How to Talk to the Press

HOW TO USE THE MEDIA TO HELP YOU WIN ON YOUR ISSUE, FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR FELLOW FORECLOSURE FIGHTERS

July 17, 2012

By Buck Bagot, for Occupy Bernal, SF ACCE and Occupy Noe

HOW #1

• You may be nervous speaking with the press, just like if you are speaking with an elected official or their staff, or a lender. Everyone is. Don’t show it if you can avoid it. Be prepared.

• You may worry that you are not smart, well informed or expert enough to speak with the press. You are. You are an expert. Lord knows you know more about your issues than any person interviewing you from the press! But don’t be over confident or cocky.

• Oh no! What happens if they ask you a question for which you don’t have the answer? Tell the truth – you don’t know the answer. Ask if you can get back to them with an answer. Not knowing the answer to a question is a gift. It permits you to show the person that you are not a glib, BSing know-it-all. And it gives you the opportunity to get back to them and continue to build a relationship.

• If you don’t want to answer a question, don’t.

• One way to answer a question you don’t like is to give the answer to a question you do like. In other words, within reason, keep making your main points no matter what they ask you.

• Both you and the media have strong self-interest in covering your story. They need to cover something – it might as well be you, your story, your organization and your issue.

• Of course, always keep your guard up – never trust the press, unless and until the reporter has earned your respect over time – like in any relationship.

• But – most reporters are at least liberal if not progressive.  While remaining alert and wary, try to give them a way to cover your side of the issue. Even a negative reporter has the responsibility to at least provide both sides of the issue.

WHY

• The media can be one of your/our most powerful weapons. Any relationship with a member of the media is extremely valuable. Try to use any contact with the press to begin what may become ongoing relationships. Take them very, very seriously.

• The media is one of the most powerful weapons we have. It’s a way to way to get your story out more broadly; influence your targets – the people who have the ability to grant your demands; impress powerful allies who have the power to help you win; get your demands – what you want – out to the general public; and let other people in foreclosure know that they are not alone, and that the best things they can do to save their homes is become a foreclosure fighter ans fight back, collectively.

• Make sure to get their full contact information.

• Let a leader or organizer from your organization know about any contact with the press. Review with others how you can use the contact to help you and your fellow foreclosure fighters win.

HOW #2

• Decide what you want to tell the press before they speak with you. Write down an outline. Make sure you tell them what you want them to learn.

• Prepare a short rap on who you and your family are/personal; your situation; and what you need from the Bank to resolve your situation.

• You want a new loan from the Bank that both pays them back and keeps you and your family in your home, affordably.

• You take some personal responsibility for being in foreclosure, but the Bank has even more responsibility, and they won’t admit and take that responsibility.

• The Bank made promises they didn’t keep. They were and are “predatory” lenders. They preyed on people desperate for credit, most of them people of color. Give examples.

• The Bank has no concern at all for their “customers” like you who suffer catastrophe – like your injuries and surgeries.

• In your story, tell how you and your family ought back even before meeting OB/SF ACCE/ You got a nonprofit loan counselor. You contacted Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

• If it applied to you – and if it didn’t, mention the other foreclosure fighters you have met – many folks are ashamed of being in foreclosure. They never ask for help, and they lose their homes. You asked for help. You demanded a fair deal. You joined – and helped found – Occupy Noe. Now you and your families are “foreclosure fighters.” Your fighting to save your home, with other people in foreclosure and your neighbors. And your helping other people in foreclosure come out of the shadows, fight back, and save your homes.

• When you convince B of A to give you a fair, affordable deal, it will help not only you and your family, but thousands of other families in the same fix.

• You have learned a lot. You’ve met scores of other foreclosure fighters, and neighbors. You’ve helped lead negotiations with your and other lenders; worked with the Mayor’s office, the Board of Supervisors, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi. You’ve even learned to be a press spokesperson (pause for the to chuckler!).

• At the end of any contact with the media, thank them. Repeat what you want them to report on/quote. Ask them if and when the item will run. Ask them if they require any additional information. Get it to them, and fast. Track if your item appears. Send them a thank you note.

• In coordination with your organization, always contact them again in the future – personally, not just through a press release – any time your have story that you
want them to cover/that might interest them.

Occupy Bernal Newsletter for December 28, 2011

Welcome to the first issue of the Occupy Bernal Newsletter! (let us know if you have a better name)

In This Issue:


General Assembly Gathers For First Time on Bernal

The Occupy Bernal General Assembly (GA) met for the first time last Wednesday, December 21. About 60 people attended the meeting at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center. Many participants focused on the issue of keeping Bernal residents in our homes by preventing pending foreclosures and evictions of owner-occupied properties and rental-unit properties. The GA set up six workgroups and set a next meeting for 7:00-9:00pm on Wednesday, January 11, in the same location if available. For more information, check out the minutes of the meeting and media coverage from the Huffington Post, the SF Weekly, and Bernalwood.


Join a Workgroup!

A great way to get involved in Occupy Bernal is to join one of the six workgroups created by the General Assembly (GA) meeting. Click on the link below to read more about the GA or a workgroup and to subscribe to the email lists that are right for you.

  • Announcements Only: a low-traffic moderated email list to receive occasional news about Occupy Bernal
  • General Assembly: the main regular meeting place for everyone involved in Occupy Bernal
  • Communications: organizing press, newsletter, website, email lists, social networking, etc.
  • Coordination: coordinating meeting logistics, facilitator training, and other activities that must take place between GAs
  • Education: research and develop educational materials and long-term strategies
  • Housing and Foreclosure Workgroup: organize to keep Bernal residents in our homes
  • January 20 Action Workgroup: organize local Bernal actions and participation in larger actions
  • Outreach: encourage broad and diverse participation and publicity for Occupy Bernal activities and events


Mark Your Calendar for Upcoming Meetings

Anyone in support of the Occupy movement is welcome to attend these upcoming Occupy Bernal meetings:

  • TOMORROW: 7:30pm on Thursday, December 29: January 20th Action Workgroup meeting, Coleridge Park Homes 190 Coleridge St (at Virginia Ave, across from mini-park)
  • 7:00pm on Wednesday, January 4: Housing and Foreclosure Workgroup meeting, Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, 515 Cortland Ave
  • 7:00pm on Wednesday, January 11: General Assembly meeting, Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, 515 Cortland Ave

If you don’t see a meeting listed for the workgroup you’re interested in, then join the workgroup email list and help organize a meeting!

Upcoming events are displayed near the top of the right sidebar of the website where you can click on an event to see more information or you can display the full-size calendar.


Member Profile: Thomas German Facing Foreclosure

For this issue, we offer a profile of Occupy Bernal member Thomas German who is facing foreclosure of his home. Thomas German was born in Mobile, Alabama, a bit after New Year’s Day of 1940. After serving in the U.S. Navy, Thomas, aka “Tommie” or “German”, found employment as a die setter at the San Francisco Mint. He rented a home in Bernal in 1967. Living in the neighborhood for some years, he decided to purchase the home he was renting on Andover Street in 1974 for $21,000. How did he end up in foreclosure? You can click here to read the entire profile.


Know Someone Facing Eviction or Foreclosure?

Are you facing eviction or foreclosure? Do you know someone who is facing eviction or foreclosure? Occupy Bernal is here to help owners of owner-occupied properties and renters in rental-unit properties. Please fill out the Add/Edit Property to Map and Listing form so that the Housing and Foreclosure Workgroup can research the situation and keep our Bernal neighbors in our homes. Check out the Map of Bernal Owner-Occupied and Rental-Unit Properties Facing Foreclosure or Eviction that the workgroup is already investigating.


Housing Is a Human Right

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, includes Section 1 of Article 25 which reads as follows:

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”


Needs and Donations

If you are able, please donate any of the following items (you can bring them to a General Assembly meeting or click on “Contact” above to let us know you’d like to arrange to deliver them to us):

  • Masking tape (several rolls)
  • Clear mailing and storage tape (several rolls)
  • Reams of blank 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper
  • Butcher block paper (large pad)

We also need donations of the following services:

  • Spanish interpretation for meetings
  • Spanish translation for flyers, posters, website
  • Chinese translation for flyers, posters, website

Cash donations are also accepted to cover photocopying, Internet, venue reservation, and other organizing costs (no salaries or other overhead).


Social Networking Online

Join us on Facebook at facebook.com/groups/occupybernal.

The Occupy Bernal Twitter feed to follow is @occupybernal.

Facing Foreclosure: The Thomas German Story

Thomas German was born in Mobile, Alabama, a bit after New Year’s Day of 1940. After serving in the U.S. Navy, Thomas, aka “Tommie” or “German”, found employment as a die setter at the San Francisco Mint. He rented a home in Bernal in 1967.

Living in the neighborhood for some years, he decided to purchase the home he was renting on Andover Street in 1974 for $21,000. How did he end up in foreclosure? He was facing a personal catastrophe. And he made a generous offer. So he refinanced his home. Although Thomas obtained and held insurance for his home, the insurance didn’t cover bringing the place up to code when a fire gutted the place in 2008. He invested in a family business that later failed and Thomas never recovered those funds.

With the encouragement of loan personnel at Wachovia, Thomas borrowed on the equity everyone thought was in the value of the home. He signed a loan agreement for an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) with a interest rate that increased over time because he thought he could surely repay the loan or refinance at a lower rate.

His only income is a federal pension limiting his Social Security benefits, which are small. On his income, Thomas could no longer afford to make loan payments. By 2008, Thomas’ federal tax return noted home mortgage interest of $25,959 against taxable pension income of $31,3883 – paying the mortgage interest alone represented 81% of his taxable income! He joined the ranks of thousands suffering under predatory Wachovia home loans.

Meanwhile, the very same day Congress passed the bailout plan that would award Wells Fargo a $25 billion dollar bailout from the taxpayers of the U.S. – the largest amount awarded in a single bailout payment – Wells Fargo announced it would reverse its prior decision and buy out Wachovia for $12.7 billion by the end of 2008, thus forming the nation’s second largest bank in terms of deposits. That same week, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson issued a document revising the tax code to benefit some banks that buy other banks: a tax break worth up to $25 billion for Wells Fargo.

Unlike Wells Fargo’s bailout success, Thomas applied twice for a loan modification under the Home Affordable Mortgage Program (HAMP) mandated by the U.S. Treasury as a response to the home mortgage loan crisis. Wachovia/Wells Fargo denied the loan modifications twice, once in June 2010 and again in November 2011.

Nowadays, Thomas is struggling to find a way to stay in his home. He has filed bankruptcy to try to prevent foreclosure and eviction, but the outcome is uncertain. His neighbors here in Bernal have formed a support group to help Thomas stay in the neighborhood. Along with this community group, he is receiving assistance from a nonprofit counseling organization. We are committed to helping him defend his home against any foreclosure auction or eviction.