The Importance of Television
By J. R. Martin, MPS

(Presented to Holland Lodge No. 1, A.F.&A.M., Houston, Texas on October 11, 2000)(Also published in Veritatem Petite Newsletter of the Lodge of Research of New South Wales, Vol. 12, No. 9)

Worshipful Master, Wardens, grand lodge representatives, Brethren:

GOOD MORNING, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN OF THE JURY. MY NAME IS J. R. MARTIN OF GERTZ, KASTANES, MOORE AND MARTIN IN BEAUTIFUL, SUNNY, DOWNTOWN NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA, AND I AM HERE TO REPRESENT THE DEFENDANT IN THIS CASE. I AM HERE TO TELL YOU THAT MY CLIENT IS HAPPY, PROUD AND PLEASED TO BE HERE IN COURT TODAY BECAUSE THIS IS HIS CHANCE TO FINALLY TELL HIS SIDE OF THE STORY. OH, YOU MAY HEAR AN AWFUL LOT OF AWFUL STUFF ABOUT MY CLIENT FROM THE PLAINTIFF'S ATTORNEY BUT YOU AND I BOTH KNOW THAT YOUARE SWORN TO LISTEN TO ALL OF THE EVIDENCE IN THIS CASE. AND I KNOW THAT YOU WILL DO THAT DUTY BECAUSE AFTER YOU HEAR ALL OF THE THINGS THAT THE PLAINTIFF'S LAWYER WILL PRESENT, YOU WILL THEN HEAR "THE REST OF THE STORY". AND IT WILL BE THERE, AFTER ALL OF THE STUFF THAT THE PLAINTIFF'S LAWYER HAS SAID YOU MAY HEAR TODAY, I WANT YOU TO BE LISTENING FOR AND I KNOW THAT YOU WILL BE WATCHING AND LISTENING FOR "THE REST OF THE STORY"!

This was how I used to begin my opening arguments to the jury in trials when I was still a trial lawyer. I present it now not only to impress you with my theatrical talent. No, this is to show two points: One, that you must catch and hold the attention of your intended audience in trying to promote anything, and two even if you have the best product and great presentation, you cannot promote anything unless you are there, where the audience is, to promote it. I could not have done all of those brilliant theatrics if I had not been in a courtroom with the credentials of a lawyer.

Tonight I will address the importance of television, but for those who might wish to hear more about the case that inspired my opening statement and hear some other ideas about what to do to renew freemasonry, I will be speaking at one of our "Third Monday" meetings soon. I think.

These days, we hear a lot of discussion concerning one-day classes versus the need to take time to learn the work of the craft, and we often get so worked up over how to make masons that we miss an important point. If we are trying to get masonry back on its feet, whether we give one-day classes or one degree per year is almost irrelevant! Why? Because, as one wise old past master used to say, "You may not be able to make a horse drink if you lead him to the water, but first you first must lead him to the water!" In other words, a man cannot be brought to masonic light unless we can get him to the lodge in the first place.

Here is our answer: Television!

We know that we can sell masonry and the initiation system in whatever form it takes, we have done it before! What we often cannot do, and have historically been prevented from doing, is to tell the good man that we want him. Such recruiting is NOT what is proposed here! That, too, can be counterproductive! If a good man comes to us, "of his free will and accord", you and I you can get him initiated, passed and raised one way or another. But, if he is asked to join, the good man is just as likely not to value the experience no matter how it is conducted. Here is the crux of the matter! He must come to us and ask in order to truly value what we have to give.

So...how do we get him to come? Easy! Advertise! Do "public relations" activities. Get a higher profile in the press. But MOST important, get on television! Television is the key, one way or the other. Television is the common denominator for all of our "brave new world".

The Shriners are already beginning to see this, and their excellent shrine hospital public service announcements are an example. If we are willing to see this, then we, the blue lodges, can blossom into this new era of electronics.

How do we know this? Great examples abound! The Navy gets large PERCENTAGE increases in recruits every time there is a new television series about the Navy (like "JAG", or even "McHale's Navy"). And we do not have to get into the television series business: Every time a "good guy" on TV is identified with an organization or cause during a show, the calls and public interest go up dramatically.

In Oklahoma, the Grand Lodge vigorously supports the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), and actively urges the constituent lodges to do the same, so the viewers see the Square & Compasses before and after many of the fine educational programs on PBS. Also, every TV station needs public service announcements, get in there and push.

An independent television producer, Jackson Polk, now living in El Paso, has produced a number of excellent videos that are available for use, and at one point the Scottish Rite was distributing them to encourage valleys to get them run on public access channels. Furthermore, according to Mr. Polk (who is not a mason, by the way) all of those who have run his Masonic Television Forum tapes on public access channels have had positive results, and a few wrote to tell him that they got new members as a result. Also, both the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite in Washington, D.C., and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia have fine videos for sale.

These are just a few ideas to start the creativity rolling. Most, if not all, grand lodges have public relations committees. If you, as a mason, are really concerned with doing more than you are to encourage new petitions, or to prevent the loss of membership, put some time into this grand lodge committee. They probably need your help.

Some may say that the reason for sagging numbers and lost members is that so many good men are watching television instead of coming to lodge, but as long as these men are in front of the tube, let's show them the craft as a worthwhile alternative. Of course we need to find ways to retain members, but we are most vulnerable at the application level. We must keep looking to television as a tool because we cannot bring a man to masonic light unless we can lead him to the lodge. And these days, you may not be able to lead a man to a lodge unless you show it to him on television, first!

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