standing tall: what the news media (and every parent and

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  • 1. Educational Seminar Guide -1- STANDING TALL: What The News Media (And Every Parent And Child) Needs To Know About Scoliosis Scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine, affects about 6 million people in the U.S., mostly adolescents between the ages of 10 15. Most curvatures are minor and eventually children grow out of it. But each year about 30,000 need to be fitted for a brace and another 38,000 need spinal fusion surgery to straighten their spines. Girls are particularly susceptible to scoliosis they are 10 times more likely to develop scoliosis than boys. For those affected it can mean chronic back pain and reduced respiratory function and take a heavy toll on self-esteem. In most places, schools offer screening programs at certain times of the year. However, parents and their children need to be aware of the signs of scoliosis and know there is new hope and better treatments if scoliosis is found. Treatments are dramatically different than they were just 10 years ago and your surgeons can help the community become aware of them through the news media. Your surgeons could help parents understand what to look for and where to get help. They could describe how to diagnose scoliosis and the newer treatments that are making a real difference for many people in your community. They can talk about braces and about newer surgical techniques like minimally invasive spine surgery thats making it easier for children to recover more quickly and get back to an active life, friends, fun and family. We have prepared materials that can help you tell the story of scoliosis and how your institution is a leading resource for information about this important topic. All of the materials can be customized by you to reflect the actual and unique perspectives and experiences of your doctors and patients and their parents. The following components are included: Telling the scoliosis story Customizable press release, pitch letter, media advisory Scoliosis fact sheets Suggested reporter questions List of scoliosis organizations and glossary Most dont know whats new in scoliosis. These materials can you help you tell them.

2. Educational Seminar Guide -2- TELLING THE SCOLIOSIS STORY Many institutions, companies and individuals constantly battle for media attention. Some will get it, most will not. So, how do you get your story about scoliosis to spark the interest of a reporter who has hundreds of medical stories to choose from each month? How do you tell the story in a way that provides accurate and responsible information? How do you tailor the story to the reporters needs? This section discusses ways to approach local media from making initial contact to preparing for an interview. Discussion topics include: The Media Sensibility Media Selection Selecting Spokespersons Preparing for Media Interviews Pitching the Media Media Follow Up 3. Educational Seminar Guide -3- THE MEDIA SENSIBILITY The media is always looking for great stories. However, there are several story elements they typically look for prior to deciding on whether to cover your story. When pitching the media about scoliosis, the following fundamental questions will always come up: Whats new about scoliosis? Scoliosis is not going away. Every year schools do screening to help diagnose the problem so children can get help if they need it. Its important to do reminders throughout the year so children and their parents do not have to suffer needlessly. New techniques like minimally invasive spine surgery for those with severe cases are providing new hope. There have been many advances in the last 10 years and your hospital or center has been at the forefront and can help the community better understand what could be a devastating condition. What makes it compelling? Why is it important? Several factors make this story compelling, including: The way doctors perform scoliosis surgery is changing. Your surgeons offer advanced techniques including minimally invasive spine surgery This is a story that affects parents and their children and the stories of families dealing with scoliosis are emotional and compelling Approximately 6 million people have scoliosis and surgery may be the only option for those with severe cases. But which type of surgery should they have and when? How long do you wait before moving on to surgery? Parents who had scoliosis may have children with the condition. There is an estimated 20 percent chance of it recurring in an immediate family member. Children today have better options. You could compare the treatments the parents received 20 years ago to what their children are receiving now There are many stories of triumph over scoliosis, of children going on to become college athletes and other active occupations Girls are particularly prone to requiring surgery as they are 10 times more likely than boys to have a spinal curve that progresses But why cover it now? The media in your area should cover it now because scoliosis is an important health issue that the entire community faces. Stories should be done each year talking about what to look for and what to do if a child is diagnosed with scoliosis. New treatments and better diagnosis are changing the face of scoliosis. Has this story been covered before? There has likely been media coverage of scoliosis. To be sure, review past media coverage in your area. If they have covered it, you will need to figure out a new angle to the story or if it has been a while you 4. Educational Seminar Guide -4- can convince the media its time to do it again with a fresh perspective that features interesting patients and the top experts in scoliosis 5. Educational Seminar Guide -5- MEDIA SELECTION: TV, RADIO OR PRINT? While the media generally welcomes health and medical story ideas, television, radio and print reporters have different approaches and perspectives that make the story right or wrong for them and their audiences. TELEVISION What are the visual elements of the story? Here are a few: Scoliosis patients at home instead of playing with friends or participating in sports because their condition may be causing pain or discomfort Views of an abnormal spine Surgical footage Children, adolescents who have had successful surgeries interacting with their family or friends, walking down the school hallways, playing sports. A child holding the brace they once wore A model or an x-ray of a normal, straight spine compared to a curved one affected by scoliosis Animation of minimally invasive surgery correcting a spinal curvature When pitching a television reporter, vividly describe the kinds of pictures that can be made available. For instance, you can make special arrangements for a reporter to bring a video camera inside the operating room during surgery. Of course, permission from the patient and their parents and the hospital must be obtained prior to surgery. TV REPORTER IN THE OR FOR SURGERY If permission is obtained, you must brief the reporter on what they can and cannot do in the operating room, including the limited or non-use of lights, not showing the patients face and staying outside the sterile field. In addition, you should describe what the reporter can expect to see during the operation so the reporter and crew are mentally prepared for viewing surgical incisions, blood and the operating room environment. You should arrange a time before the surgery for the reporter to talk to the surgeon. During an interview, your surgeon can provide a description of how the surgery will be performed. Additionally, an interview prior will help establish a rapport between the surgeon and the reporter so things run smoothly once inside the operating room. You should also arrange for the reporter to speak with a patient who already had a successful spinal fusion surgery to treat their scoliosis. The parents are also an important part of the story. They can share their perspectives on the condition and how they saw it affected their child and their family. Patients and their parents can provide real-life insights about their experience and provide context to a reporter about what its like growing up with scoliosis. A television crew could interview them at the patients home or at the hospital. 6. Educational Seminar Guide -6- Another option for a reporter is to follow a patient before, during and after having surgery. The patient and their parents must be willing to allow a camera crew to follow them through their daily activities and struggles with scoliosis and then for several weeks, perhaps months, after the surgery. Selecting the right patient and parents is extremely important to a successful story. PRINT Print reporters generally cover health stories in more depth than radio and television reporters. Provide them with comprehensive information and references about scoliosis most of which is included in this guide. Additionally, reporters will likely want to take photographs or may request previous photographs taken of the patient illustrating their spinal curve prior to surgery. RADIO Most radio stations throughout the country do not have a reporter dedicated exclusively to medical stories. In many cases however, there are opportunities to get medical stories covered through other means. If you can get the news director or assignment editor interested in the story, he or she will assign it to a general assignment reporter. Additionally, many radio stations have public affairs and community service programs that welcome guest experts like your doctor. You need to convince the station that your doctor can maintain a listeners interest for the length of the program, is well-spoken and articulate and can discuss scoliosis, its treatment options and the advantages of minimall