Over a year and half, INTERRUPT designed and led a media campaign in San Francisco that won support for the passage of the strongest, broadest living wage law in the country, despite intense opposition from the mayor and other local interests. Working for the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition, INTERRUPT built a media campaign from the ground-up that ultimately developed public support for a living wage law estimated by independent analysts to cost nearly $200 million over five years and to benefit over 20,000 low wage workers in San Francisco by setting wage levels at $11/hour and providing health insurance.
The media campaign began with an INTERRUPT analysis on the media debate in living wage campaigns across the U.S. and of the early debate in San Francisco which was markedly different due to the huge cost of the living wage ordinance proposed for San Francisco.
INTERRUPT developed the key media messages that powered the San Francisco media campaign. INTERRUPT then mapped out a media plan for the campaign, designed and orchestrated press events, trained low-wage workers as spokespeople and provided intensive media training and technical assistance to campaign organizers. By the end of the campaign, the staff of the Living Wage Coalition had developed the media skills and know-how to conduct the media work on their own. The campaign provides a model for the strategic use of media to advance progressive causes.
INTERRUPT, working with welfare recipients and advocates, conducted a study on news coverage of welfare in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Sacramento Bee. The study documented imbalanced and misleading coverage of welfare "reform" and pinpointed lapses in coverage. For example, although children are the majority of welfare recipients, the impact of welfare reform on children was not covered in news accounts. New reports applied the terminology of crime and drug addiction to welfare recipients by using the terms recidivism and relapse to describe former recipients who receive welfare a second time. INTERRUPT worked with welfare rights advocates to organize editorial meetings to educate journalists and improve coverage of welfare. Meetings with the Sacramento Bee and San Francisco Chronicle were held in the fall of 1999 and welfare recipients and advocates discussed their concerns about news coverage directly with the senior news editors who acknowledged the problems and discussed ways to improve coverage.