The Media and Drug Prevention Programs
Gary W. Selnow
San Francisco State University
Social scientists and prevention specialists by their training, and probably by their natures, like to control their own agendas, and that's where they run into trouble with the media. The media defy control. Publishers are covered by the bulletproof First Amendment, and broadcasters are comfortably shielded by case law and administrative rules. These protections grant the media broad control of what they carry and what they reject. If newspapers or broadcasters don't have time or space, if they earn more profit from other messages, if they don't like the tone of a message, they can simply reject it. Even for commercial advertisers, a media snub is possible—although the media don't often turn away paying customers.
Not that it would matter much to prevention programs, because most of them are shallow in the pocket and can't afford to buy their way into the media anyway. Few have the largesse of a recent program run by the ONDCP, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which touts a $1 billion media budget, most earmarked for television.1 By contrast, university and organization-based programs rely heavily on handouts of time and space, which drives them, hat-in-hand, to the media for a little airtime or a few column inches. Consequently, without much purchasing power, most____________________