Many conservatives resisted the advice -- they felt that they were just playing into their enemy's hands. But Republican PR people correctly explained that talking to reporters, even hostile ones, at least gave you a chance to give your side. Over time, if you were straight with a reporter, gave them what they needed, helped them meet their deadlines and so on, they might warm to you and at least give you a fair break.
This was very good advice, which I have always followed. There have been a number of occasions where I think I was able to talk a reporter out of some incorrect line that he had been given from a liberal source. I've even gotten a few favorable stories by giving a reporter solid facts and analyses that supported some point I was making.
Over the course of many years, I think I've earned the trust of a few top reporters at papers considered by conservatives to have a strong liberal bias. They will now take my word for things because I've never steered them wrong. These reporters have also told me of other people on both sides of the political spectrum that they will never trust or give a break to because they have lied or intentionally misled them.
The problem for those on the left these days is that during the long period when there was a pronounced liberal bias in the media, they got lazy. They just assumed that the major media would automatically take their side, do hit jobs on conservatives and basically do their job for them. By contrast, conservatives have always had to contend with an adversarial media and thus learned better media skills and techniques in order to compensate.
I would advise my liberal friends to stop whining about media bias. You had a free ride for a long time, and now it's over. Get used to it, and learn how to use the media. Take a page from the conservative handbook and go around it. Figure out why talk radio works for conservatives and why it has been a dismal failure for liberals. Learn how to marshal facts and make cogent arguments instead of haranguing people and using ad hominem attacks to smear those who disagree. It's got to work better than what you are doing now.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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