Simon Chapman, professor of public health at the University of Sydney (and a colleague of Croakey’s), is a whizz at media advocacy, which has been defined as the “strategic use of mass media to advance a social or public policy initiative”.
Below is an email he sent colleagues today describing his most recent success in garnering headlines for tobacco control. I am reproducing it, with his permission, because I thought it might be of interest to a broader audience:
“I have a grant with the Cancer Institute to try and increase news media coverage of tobacco issues. Each week Ross Mackenzie and I comb through recently published research and other sources to find candidate items that are likely to be newsworthy and have potential to advance a policy agenda in tobacco control.
Last week we found a Dutch researcher – an artist – who had traced the uses to which a pig is put after slaughter. There were 185 uses. One of these was that porcine haemoglobin is used in the manufacture of cigarette filters. We issued this press release.
As you will see, we used the news as a platform to raise the issue of tobacco ingredients being unregulated, the industry being free to include anything legal in their products and consumers being kept in the dark.
The rest, as they say in the classics, is history. Today a google search of “pig blood cigarette” returns 1,120,000 hits. Millions of people globally would have been exposed to this by now. The Turkish Ministry of Health in investigating and the Mufti of Selangor has called for a government probe.
I have had non-stop emails from all over the world, and appeared on Israeli television with translation into Hebrew.
Arising from this, is the issue of how the story has become twisted as it is re-told by different journalists. We are documenting this for a paper on the diffusion of news.”