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What does it take for activists to get your attention?

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Charlotte, NC - September 25: A demonstrator uses a bullhorn outside of Bank of America Stadium before an NFL football game between the Charlotte Panthers and the Minnesota Vikings September 25, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.. Protests have disrupted the city since Tuesday night following the shooting of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott at an apartment complex near UNC Charlotte. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Activists are small players in the struggle for attention, which is controlled largely by advertisers. But there are ways to resist and redirect attentions.

Brian Martin, Waging Nonviolence 

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April 8, 2017For major protests today, it is standard to have a media strategy. For example, there can be individuals assigned to media liaison. The location and timing of an action can be chosen with an eye toward media schedules. Some actions are designed specifically to attract media attention.

However, there are many factors that complicate activist efforts to reach the mass media. Major outlets choose what to report based on news values such as conflict, prominence and proximity. A politician will be quoted rather than an activist, and a scuffle at a rally will be reported rather than what the protest is actually about.

Brian Martin is professor of social sciences at the University of Wollongong, Australia and vice president of Whistleblowers Australia. He is the author of 14 books and hundreds of articles on dissent, nonviolence, scientific controversies, democracy and other topics.

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