Working with Your Local Media
There are several different ways that AILA members can reach out to local media such as writing opinion pieces and Letters to the Editor. Another way to interact with local media is to host a Reporters' Roundtable on Immigration.
What is a Reporters' Roundtable on Immigration?
A Reporters' Roundtable on Immigration (RRI) is a great way for an AILA chapter to reach out to members of the press in their local area, particularly ethnic and community press, to share information about immigration issues and how they affect your community. It is ideal in several ways for the AILA chapter:
- You get to choose your panelists, so can cover the gamut of immigration law expertise.
- By answering one question, you educate the whole group of reporters, reducing the need for repetition.
- Panelists set themselves up as "go to" sources for the media.
- You're in charge of the format-set it up to be free-flowing or more structured, depending on your preference. It gives the chapter a chance to partner with one or more outside groups that could prove helpful in ongoing immigration reform efforts.
NYC: An Example of a Successful RRI
The NYC Chapter partnered with a local graduate school of journalism to hold a RRI in late-January, using many of the steps listed below. The result? A full room of reporters and journalism students who asked questions and discussed immigration issues for nearly two hours. And this was before ANY of the information about the Senate bipartisan principles or the White House plan had come out. Reporters from community outlets were joined by national outlets (it was NYC) and even a staff member from a local Councilman's office interested in immigration issues. Questions covered a range of topics, including deportation numbers, prospects for CIR, legal immigration, and what the immigration court backlog means. Since then, the AILA members who participated have been contacted by the reporters, quoted in stories, and have raised the awareness of immigration issues in their community.
Organizing a RRI in 10 Easy Steps
- Talk it over with your chapter. Decide on a primary organizer with a possible co-chair. Start thinking about panelists and brainstorm what outside group(s) you want to approach to co-host this event (if any).
- Reach out to the identified co-host targets. Ideas: school of journalism, law school, one or more field offices of national immigrant groups, local business groups, etc. Many of these organizations may be willing to offer space to hold the event, advertise to students/stakeholders, etc. Consider asking a representative of the organization to moderate the roundtable.
- Once you and your co-hosting organization get the details ironed out, including date, time, and speakers, it's time to craft a short invitation (an invitation template is available below)
- Now that you have your invitation, send it to your local reporter contacts, and ask AILA National's Communications team for a list of other outlets in your area. Try to get your invitation out 3-4 weeks before your event. Best practice idea: start a Googledocs or other shared document to hold RSVPs so your co-hosting organization can also note new RSVPs.
- If you'd like, ask AILA National's Communications team to send someone to record the event (we'd be happy to, travel budget and time permitting).
- A week or so before the event, have a conference call for your panelists and moderator to discuss roles and responsibilities. Go through any powerpoint or other media you plan to use.
- The day before the event, send an email reminder to the list of RSVPs.
- Print namebadges or bring nametags and a permanent marker or two and hold your event! Different types of media outlets will ask varying questions so be prepared for anything.
- Let AILA National know if there is any follow up with reporters we could assist with.
- Congratulations on your successful RRI! Your takeaways should be: a list of local reporter contacts, an understanding of what issues/stories they are most interested in, and a cadre of reporters who are more knowledgeable about immigration issues and what potential immigration reform would mean to their community.
Template Invitation to RRI
The [XXX] Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the [co-hosting organization] are proud to present a
Reporters' Roundtable on Immigration
As immigration reform takes over the front pages of newspapers across the country, join us for an interactive presentation on immigration issues and prepare yourself more fully to cover immigration-related stories. A panel of immigration experts will be present to explain key terms and concepts, and answer your questions.
The program is free and open to members of the press but space is limited. Please RSVP to [Contact information for primary contact]