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Public Water Safety Education Through Letters To The Newspapers


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Author: Richard Tan

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Public Water Safety Education Through Letters To The Newspapers

  1. 1. Public water safety education through letters to the newspapers Richard M K Tan Honorary Secretary General Singapore Life Saving Society & Member, National Water Safety Council SINGAPORE
  2. 2. <ul><li>Introduction </li></ul><ul><li>Why write letters to the newspapers? </li></ul><ul><li>When to write letters </li></ul><ul><li>How to write letters </li></ul><ul><li>Consideration of newspaper editors </li></ul><ul><li>How to improve chances of publication </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion </li></ul>Contents
  3. 3. Why write letters to the newspapers? <ul><li>Wide reach e.g. The Straits Times circulation of 385,000 (as at Feb 2007) reaching 1.355 million 15 years old + (Media Index Survey 2006) </li></ul><ul><li>Low cost - Just email or paper, ink & postage </li></ul><ul><li>Fast - Usually within a few days of receipt </li></ul>NOTE... Singapore’s population is 4.483 million and adult aged 15+ years literacy is 95% - Source: Singapore Dept of Statistics 2006
  4. 4. Why write letters to the newspapers? <ul><li>Effective - Leaders and public read letters page of the newspapers </li></ul><ul><li>Second Life - It appears in the online edition of The Straits Times and is archived in their database open to public (for a fee) </li></ul><ul><li>Third Life - It may be quoted in a later case or report or different newspaper </li></ul>NOTE... Singapore has daily newspapers in the 4 official languages: English, Chinese Malay and Tamil.
  5. 5. Why write letters to the newspapers? <ul><li>Fourth life - it may be uploaded on your web site and reprinted in your publications as teaching resources </li></ul><ul><li>Free public relations & advertising e.g. through mention of services your organization provides </li></ul><ul><li>Means of teaching about water safety </li></ul>
  6. 6. Why write letters to the newspapers? <ul><li>Anecdotal evidence - greater public awareness </li></ul><ul><li>Increased queries to SLSS on water safety and SLSS courses and services </li></ul><ul><li>Possible contribution to drop in drowning rate </li></ul>
  7. 7. When to write letters? <ul><li>When there is a drowning or a similar incident in the news and you have a useful message </li></ul><ul><li>When there is newsworthy information to be shared with readers - e.g. No ventilation CPR attracted a lot of letters to The Straits Times that were published </li></ul><ul><li>When there is a article or report in the news that touch on an area where you can educate the public on water safety </li></ul>
  8. 8. How to write letters to the newspapers <ul><li>Begin with the objective in mind e.g. give advice to the public or to clarify uncertainty </li></ul><ul><li>Know the requirements and considerations of the Letters Editor </li></ul><ul><li>Keep letter simple and easy to understand </li></ul><ul><li>Use the ‘Bikini’ test </li></ul>NOTE... Newspapers are businesses
  9. 9. Considerations of newspaper editor <ul><li>Relevance </li></ul><ul><li>Newsworthy - Editor decides </li></ul><ul><li>Current </li></ul><ul><li>Word limit - e.g. The Straits Times - No limit to 500 words to current 400 words </li></ul><ul><li>Letter limit - e.g. The Straits Times has a limited of 2 letters a month from anyone </li></ul><ul><li>Policy - e.g. The Straits Times only prints letters written exclusively to it </li></ul>
  10. 10. How to improve chances of publication? <ul><li>Use plain language </li></ul><ul><li>Single message preferable to multiple messages </li></ul><ul><li>Keep to the word and letter limits </li></ul><ul><li>Write as early as possible </li></ul><ul><li>Use an interesting heading or title for letter - e.g. “Treat all bodies of water as potential hazards” ST Online Forum 8 Sep 2006 </li></ul><ul><li>Translate to language of paper if it is not English </li></ul>
  11. 11. Examples of letters after 2 drowning cases
  12. 12. Report of Drowning case 1 The Straits Times 11 December 2006 “ Father drowns while trying to save son from strong current”
  13. 13. Letter to newspaper <ul><li>Lessons </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Safety of rescuer first </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Preference for non-contact rescues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Safer to try reach or throw rescue </li></ul></ul>The Straits Times 11 December 2006
  14. 14. Report of Drowning case 2 <ul><li>Two Singaporeans drown in sea of Phuket, Thailand, in 2004 </li></ul>The Straits Times Early September 2004
  15. 15. Letter to newspaper <ul><li>Letter advising extra care when swimming in the sea because of rip currents etc - The Straits Times, 9 September 2004 </li></ul>
  16. 16. Second life of letter <ul><li>Same 9 September 2004 letter quoted in a similar case 3 years later in 2007 </li></ul>
  17. 17. Conclusion <ul><li>Letters are a fast, effective and low cost method of water safety education </li></ul><ul><li>Write whenever there is an opportunity </li></ul><ul><li>Note newspaper editor’s considerations to maximize the chances of publication </li></ul>
  18. 18. Questions?