Put yourself in the shoes of a presenter, reporter or editor. They are more receptive to constructive criticism than they are to pressure. Don’t just demand that the media promote Islam and Muslim images — but rather, to be factual, impartial, and honest. Always ask yourself what would make the report better? Show the news agency not only what’s wrong with their story, but how there is a more balanced alternative. One way to do this is by showing how their competitors reported the story more fairly. This is the difference between complaining and constructive criticism.

1) Be quick. Respond while the issue is still fresh. Ideally, try to send your letter within 24 hours of publication of the article.

2) Be clear. If you cannot summarize your message in one or two sentences, it’s not clear enough in your mind. Pinpoint in stark, unambiguous terms what you want to communicate. Include result of any extensive study undertaken to determine if there is an objective pattern of bias.

3) Be specific. Why was the article unfair? Did it show lack of context, imbalanced reporting, or omission of key facts? Also, Make specific references. While some newspapers will print general commentary letters, most prefer letters that respond to a specific article.

4) Be concise. Most publications will not print a letter to the editor longer than 250 words. And editors tend to publish letters they don’t have to spend time shortening. Use interesting and engaging language: Spark the reader s interest with an intriguing opening sentence. Close it with a sentence that leaves the reader remembering your point.

5) Be focused. While an article may contain numerous instances of bias, focus your critique on just one or two. You will never be able to convince the media to do things 100% your way. Refrain from nitpicking little points. Instead, pick one point or two points that are the keys to many others. It’s better to fully explain one point than to inadequately cover five.

6) Know the goal. You want your letter to inspire the media to change. When possible, ask the media to issue a correction based on your points. A good way to end your letter is to ask: “Can I expect a rethinking of rethinking of your editorial policy on this point?”

7) Request a reply. Let the media know there is a consequence to biased reporting — even if the consequence is, having to answer hundreds of e-mails! You could end your letter with: “I would appreciate a response explaining why you have allowed such a biased article to appear in your fine publication.”

8) Stick to the facts. Preserve the integrity of the MPAC Alerts campaign by keeping your comments clean and respectful. Hostile or overly emotional language is counter-productive. This is not the place to vent your frustration.

9) Write as a concerned individual. Mentioning that you are part of an organized campaign may lessen the impact of your letter. Trust your voice. Be polite and take a firm position in your letter. Be confident in your understanding of the issue and remember that the editor may know less than you.

10) Use the CC button. Maximize your efforts by sending a copy of your letter not just to the editor, but also to the reporter, foreign editor, publisher, and even advertisers.

11) Include contact info. Before publishing a letter, most papers will call to verify that you wrote it. Remember to include your full name, title, address and daytime phone number. Most newspapers will not accept anonymous letters and will not publish a letter without first attempting to check the identity of the author

12) Follow up. When possible, follow up with a phone call to the comments editor to ask if your letter will be published. If the editor doesn’t remember your letter, offer to read it over the phone, fax or resend it by post. Also, you may arrange a meeting with local writers and editors to express your concerns, to better explain your position, and to hold the newspaper accountable for what it publishes. Formulate a name for your group — e.g. a name that demonstrates broad-based community support for your position. At the meeting, make your case persuasively and with as much documentation as possible; present your month-long content analysis. Instead of attacking the newspaper’s character, focus on their work and appeal to their professional integrity. A newspaper’s entire ability to stay in business is based on their perception of being accurate and impartial. If you have evidence to the contrary, they will listen. (If the media agency refuses to meet with you, or if they continue to display an objective pattern of bias, then consider other creative options. This may involve a campaign to cancel promotions, advertisements and or subscriptions (even for one month). Beware, however, that these options can have a negative backlash, as it strikes some people as an attempt to limit freedom of the press. Therefore these tactics must be used wisely, and only when other methods have failed to produce results.

13) Send letters to smaller newspapers. Small newspapers are more likely to print your letter and the letter can then spark action.

14) Keep us in the loop. Whenever you receive a response to your correspondence (other than a simple acknowledgment), please send a copy of that response along with your original correspondence, to: alert@mpac-ng.org putting response in the subject box.