PSA's and Calendar Items
Working with Media: Interviews and Photographers
1. Responding to media requests and securing an interview
If the media requests an interview with FA members, return inquiries promptly. Reporters are often racing against deadlines. However, do not let this sense of urgency pressure you into an interview before you are prepared. Remember, you need two years of abstinence to be interviewed (see point h below). Members outside your area can be made available if no one in your area has at least two years of abstinence yet.
- Anonymity is #1! Anonymity is often difficult for the press to deal with since it is in the business of having “on-the-record” sources.
- FA members who are asked to speak to the media should contact the WSI PI Committee prior to the interview for additional tips and support. Contact the committee through the FA Office (781-932-6300) or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If the interviewer pushes to have a name and face associated with the interview, offer suggestions on how they can protect your anonymity while still telling a compelling story, i.e., blurring faces in photography, pixilation, using “fake names,” silhouette lighting, or shooting from the neck down or from the back.
- Only changed names are acceptable, i.e. you may use a pseudonym or use your middle name.
- Anonymity can make a reporter who is completely unfamiliar with FA uncomfortable or even suspicious. If they will only run a story using full names, then the article wasn’t meant to be. However, you can alleviate their concerns by providing FA literature, the website address (www.foodaddicts.org), and/or the FA World Service phone number. You can also refer them to articles that their own paper may have written in the past about AA and their respect for anonymity in those articles. Additionally, on the AA website, there is a statement to the media about their anonymity policy to which journalists can be referred.
- If, in the end, the reporter is not willing to accommodate anonymity, then the interview is not meant to be. There will be other opportunities.
- Provide support for yourself! Take two members to the interview, because this gives one member an opportunity for reflection while the other member is being interviewed. It also gives you both an opportunity to support each other. It can make the interview a little more relaxed.
- While it is preferred by FA to take two members to the interview, if the media will only allow one person to be interviewed or if there is only one eligible person available, one person may participate in the interview after discussing it with the WSI PI Committee at email@example.com.
- Members speaking with the media should have a minimum of two years of continuous FA abstinence, have completed an FA AWOL, and should currently be sponsored by an FA member.
- Be sure to mention the www.foodaddicts.org website. Mention it repeatedly, if possible.
2. Once you have secured the interview
- Try to ask members who have varied stories and backgrounds to participate in the interview.
- Stick to your own FA experience and story, no need to embellish. Our stories speak for themselves.
- You do not need to be an expert on FA to interview. As a general rule, it’s best to comment on your own personal story of recovery from food addiction, rather than on the FA fellowship as a whole. If you are asked a question about FA that stumps you, try not to refuse to answer a question or to say “no comment,” but simply let the reporter know you’ll follow up later with the answer, i.e., “I don’t know the exact statistics for long-term recovery in FA, but I can try to find the answer to that for you. What I can tell you is that in the meetings that I attend, there are many members with over three and some with as many as ten years of abstinence.”
- Think of an interview with the media as if you are speaking directly to a newcomer, for that is who you are really talking to – the newcomer who reads the article or listens to the station’s program. This can help you relax and get to the heart of your message – your own experience, strength, and hope as a recovering food addict.
3. Prepare for the interview by reviewing FA literature and using the tools of the program
- Read FA pamphlets before the interview to remind you of the purpose and focus of FA. Also, you can study the Twelve Traditions. The relevant Traditions are summarized at the beginning of this kit.
- Read over Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) About FA. If you’re unable to answer them, ask the WSI PI Committee or other FA members with experience and recovery for help.
- If you can, take some quiet time before the interview and ask God to speak through you and to help you “lighten up.” Service is a privilege, and there is nothing to be afraid of or anxious about. You are the expert on your own story. If, at the end of the interview, all that you’ve communicated is the www.foodaddicts.org website, that is enough.
- If you are doing an on-air (TV or radio) interview, it is likely that the questions will be discussed with you briefly before you go on. If you have not spoken much with the interviewer, this is your chance to help him or her get a basic picture of FA. Interviewers want to ask good questions, and the better they understand FA, the easier their job will be.
4. Focus on the fact that FA is an addiction recovery program, not a diet program
- Wherever possible, stress the benefits of FA rather than the process we use. For example, if you are asked, “What does your ‘diet’ consist of?, An answer that highlights the benefits of FA would be:
“The food I eat is simple and nutritious. I eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and protein". A process-oriented answer (is not is not the better answer.) “We eat three weighed and measured meals a day; no flour, no sugar and no individual binge foods.”If you are asked about getting on the scale, a process-oriented answer would be: “I weigh myself once a week to keep the weight from creeping back.” A preferred answer, highlighting the benefits of FA, would be: “I maintain a healthy weight and at the same time, I’m finding peace around food and my weight I never had before.”
- Try not to get into specifics of the actual food plan, beyond no flour and no sugar. We don’t want to suggest a specific food plan.
- Use tact when sharing the spiritual aspects of the program. Be sure to keep your language religion-neutral. FA is a spiritual rather than a religious program, and we need to keep the two separate when we share. Rather than: “I pray everyday to God to give me one more day of abstinence.” A more neutral answer might be: “Because FA focuses on recovery from an addiction, I work on my spiritual development every day through meditation and prayer.” There is a quote from The Big Book which, although written as guidance for making amends, is instructive: “To some people we need not, and probably should not emphasize the spiritual feature on our first approach. We might prejudice them…Why lay ourselves open to be branded fanatics or religious bores? We may kill a future opportunity to carry a beneficial message.”
- Help the reporter refrain from framing FA as a diet. Anyone not familiar with FA would gravitate toward a diet discussion. You can help the reporter tell a more accurate story by focusing on addiction. Emphasize the three-fold nature of addiction (spiritual, mental, physical), and avoid statements that speak exclusively of weight changes. The analogy of being an “alcoholic with food” can be useful in getting the idea across. For example, if you are asked, “How long you have kept the weight off?”, you could reply: “I have enjoyed the physical benefits of FA for about two years, but without the change in my mental and spiritual state, which comes with FA, this wouldn’t be happening. Food addiction affects every part of me.” One way of reminding the reporter and readers that FA is about addiction recovery, not just weight loss, is to say something like: “As a food addict, I am like an alcoholic with food. FA helps people with food addiction the way AA helps people with alcoholism. Send us your desperate and hopeless; that is who we best help.”
- Do not discuss other programs (i.e. OA, FAA, etc.) or compare them to FA, other than to say we deal with food problems as an addiction. Highlight FA’s great gifts rather than naming specific programs that may not worked worked for you.
- Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into controversial issues. Interviewers may want to practice their journalistic integrity by asking about views that do not support FA. Don’t debate. Simply restate the fact that FA has worked for many addicts who tried every other approach. If others find peace with food through some other means, we can be happy for them.
5. Keep your language clear and simple
- Keep it light. Keep it positive. As it says in The Big Book, “We have ceased fighting anything or anyone.” Keep your comments and tone on the lighter side. A stone-serious interview sounds boring. Relate personal experience briefly; answer the interviewer’s questions candidly, but succinctly.
- In FA, we have jargon that most of us easily relate to, but avoid this, i.e.,
“Bingeing my brains out…”
“In the food…”
“Eating…” (as in “When I was eating…”)
“Abstinence” and even the word “insanity.”
These words may not be understood by the audience, or may have a different meaning to them. It is better to stick to simpler terms. For example:
“Bingeing all day long…”
“When I was eating addictively…”
“Avoiding flour and sugar and quantities…”
“My life was completely out of control…”
6. Remember to provide the FA website address and FA literature
- Write down the website address for the interviewer (www.foodaddicts.org) and ask him or her to include it in the story. Most reporters will want to include it in their article, but if they don’t have it by their deadline, it may not appear.
- Leave FA pamphlets, as well, if necessary. Reporters like to have easy access to this kind of information when they are writing or editing. It also takes some of the pressure off you during the interview. You are not alone in this; other voices of experience can help them.
- Double-check to be sure that the interviewer has the correct name of our fellowship. It can easily be confused with other food addiction programs (like FAA).
7. Pray and then LET GO AND LET GOD
- Leave your expectations with God. If you are misquoted, misunderstood, and misrepresented in some way in the article, relax. This is an opportunity to thank God for anonymity. Media often bring in opposing views to an article. This is nothing to be stressed over. The newcomer who needs your message and is ready for this program will get it and will show up at a meeting, regardless of what the article says. Remember, you’re planting seeds, and God is in charge. Just like a meeting – people hear what they are ready to hear.
- You may offend the journalist if you ask to see or approve their piece before it gets published, so once the interview is done, let it go and let God do the work. Treat it as you would any service: Pray, show up, do your 1% then get out of the way, and let God do the rest.
8. Photographers at Meetings
Photographers occasionally ask for photographs or video to accompany newspaper articles about FA. This is a routine aspect of newspaper journalism. However, the presence of a photographer or video camera at an FA meeting raises questions about anonymity. We must ensure that FA groups adhere to the Twelve Traditions.
- PHOTOGRAPHERS AND JOURNALISTS MAY NOT BE PRESENT DURING FA MEETINGS WITHOUT PRIOR DISCUSSION WITH THE WSI PI COMMITTEE. The primary purpose of meetings is to help the newcomer who still suffers from food addiction. The presence of a photographer will interfere with this purpose, distract the focus from sharing and recovery, and endanger the anonymity of all members present.
- Ask the WSI PI Committee how to accommodate where photographs or shooting video is appropriate. For example, one FA group got around this by holding a separate meeting specifically for a photo shoot, where members all agreed to be there and were photographed only from the neck down in a group setting.
- You can take a group conscience about the timing of a photographer’s visit. Each member who has a voice and a vote should be given the opportunity to decide whether or not to allow a photographer to take pictures before or after the meeting or not at all.
- i. Vote several weeks or at least several days before the photographer would be scheduled for the shoot.
- ii. Remind people in the FA announcements each week and on the day of the shoot, announce it again, giving anyone who wishes to leave the chance to do so.
- iii. Respect the anonymity of group members. To ensure adherence to the Eleventh Tradition (Appendix R: The Twelve Traditions), make sure that the photographer is briefed about the fact that no pictures are to be taken of members' faces. Pictures may be taken from the back or from the neck down.
Documents and Forms:
Requesting WSI documents in Word Format:
To request a Word version of a document, email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org
• In the subject line of your email, type the name of the document you need.
• In the body of the email, copy and paste the URL of the web page where the document is posted.
If you have any questions regarding this process, please email: email@example.com