|A Media Handbook for HIV Vaccine Trials for Africa (UNAIDS, 2001, 45 p.)|
In most news organizations, the editorial meeting is the most crucial activity of the day's business. It is usually a round table format with only two items on the table: copies of yesterday's news bulletin (or newspaper, videotape or audio cassette as the case may be) and the assignment register (the book in which the day's assignments are listed and in which invitation notices to news conferences are listed and kept. It is at this meeting that oversights, mistakes and errors in yesterday's newscasts or publications are discussed.
This meeting is critical to your communications efforts: this is where reporters are assigned to cover the news of the day. Fortunately, several media organizations have at least one science/health reporter, so you may already have a well-trained science writer who has an interest in vaccine work. If not, you should still work with whoever routinely covers science and HIV/AIDS stories - even if such reporters cover other 'beats',8 too. Your task is to make these writers see the value in your work, that is, why it is important to society. The science reporter/writer is your first ally; if you lose her/him, your chances of getting your message across, and developing public goodwill, become more difficult.
8 'Beats' is how journalists describe their routine work. Accordingly, the HIV/AIDS writer is on the science beat; the reporter who covers soccer, baseball and swimming is on the sports beat.