Pressing Matters - Dealing with the media

The media affects how we look at things and influences our opinions. When it comes to M.E., the radio, newspapers and television can influence the way people think about those of us who have the disease. Realistic media coverage is important in gaining recognition of our illness so here are a few tips:

If someone you know is organising an event (anything from a request for used stamps to a sponsored lorry pull), send all the relevant details such as time, place and contact number to local newsletters or radio in plenty of time. When M.E. is mentioned, however briefly, it helps to raise the profile of the illness. You could also ask if they would like a photo or more detailed information.

Most papers print letters from members of the public. Bear in mind that these are often edited and that national newspapers receive a lot more than they can print. When you read a good article on M.E. it can be followed up with a letter of appreciation, either to the letters page or the individual journalist c/o the newspaper. If, on the other hand, you wish to criticise an article, it is important to be courteous. Try to be constructive and factual rather than angry.

Some M.E. organisations (including local groups) like to have the details of people who are willing to talk to the media. Before an interview, let the journalist know approximately how long they can expect to be able to talk to you. Remember that your energy will probably be used on nerves and adrenalin, as well as the interview itself. I have found the effect of adrenalin one of the hardest things about being interviewed: it is useful for summoning up maximum concentration, but can cause difficulty in resting afterwards. Take your time, especially over difficult questions. I often find that when asked to describe my symptoms I forget to mention several important ones. Although on the whole I haven't found it helpful to plan much beforehand, as I don't know what they will ask, I have benefited from preparing for this particular question. Newspapers are often willing to print contact details of local and/or national M.E. groups so do provide the information.

All the experiences that I have had with the media have been positive. It can be nerve- racking, but it is exciting as well. A few sentences have made me squirm, but overall I have been pleased with every single item. The journalists have without exception been very understanding and appreciative of the energy I was putting in. I didn't expect to benefit personally, so I have been pleased to find that I am more able to talk confidently about my illness now, and I even experienced an increased understanding from my social services carer!

ZoŽ Williams
This article was printed in Tymes magazine Issue 24 Spring 1998