USING EXISTING MASS
Communities can make use of the mass media (newspapers, radio, TV. internet) to publicise
their own information, opinions and concerns to a large audience, and to influence people in
power. This may be achieved by approaching journalists with ideas for them to feature, or by
producing material for them to broadcast or print.
Advantages of Using Existing Mass Media
Mass media reaches very large audiences and is therefore an efficient means by
which community views and opinions can be widely publicised.
It can be inexpensive for the community if the media companies wish to feature their
How to use Existing Mass Media
When approaching media companies to
feature your community story, be very clear
about what opinions or issues you want
publicised. Be aware that professional
journalists might misunderstand the issues or
dramatise or exaggerate the story.
Consider using a press release. This
is a means by which to alert the
media of an event or experience
which you would like publicised. It
should be a concise and informative
written description of the issue. A
press release can be sent out to
Recording material for radio, Woldia, Ethiopia
several media organisations at once;
some may choose to follow-up with
Writing to Newspapers. Local newspapers are often pleased to be invited to report on
interesting issues or events, and will often send their own reporters to write the story.
Newspapers will also accept letters for consideration for inclusion in their letters
Radio (and TV). Radio stations are keen to get feedback from their listeners and local
or community stations are often actively looking for content to broadcast and are
likely to welcome community contributions. To be featured by larger broadcasting
organisations you will have to secure their interest in your idea. You can do this by
submitting a written idea or ideas recorded on a cassette tape.
A tape does not have to be broadcast quality but you should prepare the tape carefully, either
working from a script or to a prepared structure. Include interviews with relevant people if
appropriate. The aim is to spark an interest in the listener at the station so that they will want
to find out more.
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Using existing mass media
Address correspondence to the relevant person by name (you will need to find this out
in advance) and include your contact details.
Use a catchy title, put the most relevant information first and limit the length (one or
two pages of text or two minutes of audio tape).
The question prompts; What? Why? Who? When? Where? and How? May be used to
help you structure your ideas.
Constraints of Using Existing Mass Media
Mass media professionals, such as reporters, and editors can misinterpret or manipulate the
opinions and facts being expressed by community members. The resulting broadcast or article
may misrepresent the views of the community to a greater or lesser extent. Take care to make
sure that the media company has the correct information and will represent it accurately.
Real Life Story
Story of the Picos gets national coverage
When the Chief Executive Officer of Practical Action East Africa made a field visit to a
successful small scale (or Pico) hydropower project in Kenya’s Central Province, Practical
Action invited a reporter from a national newspaper along to cover the story.
The reporter from the Daily Nation agreed to accompany the visitors and to write an article
about the project and the local people. All that Practical Action had to do to secure this
national press coverage was to make the reporter’s travel and accommodation arrangements
prior to the visit.
The article was subsequently published in the
newspaper, and soon after the article
appeared, numerous inquires about the project
were received by Practical Action East Africa.
Some inquiries focused on how the project
could be replicated in other areas. These came
mainly from communities that had a desire to
access electricity and were living close to
An interesting request was also received from
a local journalist John Njoroge. John had read about the hydro projects in the newspaper
article and wanted to write a more detailed article for an international magazine; Appropriate
Technology. ‘I read with a lot of interest the story on small scale hydro-electricity generation
and have now visited the project sites. I am now writing a story on these projects for the
Appropriate Technology Magazine based in UK'.
As a result of the national coverage therefore, the project went on to reach an international
Real Life Story, Practical Action East Africa 2003.
Storytelling Practical Action Technical Brief
Community/Street drama Practical Action Technical Brief
Exposure Visits Practical Action Technical Brief
Posters Practical Action Technical Brief
Information, Communication, Learning selection of Practical Action Technical Briefs
Public Gatherings Practical Action Technical Brief
Podcasting: Recording and Using Local Voices for Knowledge Sharing Practical Action Brief
Newsletters and Booklets Practical Action Technical Brief
Using existing mass media
Wall Newspapers Practical Action Technical Brief
The Schumacher Centre
Rugby, Warwickshire, CV23 9QZ
Tel: +44 (0)1926 634400
Fax: +44 (0)1926 634401
This document is based on the Micro Media Card Pack: A Tool Kit for Community
Development Workers produced by Practical Action in October 2003. Reproduced
as a Technical Brief in October 2007
Practical Action is a development charity with a difference. We know the simplest ideas can have the
most profound, life-changing effect on poor people across the world. For over 40 years, we have been
working closely with some of the world’s poorest people - using simple technology to fight poverty and
transform their lives for the better. We currently work in 15 countries in Africa, South Asia and Latin