Musings on Media Coverage of Furries

Why a page about furry media?

Because it’s about you. If you identify yourself as a furry, to close friends, to family, to the world at large, they’re increasingly likely to have read something about furry fandom in the mass media. They form their perceptions, of you and of your friends, in part based on that media. I have a partial bibliography of furry media coverage on the medialinks page.

Because you’re part of it. If you have been to a furry convention or a gathering of furries, perhaps you’ve seen the media there. Should you talk to them? Below, I offer some thoughts on just that question.

My musings on dealing with the media

In the course of being at furry events, particularly conventions, you may be approached by the media. They're professionals, and know their job. You need to understand what their job is, and what their coverage might be, to appear in your best light and reflect well on furry fandom to the public.

Let's start with why you want to talk with a reporter or a television journalist. Everybody likes to be on television, see their picture in the paper, and have their thoughts in print. Furries, though, are a group that has been cast often in an unfavorable light in the press.

Think, first, where this article is going and who might read it. Have you told your parents, your grandparents, your fellow churchgoers, and your coworkers or fellow students about your hobby of fursuiting or playing a bunny online? How would they react even if you weren't misportrayed in an article, but you were placed in the same group as plushophiles or people who practice bestiality?

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you do decide to talk to the media.

1. The media is not necessarily your friend.

Your first instinct may be that the media person you’re dealing with is friendly. You need to separate this friendliness, which is professional, from personal friendliness. The man or woman who you’re talking to doesn’t know you, isn’t normally interested in forming a close relationship, but is simply smiling as a way of getting to know you in the performance of his job. He or she is friendly in the same way, and for many of the same ends, as a car salesman is friendly. If he or she buys you lunch, it’s not a favor for you: it’s something the journalist can most likely write off, and they are treating you to that meal to lower your inhibitions.

2. The media has no reason to produce a boring story.

If you do talk to the media, they often have an interest in showing you as out of the norm, or even deviant. Television journalists and newspaper journalists will probably portray you in much the same way they portray the attendees of Star Trek conventions: as an oddity. Media that don’t have to be family friendly, such as magazines, may try to highlight your sexuality.

One overriding truth is at work here: sex and the abnormal interest readers, and that is really all that journalists and their editors care about. Their job is to sell newspapers, or to attract eyeballs to their newscast.

There is no reason for a journalist, no matter what he or she says, to portray you ‘accurately’ or sympathetically. While I’m not saying journalists lie, they have every reason to produce an interesting story, and that will often involve picking out the most unusual or salacious parts of an event or a person.

3. You have no guarantees when talking to a journalist.

You’re not in control when a journalist is around. If you say something, and subsequently regret it and ask for it to be out of the article, the reporter is under no obligation to remove it from his or her notes. They tend to treat such slips as revealing of one's inner person -- the unscripted person.

You’ll almost never get a chance to look at any stories or photographs before they’re published. Deadlines make this impractical; moreover, it’s against journalistic practice to allow sources to see a story and allow them to edit it.

Everything you do is generally fair game for a journalist to comment on, especially if they’re writing a longer story -- called a ‘feature piece’, which goes more in-depth than a simple news story. If you are at a convention, and your inhibitions are lowered, you may talk freely about your sexuality, or take the journalist to your room, or to your car. If they’re profiling you, that can provide a journalist a perhaps unflattering picture of you. Left a box of condoms out in your room? That might well merit a mention in a long magazine article. Left a pair of boxer shorts with naked vixens on them on the bed? Your grandmother may well know about those when she reads the piece.

I’m writing this piece because a number of furries have been burned by the media they invited to cons, or the journalists they lowered their inhibitions toward when approached for an interview. They learned, for one thing, that while furry conventions have many good sides, such as the charity auction, no journalist really wants to highlight that. The reporter would much sooner take photos of a plushie party -- that's the exciting part. The profiled furs found out that they have little way of spinning a story to their advantage, and no control whatsoever of who reads the piece. Some have been 'outed' to their families and coworkers who read a magazine. It can be quite the task to explain why you were at a convention with people who have sex with stuffed animals.

I've heard, many times, that people want to tell the story of why they're furry to the world. Everybody likes to be understood. I have serious doubts over how accepting the average journalist, reader or viewer ever can be, though. Keeping that in the back of your mind, even though you're caught up in the microcosm of a hotel filled with furries, is really the most important self-defense you have.

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