Media Mecca

2012 brought with it some major changes to the Media Team, most notably the departure of Andie Grace as Communications Department Manager. Andie collaborated with the Burning Man organization for nearly 13 years and contributed greatly to Burning Man’s cultural fabric during that time. Her gentle spirit and invaluable ideas will be greatly missed as the Media Team moves into the future.

Andie Grace’s departure left some inordinately large shoes to fill. Several members of the team took on new responsibilities, and Megan Miller was brought on board as our Public Relations Manager. Megan brings to the role more than a decade of experience as a community organizer and public servant; she has worked for nonprofits, political campaigns, and the United States Senate. She hopes to bring transparency and an open ear to all of the ways she is tasked with facilitating communication to, from, and in between Burning Man participants, organizers, government agencies, and the media.

Though leadership within the Burning Man organization shifted in 2012, it remained business as usual during the media project proposal process. The Media Team approved 309 of the total 371 media applications received during the 2012 application period, which runs February through July. An additional 137 professional still photo projects were approved during the walk-up registration process in Black Rock City. Many of the people whose projects were approved on the ground have little intention of ever publicly displaying work beyond personal blogs, Flickr, or the occasional gallery show but we choose to give them professional contracts as the photographers often shoot using large, high-end cameras. Because they are more prominent when shooting at the event, we want to make sure they are aware of the policies outlined in the contract. Overall, Burning Man received slightly more project proposals in 2012 than in 2011, indicating that interest in the event remains high.

As interest in the event continued to rise, Burning Man continued to raise the bar on the type of projects it approved, especially favoring strong, thoughtful project proposals from international outlets. Worldwide awareness of Burning Man reflects the global explosion of Burner culture and is evident in the wide array of multi-national media who want to cover the event. In 2012, Media Mecca welcomed press from Argentina (Telenoche Canal 13), Australia (ABC 7), Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark (TV2 Nord), France (French 5), Germany, Holland (de Volkskrant), Ireland, Italy, Japan (NHK), Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia (Russia Today TV), Spain (Telemadrid), Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Domestic outlets included the Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, CNET, Gizmodo, Voice of America, Michigan Today, OC Weekly, CBS News, NBC News, KQED, Reuters, and the Reno Gazette Journal.

Burning Man welcomed to the playa two film crews who are working on longer term projects with their lenses trained not just on Black Rock City, but on year-round Burning Man culture. The Spark! documentarians have been filming at Burning Man Headquarters and beyond since late 2011. Following Founding Board members and individuals within the Burner community, the film investigates the transformative power of the Burning Man event on both participants and the Burning Man organization. It is set to release in 2013.

Also of note, the grassroots video project entitled “Profiles in Dust” continued shooting in Black Rock City. The volunteer-driven “Profiles” team documented artists, staffers, and the many Regional groups who participated in the Circle of Regional Effigies (CORE) project. New films in the series will be posted online in early 2013.

Now, more than ever, Burning Man’s Media Team works year-round to answer event-related or culturally-specific questions from a constantly expanding array of international press. While personal, cultural, and artistic growth may be the focus of some year-round press, other media reached out for comment on the ticket situation that left many Burners ticket-less after the initial sale in January. The Media Team acted quickly to answer a range of questions from the many local and national media outlets with inquiries about the2012 Burning Man ticket situation.

Many outlets also sought comment on the Krug Champagne incident that attracted wide attention in mid-May. The Burning Man organization broke the story through the Burning Blog (“How Not to Burn” by Evil Pippi, May 16th, 2012), but it became a hot topic as outlets like Huffington Post (“Krug Champagne’s Big Mistake”, Carly Schwartz, May 21, 2012) and others picked up the story. One Burner, Bret Bernhoft, even studied the case in depth on his online blog (“Investigative Web Analysis Case Study and Timeline: Drug Champagne Burning Man PR Meltdown”). Backlash against Krug came from all sides as the Burning Man organization, Burners, and the media came to the defense of the Ten Principles.

After more than 16 years, the Media Team continues to evolve, always with an eye towards supporting Burning Man’s culture of decommodification and creativity. As the Burning Man story continues to unfold, spreading beyond Black Rock City and around the globe, the Media Team seeks to protect the ethos of the event while welcoming thoughtful, creative projects that document the event for the benefit of future generations.

Submitted by,
Lee Anna Mariglia