Occupy the Media: If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

Lisa De Pasquale

11/8/2012 12:52:00 PM - Lisa De Pasquale
For the next few weeks pundits, political consultants, activists and everyone else will be offering their reasons for why Republicans not only lost the presidential election, but several important Senate and House seats. Republicans of every stripe lost, so I don’t see this as a tea party versus the establishment scenario. People smarter and with more experience in electoral politics will talk about the candidates’ flaws and demographic realities. However, in seeing the exit polls and talking to friends who are not politically-inclined, one thing became clear to me: The media defined this election.

For many years conservatives have worked against the liberal media by calling out their bias and starting successful alternatives. These are all great as supplements, but last night showed that we’re just talking to one another. The majority of Americans still get their news from the basic cable networks and their local TV, radio and newspapers.

I’ve been working for non-profit organizations in the D.C. area for over 13 years. I’ve met a lot of great conservative students who want to make a difference. Many of them are inspired by famous conservatives like Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity, two people I also admire. However, we have enough people wanting to be Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity. We need more conservatives in the trenches of the mainstream media and Hollywood.

I implore all conservative college students interested in a career in media to ignore the short-term fame that comes from conservative punditry and instead pursue a career in the mainstream media. It won’t be easy, but this is the best thing you can do for the future of our country. Learn about TV and radio production. Learn about the basics of journalism. Learn about film production. Rather than come to D.C. for an unpaid internship at a conservative outlet or public policy organization, intern at your local newspaper, TV or radio station. Pad your resume with as much media experience you can and then seek out the jobs we need to start filling in the newsrooms – producers, engineers, guest bookers, graphic designers, on-air anchors, editors, and reporters. These are the people who decide whether to do a segment on a business closed by Bain Capital. They decide whether the Benghazi terrorist attack deserves a few sentences in the middle of an evening broadcast or the resources to do an in-depth segment. They decide whether we hear stories about small businesses struggling because of increase regulations and tax burdens or on people not having access to health care. They book guests on the topics featured. They decide how much time is spent on each segment. They design info graphics and write the chyron text on the bottom of the screen during the broadcast. And America watches.

There will be days when you’ll be miserable and surrounded by people who don’t hold the same values you do. Suck it up. Many on the left spent years working in the media trenches making less money than you will now because they knew it was important to advance their worldview. We need a seat at the table and the best way to do that is to learn the craft and participate at their level. We won’t win every battle, but we have to engage.

If you’re on board for occupying the media, tailor your resume to the skills they’re looking for in an employee. Stop writing op-eds for your school newspapers and start writing news articles about school events. Intern at local radio and TV stations and learn how editorial and production decisions get made. Brush up on local issues, not just national issues. Then, start looking for a job in the medium that interests you. Most networks and newspapers have a “Job Opportunities” section on their websites. Another good resource is the MediaBistro.com job board, as well as the BradTraverse.com job list. You may not start off at a major network or affiliate, so be realistic about your experience and skills and be willing to apply for production assistant and other lower on the totem pole positions. Often they don’t pay any less than legislative assistant or program assistant jobs in the political world.

Once you’re in the newsroom, bring ideas, scoops on new stories, and different angles on stories already being covered. If it doesn’t make the cut for on-air inclusion, ask about web-exclusive content. Be pro-active and don’t get discouraged. No matter an individual’s personal views, your ideas will get vetoed more often than not.

Occupying the media isn’t about being a Trojan horse for the conservative cause. It’s about doing the real work that the media needs to operate. It’s about having a seat the table. Like it or not, the non-Fox News media defines what issues many Americans think are important. We can’t appeal to the media as pundits, but as newsmen and women. It’s time to stop talking to ourselves and engage in the newsroom.