ACDC News – Issue 17-04

Warning signals to journalists about “balanced coverage” of environmental issues

Research reported in Environmental Research Letters sends warning signals to journalists who may feel inclined to cover a complex issue by featuring two scientists, one who is convinced of X and one who is not. This search for editorial balance may mislead and confuse because it may not reflect the weight of evidence.

For example, C. Shearer and associates analyzed public concern about the existence of a “secret large-scale atmospheric program” (SLAP) – a concern shared by as much as 17% of the adult population in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They showed the evidence to 77 domain experts and asked them about each of the claims made by SLAP theorists. Experts expressed near-unanimous consensus (76/77) that there was no evidence to support the existence of SLAP.

Authors called for increased assessment and reporting of existing levels of scientific consensus regarding complex, socially-contested environmental issues. (Note: The need would seem to extend beyond environmental issues. Also, while consensus is not science, awareness of consensus levels may add to understanding and improve media reporting.)

You can read a follow-up summary and perspective by E. Maibach and S. van der Linden reported in Environmental Research Letters here .

Innovative project by the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists

Recently we added to the ACDC collection a report in the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) newsletter about a pioneering project by members of the British Guild. They are seeing results of their efforts to help form the first school-based agricultural training centre in Nepal. Their fund-raising efforts also are supporting a project focused on microcredit for a rural women’s group in Nepal.

Congratulations to the British Guild, partnering with the British charitable organization, Global Action Nepal, in these development efforts.  You can read the IFAJ article here .

Five recent articles in the Journal of Applied Communications

Here are the titles and authors of five articles in the fourth 2016 issue of JAC . It is published by the Association for Communication Excellence in Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (ACE):

  • “Viewer perceptions and preferences for Farmweek” by McKayla Brubaker, Quisto Settle, and Elizabeth Gregory North
  • “Making a case for McDonald’s: a qualitative case study examining the McDonald’s ‘Our Food Your Questions’ campaign” by Laura M. Gorham, Courtney Gibson, and Erica Irlbeck
  • “Promoting commodities through comic books: a framing analysis of the Captain Citrus campaign” by Tiffany M. Rogers, Joy N. Rumble, and Lisa K. Lundy
  • “Tweeting with authority: identifying influential participants in agriculture-related water quality Twitter conversations” by Ashlan E. Wickstrom and Annie R. Specht
  • “Exploring perspectives of the student competencies needed to advocate for agriculture” by Garrett M. Steede, Laura M. Gorham, and Erica Irlbeck

You can read them here .

How to tap into the archives of ACE

Eighty-five years of historical records involving a pioneering agricultural communicator organization in the U.S. are archived in the National Agricultural Library of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They involve ACE – known today as the Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences. Earlier titles included the American Association of Agricultural College Editors and Agricultural Communicators in Education.

The collection contains 50 boxes of organizational records dating back to the first gathering of land-grant college editors in 1913 at the University of Illinois. Records span the years from 1913 to 1998. They provide a first-hand view of development in this professional and scholarly field.

You can review a description and finding aid for these materials here .

Negative views of GM food – reflecting more than low levels of science education

Decisions about GM food are rarely about one issue and notably not just (or even mainly) about “the science.” Those perspectives emerged recently in the journal, New Genetics and Society. Liz Harfull, ACDC associate in South Australia, alerted us to the 2017 report of research by Heather Bray and Rachel Ankeny, University of Adelaide. The highly educated women in their qualitative research had many questions that they viewed as unanswered and looked for a higher level of discussion about their concerns.

“…it may be time for more sophisticated and broader engagement about genetic modification, against the backdrop of more complex considerations of values including those associated with food choice.”

You can read the journal article here .

Role of local TV weather forecasters in climate change education

An article in PLOS ONE (November 2015) offered evidence that local television weathercasters can play an important role in educating the public about climate change. Researchers used a telephone survey of 2,000 Virginia residents. Findings revealed that “exposure to local TV weather forecasts can increase viewers’ perceptions of extreme local weather events, which in time can increase their awareness about the impacts and reality of climate change.”

Results highlighted the importance of trust. Authors emphasized that it will be important for climate change communicators, including TV weathercasters, to display and maintain good, scientific credibility.

You can read the article, “Local climate experts,” here .

Communicator activities approaching

April 22-29, 2017
33rd Annual Conference of the Association for International Agricultural and Extension Education (AIAEE) in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


April 26-28, 2017
“Go big” 2017 Agri-Marketing Conference of the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) in Dallas, Texas.

May 25-29, 2017
“Interventions: Communication Research and Practice.” Annual conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) in San Diego, California.

June 13-16, 2017
“Renewal” Annual conference of the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE) in New Orleans, Louisiana. Information:

June 20-22, 2017
“Setting the gold standard in agricultural public relations.” Annual meeting of the Agricultural Relations Council in Sacramento, California.

July 22-26, 2017
“Summit on the summit.”  Agricultural Media Summit near Salt Lake City, Utah. Joint meeting of the American Agricultural Editors’ Association, Livestock Publications Council, and the Connectiv Agri-Media Committee. Also site of the national meeting of Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow.

Have you ever felt this?

We close this issue of ACDC News with an insight from John Muir about writing:

“Writing is like a glacier, grinding every inch of the way.”

Best wishes and good searching

Please pass along your reactions, suggestions and ideas. Feel free to invite our help as you search for information. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @ACDCUIUC . And please suggest (or send) agricultural communications documents we might add to this unique and valuable collection. We welcome them in hard copy (sent to Ag Comm Documentation Center, Room 510, 1101 S. Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801) or in electronic format sent to

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