September 19, 2008

Effective Activism Via Your Local Newspaper's Website

"WATCH YOUR LOCAL NEWSPAPER^^" - NARA - 535653 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of the most common suggestions for atheist activism you are likely to find involves writing letters to the editor of your local newspaper. This is a good suggestion and one to which I will likely return. However, there is so much more than can be done these days with one's local paper that I want to bring some other ideas to your attention today. Since we are going to focus on what you can do with your local newspaper's website, the first thing you'll need to do is find your paper's website. Once you have done that, we can get started.

Most newspapers have websites these days, and it is becoming increasingly common for these websites to provide all sorts of services that can be useful for our purposes. Take some time to explore your paper's website, and look for the following:
  • Online forums
  • A place for readers to host their own blogs on the newspaper's site
  • Reader profiles (you'll have to create an online account but should be able to do this even if you do not actually subscribe to the paper)
  • A way to easily post photos and/or videos
  • An Opinion section making it easy to submit material right through the website
Odds are, you will find most of these and more. Most newspapers are finally understanding the importance of solid websites. Now, I recommend that you do as many of the following as you want:
  • Create an account (you don't have to use your name if you don't want to), and add the URL for your blog (if you have one), and make sure the bio section says something about you being an atheist.
  • With your account, you will probably be able to leave comments on the paper's website for any article posted from the print version or web-only content. Take advantage of this to promote reason, call attention to Christian extremism, point out anti-atheist bigotry, and inform other readers that there are in fact atheists in your area.
  • Play around with what is likely to be a fairly primitive blog-hosting service. Even if you already have your own blog, you might find creative ways to use the paper's service to spread the word about atheism in your community.
  • Use the forums regularly, starting threads and contributing to threads in progress. Use your signature to link to your blog, promote atheism, etc. Not only can this be a great way to meet like-minded individuals, but it also demonstrates that the reality-based community is present in your area.
  • Submit photos, videos, or opinion articles. Many papers will require you to use your real name and provide them with an accurate phone number for letters to the editor. However, some websites will not have these requirements for online content. Depending on your comfort level, you can do both.
Collectively, these tasks show others in your community that their neighbors do not necessarily buy into their religious delusion. You are also provoking thought among people who may have never stopped to consider what it might be like to be an atheist surrounded by believers. I have been doing these things for a while now, and I must say that I have been pleasantly surprised to find support in some unlikely places.