ACDC News – Issue 00-16

Fuzzy profile of the ag-web user.

A recent news release from AgPRonline reported what it described as a “fuzzy profile” of Internet usage by U.S. farmers. Here are some of the features described:

  • Farmers on the Internet typically spend about five hours a week surfing.
  • Wednesday nights are the most popular times.
  • Most farmer users are online between 7 and 8 p.m.
  • About one-third of their web surfing is oriented to farming.
  • These Internet users are a bit younger than their peers, seem more open to new practices, tend to operate larger farms and are slightly more likely to live in the Northeast or West than in the Midwest or South.

Reference: Use title search (“Agricultural web coalition clicks ahead”) for the full citation.

Not so fast on biotech surveys.

The reader of a Canadian newspaper recently took issue with today’s widespread use of surveys of public attitudes about biotechnology. The reader suggested:

“Uncritical reporting of polls conducted with unknowledgeable survey respondents does nothing to inform public debate. A more fitting headline would have read: ‘Uninformed Canadians polled about their ignorance of biotechnology’.”

Reference: Use title search (“Not so fast on biotech surveys”) for the full citation.

Grammar gaffes, punctuation pitfalls and word woes

Come under the spotlight in an award-winning new teaching resource from three educational communicators:

Meg G. Ashman, University of Vermont; LaRae M. Donnellan, The University of Tennessee; and Florita S. Montgomery, West Virginia University, Training the grammar trainer: fun workshops a la carte.

This 120-page ring-bound teaching package takes a fun-filled, fast-paced approach to teaching grammar skills to English-speaking adults. It includes an interesting selection of camera-ready handouts and exercises, games and other resources, including a CD that contains an interactive “Grammar Challenge” game.

Reference: Use a title or author search (above) for the full citation. Contact LaRae Donnellan at for information about availability.

“Ecological illiteracy” within GM science and the regulatory system 

Came under discussion during a recent environmental journalism conference in Canada. A five-member panel of scientists, policy analysts and journalists also mentioned other communications aspects of food biotechnology today:

  • “Unavailability” of full information about GM issues
  • Lack of public debate about regulatory aspects
  • An “eater rebellion” that is emerging among consumers
  • How to inform the public about issues that have no black-and-white nature

Reference: Use a title search (“GM foods”) for the full citation. Contact us about how to get access to the audio proceedings.

Is the Internet adding to “information poverty” in developing countries?

The Documentation Center recently added a paper by science and technology journalist Mike Holderness who raises this question:

“So while increasing amounts of information about scientific and technological developments are now available only on the Internet, the big question is: Has ‘information poverty’ been added to the many other gaps separating developing countries from the rich North?” The paper highlights barriers such as lack of information infrastructure, high expense and English language domination of information on the Net.

“…the South has much to gain from increased access to information,” he argues, “and no time to lose.”

Reference: Use title search (“A promising solution fraught with peril”) for the full citation. Text is available online at

Undergraduate programs growing in the U.S.

“…undergraduate agricultural communications programs throughout the United States are growing and are expected to continue to grow for at least the next five years,” according to a study reported during the recent U.S. Agricultural Communicators Congress in Washington, D.C. Findings are based on responses from 22 universities that offer such degree programs. Researchers Randy Weckman, Deborah Witham and Ricky Telg also found that:

  • The number of students majoring in agricultural communications varied from 4 to 115 students per program, with a mean of 36.63.
  • Faculty-student ratios varied widely, from 1:10 to 1:77.
  • All programs involved a small number of faculty members (mean of just over two) to coordinate, administer and teach in the programs.
  • Faculty members reported need for greater support (funding, space, personnel).
  • Nearly 60 percent believed that a national accreditation program would help their programs.

Reference: Use a title search (“Characteristics of agricultural communications undergraduate programs: findings from a national survey”) for the full citation.

Finding synergy between online information and magazine information.

Rod Fee, senior livestock editor of Successful Farming magazine, describes ways in which an agricultural website (@griculture Online, introduced five years ago) has changed the way in which editorial staffers think and communicate. His report appears in the July/August issue of ByLine Newsletter from the American Agricultural Editors’ Association.

Reference: Use a title search (“The web brings new challenges…new opportunities”) or author search (“Fee”) for the full citation.

Isolation. Desperation. Torture.

Author Jeff Manning identifies those as strange origins of a commodity promotion campaign that he describes in a new book, GOT MILK? Isolation, desperation and torture are central to a creative theme developed by the California Milk Processor Board in 1993. In this 197-page case report, Manning describes how the Board turned away from the prevailing theme of milk as “good for you” and urged consumers to enter the world of “milk deprivation.” That is, what happens when you don’t have milk? By mid-1994 the campaign was winning creative awards, including Best of Show in the Clio Awards, and reversing a downward slide in milk sales.

Reference: Use a title search (“Got Milk?”) or author search (Manning) for the full citation.

New “Useful Links” on the ACDC web site.

You will find two new sources of agricultural communications information on the “Useful Links” page. Recently we added pointers to:

  • Livestock Publications Council – an international, nonprofit organization serving the livestock communications industry.
  • Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT) Archives – a comprehensive finding aid to help locate information about this national organization.

Professional meetings approaching.

Following are some conferences, workshops and other kinds of professional improvement events for agricultural communicators:

September 28-30, 2000
Meeting of North American Agricultural Journalists (NAAJ) at Des Moines, Iowa.

September 28 – October 1, 2000
“CFWF 2000.” Conference of the Canadian Farm Writers Federation at Lethbridge, Alberta. Theme: “Farming on the green planet – the new age of stewardship.”

Best regards and good searching.

Please pass along your reactions, questions or ideas for ACDC — invite help in searching — and suggest (or send) agricultural communications documents that we might add to this collection. Thank you.

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