on the media

Posted by on Sep 23, 2009 in Dirt, Research and Engagement | 7 Comments

This past week has been a very busy one for the Campus Archaeology Program. We began the process of putting together a press release about the confirming of the dates of the Sand Dune located behind Munn Ice Arena, and then also discovered the northeast corner of College Hall, the first academic building built on MSU’s campus. That process was fun and enjoyable: the people at University Relations were careful to make sure they understood every part of the story; they asked important questions; they even helped us take some photos that we needed done, and made a great video about our program. They were engaged in our work, and invested in our message.

Once the press release hit, things started to get a little bit crazy. Yesterday we did an interview with the Lansing State Journal, interviews with three television programs, and a radio spot on the MSU radio station. We have also been interviewed multiple times by the StateNews. Just this morning I received a telephone call from a radio reporter at an NPR station in Detroit. The results have been mixed: LSJ produced a fantastic story; much of the TV news coverage was cut short  (and rightly so) due to GMs big news; and one report was downright confusing (Sandwiches?).

What has been interesting for me is the relationship between the media and the people telling the story. In my first draft of this post, I made it sound as if the interpretations of the site’s importance were wrong…that wasn’t what I meant to say. There was a bit of misinformation out there, but there’s not much you can do about that. What was interesting was being a part of the process of what makes it in to the story and what doesn’t. Campus Archaeology tried to emphasize certain parts of the story, particularly the linkage between the Sand Dune’s historical component and its linkage to MSU and our Land Grant heritage. We also did our best to mention that we’d found the first building built on MSU’s campus. What was emphasized, however, was the fact that there was an old Dune on campus, not on the lake shore where everyone in Michigan typically think they would be. All true, all important, just not the whole story.

This is particularly interesting considering what I do for a living: I am particularly intrigued with the elements of history that don’t make it into the history books; the parts that aren’t recorded, and the process by which things are left out. Certainly, there is no comparison between this and the fact that enslaved African Americans were denied a voice. I’m not claiming there are any injustices that have been done here. It was, however, interesting to be a part of the process, however slight. I said a lot of things to a lot of people yesterday, and they had the opportunity to choose what was and wasn’t worth making public. That’s fine, I understand that they only had a certain amount of time to fill, and had to make it interesting to a wide audience. It was simply an interesting experience for me.

In all, I have learned a lot from the entire process. I think we (or at least I was) were somewhat surprised with the amount of coverage we ended up getting, and maybe could have been better prepared to emphasize certain elements in place of others. All in all, it has been a valuable experience; certainly one I would not have gotten with any other job I could have had during my time in graduate school.

  • Terry Brock

    Oh, I hope I didn't sound frustrated; that certainly wasn't the case. And certainly, some outlets did better than others. I certainly understand the perspective: what will get people to listen to this? It's just an interesting push and pull, and, in some regard a reality check: what we find interesting might not be interesting to the public. For example, I expected the College Hall thing to get more play, but people seem to be fascinated by the Sand Dune.I guess what is really interesting is how little control we have over the final project. Working with UR, we had a lot of opportunity: drafts were sent back and forth, we talked w you pretty regularly. With the News Media, particularly TV, it was different: they had the control over what made the air and what didn't. It was an interesting position to be in. And, in the end, educational. Will take into consideration that media training…than​ks!

  • Okay so I saw "Terry Brock" and then I saw "on the media" and when I first glanced I thought it said "Terry on the Block" lol

  • dad

    Good job, in any case. We’re periodically given “media training” on how to try to not get tripped up by reporters. It’s irritating in the sense that the basic message is that they _will_ try to get you to be negative, or combative, or something.

  • dad

    Good job, in any case. We’re periodically given “media training” on how to try to not get tripped up by reporters. It’s irritating in the sense that the basic message is that they _will_ try to get you to be negative, or combative, or something.

  • Terry, You did a great job telling your story in all of the media I saw. I understand your frustration with how it was portrayed by some outlets. Reporters and their producers are always thinking about what will draw in the most viewers. That sometimes mean using words like discovery and rare, and what the hell is up with the Freep? Just keep telling them what you them to know in different ways if you have to. University Relations does offers media training. It could help with your next big find. Just something to keep in mind.

  • Oh, I hope I didn't sound frustrated; that certainly wasn't the case. And certainly, some outlets did better than others. I certainly understand the perspective: what will get people to listen to this? It's just an interesting push and pull, and, in some regard a reality check: what we find interesting might not be interesting to the public. For example, I expected the College Hall thing to get more play, but people seem to be fascinated by the Sand Dune.I guess what is really interesting is how little control we have over the final project. Working with UR, we had a lot of opportunity: drafts were sent back and forth, we talked w you pretty regularly. With the News Media, particularly TV, it was different: they had the control over what made the air and what didn't. It was an interesting position to be in. And, in the end, educational. Will take into consideration that media training…thanks!