Chapter SeventeenIIIChapter Nineteen

18. Alert the Media: Sic the News Hounds on Them

When attempting to expose the nefarious activities of a rogue board, one of the very best tools at your disposal is the local media. Depending on the particular situation, the media (both print and televised) can turn out to be either a valuable ally in the fight for HOA reform, or as indifferent as the majority of your neighbors.

release the hounds
In order to get the attention of the media, you should present them with a compelling case; you have to catch the particular industry entity in a clearly compromising position. There should be an obvious indication of wrongdoing or, at the very least, some questionable conduct. The media outlets like to see very clearly defined conflicts of the good Vs evil variety. This is especially true of televised media where a situation must be resolved in as little as 60 seconds. Don’t waste your opportunity to gain some exposure for your cause with insignificant incidents or misunderstandings. It’s much harder to get the attention of the media the second time around.

get your snit together
If you are lucky enough to get a reporter to come to your house to listen to your story, be prepared. If some documents are involved, have them ready. You might also have copies made so they can refer to them at their leisure. By the way, always hold tightly to your original documents: the board will steal them and a reporter may lose them.

don’t press the press
Do not try to write the story for the reporter or attempt to exert undo influence. These newspaper people are very independent and they know when someone is trying to “work” them. Besides, as I said earlier, this industry is so corrupt it cannot stand up to even the most cursory of examinations; just tell the truth and let the industry players do what they do. The good and the evil will come into focus all by itself.

What reporters are generally good at is listening. You will get one chance to tell your story, so once again, be prepared. Also, be advised that these reporters are very busy people; they are usually working on several stories at a time, so be patient and do not hound them with daily phone calls.

a tale of a cities two papers
In our battles at Shavano Ridge, I was able to get some media exposure from two very different outlets: the Express News, and the San Antonio Current.

goliath pulls a punch
The first media outlet to publish a story on the troubles at Shavano Ridge was the Express News, which is San Antonio’s major daily newspaper. Now you might think getting your story published in the one major daily would have been something of a coup, but it did not turn out that way at all. In fact, this newspaper did all it could to de-emphasize the story stopping just short of refusing approach it at all, but they do have to keep up the appearance of being responsive to the public.

Although I strongly recommend that you explore all avenues, I think you will find that the major papers will try to shy away from a story like this because they generally favor big business, and that means they favor the developers. Like most big-city newspapers, the Express News collects a substantial amount of advertising revenue from the real estate industry and they are not keen to offend their customers with stories of the dark side of life in their suburban utopias.

The Express News chose not to send their lead real estate reporter but instead sent one of their brand new cub reporters. However, inspite of being very young and new to the profession, she was very energetic and engaged. She did her best under the circumstances, and could have done a very good job, but I feel her higher ups shaped the story for her. She did want to come back and do an in-depth look into the CID industry, but I don't think she could get any support for the project. Our story was printed in the Christmas Eve edition and, as you would expect, attracted little attention.

david throws a haymaker
I found the media outlets most responsive to public concerns were the small, independent newspapers. I would think any city of 250,000 and over should have at least one independent newspaper. In our town, the most popular independent paper is the San Antonio Current.

I called the editor of the Current and explained not only the problems I was having with the CID industry but the problems this industry is creating all over the nation. The editor became so interested in the story (it turned out she is a great champion of democracy) she decided to do it herself.

She later told me that after she interviewed me she went home and read McKenzie’s Privatopia. Then she interviewed one of the Shavano Ridge board members and went home and reread Orwell’s Animal Farm.

The end result of her interviews and readings was an article entitled Neighbor vs. Neighbor.

This one article digs about as deep into this corrupt industry as I think I have ever seen to date. In our neighborhood, it didn’t deliver the knockout blow I had hoped for because those most adversely affected by this industry were not paying any attention. My hope is that as articles like this begin to proliferate throughout the media, propelled by the unfaltering insistence of a determined and well organized homeowner revolt (OK, I’m dreaming a little), attitudes will change one newspaper article, homeowner website, and homeowner newsletter at a time.

You can find both Neighbor vs. Neighbor and A Paint job Sparks Dispute on the Houses of Horror page.

tube talk
Some people have been successful in attracting the attention of the local and even the national network news, and you should make every effort to encourage them to explore the world of the CID housing industry.

dreaming out loud
I had always thought that the one television program in a position to deliver the most crushing blow to the CID industry would be the PBS series Frontline. I did send them a request that they turn their attention to this subject and got a nice letter back stating that they had already scheduled their 18 shows for the year, but they did say it was an intriguing idea. Maybe if they heard from enough of those determined, well-organized homeowners, they might reconsider. Oh how I would love to watch those CID industry types try to talk their way around those people and make it look good.


Chapter SeventeenIIIChapter Nineteen