archive: Re: SETI: media management

Re: SETI: media management

Dr. H. Paul Shuch ( (no email) )
Sat, 31 Oct 1998 10:18:34 -0500

At 09:55 AM 10/31/98 +0100, Richard Burke-Ward wrote:

>Presumably he had a choice between
>running the story quickly (as outlined above, not a hype), or waiting for
>SETI people in California to wake up before running it.

What does California have to do with this? The SETI Institute is a very
capable group of scientists and engineers doing a targeted search, but they
had *nothing* to do with the present signal. Even Seth Shostak, their
public information officer, told me yesterday "this one is your baby."
The SETI League (headquartered in New Jersey, not California) is an
*international body* coordinating amateur SETI efforts in 47 countries on 6
continents. We have 63 operational observing stations, and 50 volunteer
Regional Coordinators worldwide to respond to inquiries in *any* time zone.
Deadlines? Our members and I were working on this signal for three days
before David ran his story. Journalists could easily have contacted one
of us; witness the fact that quite a few did, before running their stories.

>Blaming the media for doing its job - and, worse, blaming particular
>individuals - is potentially *extremel*y bad PR.

I agree.

>But other people in the media
>will now think twice about calling an institution which might complain
>about them in public.

But the *institution* (The SETI League) didn't complain about David in
public! The complaints came from individuals who aren't even SETI League

>2. Who speaks for SETI, what times of day can they be contacted - and do
>the journalists who need to know, actually know?

We (The SETI League) try to speak for amateur SETI worldwide. We have
tried to make ourselves known through our monthly press releases, mailed to
600 journalists worldwide, and posted to the website. See "Your One-Stop
SETI Shop" at <> (which goes
out to every bonafide journalist in the world who asks to be added to our
Press List). Se also <> for how
we deal with interview requests (I've never turned one down). (Please do
read 'em, Richard.)

>The SETI community has to take responsibility for their relationship with
>the media,

About *half* of our extensive website falls under the category of Online
Press Relations. And why do you suppose we are expending so much of our
*limited* resources on press releases, Press Kits, and the *hundreds* of
radio, TV and newspaper interviews our regional coordinators and I have
conducted since our organization was founded four years ago? And remember,
as a private organization receiving no government funding whatever, here's
only so much we can do!
H. Paul Shuch, Ph.D. Executive Director, The SETI League, Inc.
433 Liberty Street, PO Box 555, Little Ferry NJ 07643 USA
voice (201) 641-1770; fax (201) 641-1771; URL
email work:; home:

"We Know We're Not Alone!"