I Asked An Anti-Marriage Equality Group For An Interview 17 Times And They Never Replied
They want a fair go... but won't text me back.
Earlier this year, Australia saw the launch of a new anti-marriage equality group: Marriage Alliance.
They burst onto the scene in August, with a simple central message: there's more to same-sex marriage than you think.
The group argues a more in-depth conversation needs to be had about marriage. According to Marriage Alliance, discussion in Australia has been stilted by a powerful marriage equality lobby and the public have only heard one side of the debate.
Marriage Alliance ads likening same-sex marriage to an iceberg were broadcast by several networks, including Sky News, Foxtel, Channel Nine, and Fairfax Media websites.
But the advertisements quickly sparked controversy – Seven and Ten declined to run them and Foxtel customers hit back at the network for its decision.
Marriage Alliance was gutted and accused the broadcasters of "denying the basic right to free speech".
"We are asking for a fair go to have a debate about an issue that should be discussed openly and transparently, and without intimidation or fear," said spokesperson Sophie York. "Why is public debate being silenced?"
With Marriage Alliance's accusations ringing in my ears, I set out to have a discussion with them – but, as it turned out, it was tougher than I expected.
On August 3, the day after their launch, I rang Marriage Alliance and requested an interview.
It was a pleasant chat. Their PR guy, Nathaniel of the Hugo Halliday firm, took my name and number. I said I wanted to talk about their launch and aims. We teed up an interview for later that afternoon.
And then, bam.
But alas, Nathaniel never got back. Despite a follow up email.
The next day, I tried ringing again – first at 11.29am, and then again at 12.08pm. But no one was picking up my calls :(
I joked to my editor that Marriage Alliance were "screening my calls". And he asked if I wanted to use HIS phone.
So I called again... and Nathaniel picked up right away!
But he didn't sound delighted that "Lane from BuzzFeed" was on the other end of the phone. He told me that Marriage Alliance was very busy with lots of media requests and they would get back to me. Then he hung up.
I sent this follow up email just to make sure.
But that fell flat too.
And I gave up on Marriage Alliance for a few weeks. They seemed busy, and uninterested in talking to me. I was hurt by their reluctance to text back, but I let it go.
Marriage Alliance was mentioned in the episode, which argued the media does not give opponents of same-sex marriage a fair run.
Presenter Paul Barry said radio and TV interviews had been skewed towards those in favour of marriage equality, citing 32 interviews against 12 for the two sides of the debate in a 12-day period in August.
"Amazingly, the ABC has not interviewed Sophie York from the Marriage Alliance even once — despite 16 interviews with [Christine] Forster and [Rodney] Croome [who both support marriage equality]," Barry said.
I swung back into action. Sure, Marriage Alliance had ignored me before. But if Media Watch was anything to go by, they weren't as busy now, and they wanted to talk.
Still a little bruised from my previous rejection, I started with an email.
And five days – and no replies – later, another:
The next day, I rang. But it went straight to message bank. So I sent another email.
What's a reporter to do? Floored by the silence, I started documenting my increasingly manic attempts to get in touch.
And after a good think, I turned to social media.
I figured a cheeky tweet wouldn't hurt.
And a comment on this Facebook post.
But this multi-pronged effort still led to nothing.
After ~playing it cool~ for a while, early September brought the first contact I'd had in over a month – a retweet!
My tweet was about their latest ad, which put forward a number of statistics about kids growing up without fathers.
I tried commenting on their Facebook post from my personal page – to see if I could slip in under the radar – but my question went unanswered.
The next day, I tried a different approach – instead of directly asking for an interview, I tweeted some commentary...
...AND THEN I POUNCED.
But still nothing :(
About a week later, the Australian Communications and Media Authority found complaints about Marriage Alliance's iceberg ad to be unfounded.
"At last, some good news for them!" I thought. "Surely they'll speak to me about this." (They didn't.)
I tried sending an email to the generic "firstname.lastname@example.org", assuming my missives had been flying into Nathaniel Smith's junk or trash folder for months now.
And then, I did something I haven't done in years – that some people alive today may never do at all.
I turned to Australia Post.
I wrote down my interview request, walked to the nearest post office, purchased a pre-paid envelope for 90 cents, and posted it off to Marriage Alliance.
This is what it said:
Dear Marriage Alliance,
It's Lane Sainty here, writing from BuzzFeed.
I've been trying to set up an interview with Sophie York or another Marriage Alliance representative for some time, and haven't had a great deal of luck via email, social media or the phone – so I thought I'd try writing.
I write about LGBTI issues for BuzzFeed Australia and would be really interested in setting up an interview with someone from Marriage Alliance to discuss your strategy, your funding, and the public campaign you've been running.
I'd also be particularly interested in chatting about the comments you and other anti same-sex marriage groups have made about the media being reluctant to talk to you or run your advertisements.
Please do give me a call at [my number] or email me at email@example.com.