Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Charming Information Sponge

As Marla was just begining her work providing humanitarian aid in war zones, she came to me for advice about doing interviews with the press. As the press secretary for a national organization, I had taught these skills to numerous bigwigs in the movement. But Marla needed the skills, Yesterday! She was already getting calls about her work from media outlets around the world and she felt nervous even on a telephone interview that she might 'say something wrong.'

My advice started as it did with all my trainees. Read "Making the News" by Jason Salzman. This great handbook teaches everything activists need to know about how to get the message out.

Marla devoured this book, and then we held a few lunch meetings where I played a TV reporter and she honed her message. She was quite skillful with staying on topic and never took the bait when 'the reporter' asked a hostile question or tried to knock her off track with a red herring.

My wife and I were in Arizona on a vacation when we received a call telling us of Marla's death. That night we turned on CNN to see if there was any news. Marla was the second story on the International Report. CNN played some footage from a trip with Marla to protect a little girl in Iraq who had lost her family in an explosion. Her interview was devastating as she explained the toll the war had taken on Iraqi civilians and demanded a full acounting of civilian deaths. Marla put a face on the people the US military prefered to dismiss as 'collateral damage.'

Watching that interview, I was so proud of her and what she had given her life for. We cried.

This world is a darker place without Marla.

Oakland, CA