they want to talk with you.
Don’t bother telling them why you don’t want to talk to them – they have heard it all and they will have answers for all your arguments. Just continue to say, “No thank you.” If they won’t give up, move off or hang up, or appeal to the club owner for assistance. If you hang up, don’t be surprised if they call you right back. Just say, “no thanks,” and hang up again.
If you are not concerned about anyone identifying you, keep in mind that the media often misrepresents sex workers. Reporters see the world through their own discriminating perspectives. Even when a reporter is trying to fairly represent your views, there is always a danger that you will have your words twisted.
Feel free to ask the reporter not to portray you in a stereotypical way. Most journalists feel a duty to provide accurate news. However, they also have a tendency to sensationalize our issues.
The most important things to remember when talking to reporters are:
- Ask the reporter to explain to you what the story is about and who else is being interviewed.
- Know what you want your message to be and stick to the message, no matter what questions are asked.
- Stand tall and look the reporter in the eye. You have an important perspective and a right to be heard.
Whenever you feel that a reporter has misquoted or misrepresented you or your issue, you should call that reporter to discuss your concerns (that’s where getting the business card comes in handy). As with clients, one of the things you are trying to do with reporters is build a relationship. A better relationship means better coverage of your concerns in the future.
When you call, be polite, but firm and talk about the specific things that are inaccurate or unfair. Most reporters will give you a hearing and treat your concerns with respect. If they are rude or disrespectful, you have the option of speaking with their editor. Building a good relationship with a reporter means that you will be added to their contact list. They will phone you for comments on other stories related to your work.
If a certain reporter is clearly biased against sex industry work, refuse to work with him or her. You don’t need the abuse.
Learning Media Skills
If you decide you want to speak to reporters and feel more confident when you do so, contact an organization you respect and ask them to arrange a media training session for sex industry workers or community members.