Wednesday, 22 January 2014


What's new is not enough

As often, one of Ralph Strzełkowski's brief communiqués from the experiences of his life make me think of wider questions. His posting today epitomises one of CE's big problems in the twenty-first century: it just isn't news any more:

If it isn't new, it will will not get reported. If it isn't reported, then where and how does it find its supporters and enthusiasts, its users, its attraction for politician – and the money to pay for it?

In Hungary over the last few months, the Pető Institute has been enjoying – if that is the right word – media and political attention unprecedented in that country. Whether this will prove a bad thing or a good thing in the medium to long term must remain to be seen. Elsewhere in the world the Conductive Education is long dead, or indeed has never had legs to run at all.

One might add that most of those involved in CE are, well, not exactly media-savvy, devote little time and resources to creating media coverage, or even seem to find it aversive to be involved with the media at all.

What's news?

What makes a story 'sexy' in journalistic terms?
  • Ralph identifies one important factor: novelty. Frankly, where there has been interest in the past the story has now been done to death. Editors won't want the same thing it again, and again, and again. Just because you think that you have a new slant does not mean that editors can see the difference: it's still about the disabled, isn't it?.
  • Another factor is recognisability. The life, the families the education, the care of children and adults with disability is way, a of of most people's experience and imagining. There is nothing there for them to connect to.
  • Still photos often don't work to convey movement, and snapshots relate only to one instant in time so do not speak of change. The long-standing tendency to provide pictures that are cute or pretty may prove ultimately self defeating – if the kids look so OK, what's the big deal?
  • Everyone wants peace and good will – not the media, though. Nothing sparks media attention like a good row, conflict, controversy, angry words etc. Sponsors and fund-raisers, public agencies and 'professionals' might not like this and, given how much of the money for CE has to be found, their wishes may have to be taken into account. There are plenty of people out there with bad words to say about CE – great stories!
  • Associated with this, another category,some would say definition: news is something that somebody does not want to see in print.
  • And of course, scandal of any kind...
The trick for Conductive Education, if it wants to be news again, has to be new slants that most people can relate to their own concerns and experience, effectively conveying the message of change. And like it or not, there has to be recognition that change is not to everybody's taste and advantage – and this needs bringing out into the light of day, however much this might be resisted.

And the scandals? Espouse the media, think news management, and hope that it is true that all news is potentially good news.

Good luck



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