ACDC News – Issue 00-17

Static for Stossel.

Quite a few reports have entered the Documentation Center recently in connection with ABC reporter John Stossel’s tangle with the organic food industry. His airing on February 4 and July 7 of a controversial “20/20” television segment that questioned the safety of organic food has stirred considerable response. This debate is focusing mainly on accuracy in reporting about organic foods. It also is sparking discussion about earlier reporting that led to what is known as the Alar Scare involving apples.

Reference: Use a subject search with terms such as <organic> or <accuracy AND reporting>.

Journalists’ dilemmas in covering agricultural issues these days.

Several reporting dilemmas came under discussion during a special session at the U.S. Agricultural Communicators Congress in Washington, D.C. The panelists – a farm magazine editor, farm broadcaster and beef producer – cited dilemmas such as:

  • Evaluating news from organizations that have “agendas.”
  • Balancing editorial with the drive for profits and prices.
  • Competition among farm media, leading to ethical compromises.
  • Pressure from advertisers and publishers.
  • Determining how much the public needs to know about specific topics.

The discussion also identified some suggestions and ideas for agricultural reporting in a volatile industry environment. Examples:

  • Apply doses of “healthy skepticism” about what is going on.
  • Sort various claims, charges and challenges before reporting them.
  • Use source identification and attribution carefully and extensively.
  • Cover not only the changes taking place, but also the effects of changes.
  • Work hard for editorial balance and independence, even in the face of business-side pressures.

Reference: Contact the Center ( if you are interested in notes from this session. No full text of presentations or discussion is available.

Sharper focus for agricultural television.

Farm telecaster Jerry Lackey of the Texas AG TV Network urges stations and networks with farm broadcasters to sharpen their focus to stay in touch with a changing environment. His article in the National Association of Farm Broadcasters Chats Newsletter suggests that NAFB can help telecasters prepare for opportunities through new technologies such as webcasting and streaming of video. He also urges the organization to promote farm television more actively among marketers. More than 200 television stations and affiliates feature NAFB voting members, he reports, and he provides some recent data about U.S. farmers’ use of television for gathering information about farm news, farm markets and weather.

Reference: Use title search (“Promoting farm television, important part of NAFB”) or author search (Lackey) for the full citation.

“Information can be disseminated, knowledge cannot.” 

Anamaria Decock, communication specialist with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of United Nations, makes this point in a paper about the importance of varied ways in which people communicate.

“This is at the heart of any participatory process,” the author explains. “Folk media contain that common knowledge and involve everyone because such media are everyone’s heritage.” Alternatively: “Modern media generally lack credibility and therefore cannot reshape cultural traditions.”

This paper focuses on the role of traditional media in developing countries. The principles emphasized seem relevant in any country, culture and time.

Reference: Use title search (“Wireless networks”) for the full citation. Text is available online at

Getting rural communities onto the Information Superhighway.

Following are some related documents that have been added recently to the ACDC collection:

  • “Rural telecommunications: why your community isn’t connected and what you can do about it” (U.S. experience)
  • “Information technology (IT) in developing nations” (Excerpt: “97 percent of all Internet hosts are in developed nations, home to 16 percent of the world’s population.”)
  • “Stuck in the ruts on the information superhighway” (Nigeria experience)
  • “Africa on the line?”
  • “Specific issues concerning the application of information systems in developing countries”
  • “The new communications media in livestock development”

Reference: Use title searches (above) to get full citations and details about how to gain access to these documents. Some are available online. You can identify other documents about this topic by using a subject cross-search (e.g.: <communities AND “information technology”> or <internet AND “rural communities”>.

Educating the next generation of agricultural journalists.

That is the title of a recent article describing an effort by the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists. The article appeared in the July 2000 issue of International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) News.

“For the past 10 years, the main means of doing this has been through a week-long training program, sponsored by John Deere Ltd. and known, consequently, as the John Deere Training Award,” Don Gomery explains in describing the effort.

Reference: Use a title search (above) for the full citation. Full text is available on the IFAJ website:

Helping small producer groups get started – and survive.

Today’s era of finding niche markets, adding value and gaining market power is bringing agricultural producers together in new and dynamic ways. Partnerships, cooperatives, networks, associations and other kinds of alliances are appearing. Some flourish. Others languish, fade or disappear.

The Administrative Committee on Coordination, United Nations, has produced an issue paper that can help guide those who want to succeed in such group efforts. The title: “Forming sustainable small farmer group associations (SFGAs): more difficult than first thought.”

This 18-page paper examines problems that such groups face. It also suggests keys to organizing and running a successful small producer group.

Reference: Use a title search (“Forming sustainable small farm group associations”) or author search (Cracknell) for the full citation. Text is available online at:

Another new useful link.

You will find that the website of the North American Agricultural Journalists (NAAJ) organization has been added to our “Useful Links” page, for your convenience. This professional group was formerly known as National Association of Agricultural Journalists and, before that, as Newspaper Farm Editors of America. It includes agricultural journalists in North American who report or edit agricultural news for newspapers, magazines, wires and syndicated services and are independent of agricultural organizations and businesses.

Professional meetings approaching.

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

October 8-10, 2000
“Engaged institutions’ role in biotechnology education.” Symposium at Iowa State University, Ames. For representatives of educational institutions as well as producer, media and business/industry partners in biotechnology education.

October 22-25
Annual meeting of Communications Officers of State Departments of Agriculture (COSDA) at Holiday Inn Westpoint, St. Louis, Missouri.

November 15, 2000
Deadline for proposed papers to be presented at the 2001 joint meeting of the International Association of Agricultural Communicators in Education (ACE) and the National Extension Technology Conference (NETC).

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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