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As Printed OCTOBER, 2003

By Robert S. Weiner

 Robert S. Weiner     


    USATF Masters Chair George Mathews was right when he wrote that "Communication is Essential for Publicity" (September NMN), but his column misses the main point.  USATF cannot only look inward.  The Boston Indoor Nationals, which brought in outside media coordination, drew eight TV cameras, daily front page press in all the major Massachusetts papers including the Boston Globe and Herald American, national press including the Christian Science Monitor, Runners World, San Diego Tribune, Washington Times, and Associated Press with its hundreds of papers.

    The outdoor nationals, just held in Eugene, was a wonderful meet but, in the area of press, without similar outside assistance, drew the local Eugene paper and two local cameras -- period. The local meet organizers did all they could afford to help on their own by supporting the media workshop.

Attracting the Media

    There is no mystery to drawing press, but it takes more than massive emails that are generally ignored.  It takes enthusiastic phone calls to a myriad of targeted press, a blitz of real conversations sensitive to press needs and deadlines, and certainly more than late-in-the-evening (and past deadline) press releases.  Early-enough materials with precision phone calls sensitive to what media want (not what the meet wants, although the two can be blended) are key.

    I was glad that World Champion/USATF 2002 Outstanding Masters Athlete Phil Raschker and I had the chance to conduct the seminar for athletes at the Eugene Meet on how to generate press in home media.  No one "emphasized that athletes do it themselves" as a "Do it Yourself Approach" instead of meet organizers' carrying out a campaign.  Both are important. 

    I am glad to report that Bruce McBarnette, world champion high jumper, came up to me at the recent Potomac Valley Games in Virginia to tell me, proudly and deservedly, that he just got in the current Sports Illustrated in "Faces in the Crowd" with his Eugene Nationals performance by using the model media telephone call sheet we gave him and many others in Eugene.  I invite any athletes who want this sheet to download a copy from our Web site at www.weinerpublic.com or write me for a copy.

Media Subcommittee

    Dave Clingan's motion to create a masters media subcommittee is a brilliant idea that no one should oppose. Nor should anyone oppose placing real media-generating experts and enthusiastic people on the committee. The committee would advise and supplement USATF ongoing efforts, not replace them -- serving as a catalyst for ongoing and new efforts, a win-win for everyone. 

    Good ideas and real contributions are not to be feared. If fear of turf becomes the issue, nothing will result. Further, without the positive outreach a media committee can bring, the USATF bureaucracy will continue an image it could well afford to shed.

Positive Publicity

    The object of the media subcommittee is to help our indoor and outdoor national, regional, and division championships build positive press coverage for the meets and for the masters track and field movement, of which we are all proud.  We can move dramatically forward if we have the vision to help ourselves do so and support those who are willing and able to help. 

    As a dedicated masters runner and organizer and as former Director of Public Affairs for the White House Drug Czar and for the House Committee on Government Operations, and as Chief of Staff under Claude Pepper for the House Aging Committee, I've seen a lot of politics played and have learned how to get things done despite the big egos and turf issues that inevitably occur.

Bring in the Best

    That's why we had people like Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit-Samuelson help us in Boston, Frank Shorter and Michael Johnson help us at the White House Drug Office, and Steve Scott, Rodgers, and Shorter help us at the Mobil Invitational. We need to look beyond the norm, bring in the best, and be all that we can be.

    While helping our sport, we must help our existing leaders to do all they want to do.  That should be the purpose of the media committee as well.

    I wish George well in this effort and offer any assistance that might be helpful to my colleague masters athletes and organizers, as long as I still have time to train, that is, so I can beat Ron Pate next year in the 3K Steeplechase!

(Robert Weiner can be reached at
Robert Weiner Associates Public Affairs
PO Box 28271
1750 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20038-8271)