ACDC News – Issue 01-11

How reliable is biotechnology information on the web?

Open to caution, according to a study reported in Science magazine during late 1999. Using a general search engine, researchers reviewed 120 websites containing information pertinent to GMO. They found 46 percent of those sites “informative.” And of the informative sites, 10 percent were judged “inaccurate,” more than 30 percent “misleading” and more than 80 percent “unreferenced.” Authors concluded that “science-related websites have serious liabilities.”

Reference: Use a title search (“How reliable is science information”) or author search (Burke) for the full citation.

A problem “uncannily similar” to that of 500 years ago.

By the 1500s readers of scientific information “faced a problem not just of quantity but of quality – one uncannily similar to that confronting today’s users of the Internet.” So reported Adrian Johns of the California Institute of Technology in an article published early this year in Nature. A “burgeoning crowd of self-appointed authors” furnished a “new stock of proclaimed facts – from the medicinal powers of tobacco to the alleged origin of syphilis.” Out of this explosion of printed information came new, shared processes and social structures for evaluating quality of scientific information.

Reference: Use a title search (“The birth of scientific reading”) or author search (Johns) for the full citation.

Surveying the Internet market in developing countries.

“Under the right conditions, entrepreneurs in developing nations can launch locally viable Internet ventures with real value,” suggests M. Rao in OnTheInternet. However, he notes that much discourse about the Internet economy in developing nations seems to be heading toward increasing polarization — between the “e-uphoric” enthusiasts and the e-skeptics. His report describes some Asia regions to be tapped and local niches to be explored in emerging economies.

Reference: Use a title search (“How real is the Internet market”) or author search (Rao) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

On asking the right questions in surveys.

Beef and poultry interests in the U.S. sparred recently over claims made about meats that consumers prefer. Part of the argument centered on survey methodology. Poultry interests announced consumer survey results showing that chicken outscored beef on versatility, taste, ease of preparation, price and health value. Beef interests questioned the selective release of numbers and groupings of product categories in the poultry survey: “We challenge the poultry industry to show consumer attitude data comparing ground beef to chicken breast in versatility or price.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Cattlemen smell a rat”) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Teaming radio and Internet for rural access in Africa.

A recent report from the Internet Society describes how the African country of Niger is building a network of 160 self-managed, solar-powered, rural radio broadcasting stations to provide access to information and communication for social and economic development. They integrate telecenters and rural radio broadcasting to provide a “cost-effective, full-service, two-way communications system to communities.” Local teams produce, translate and transmit the local programming.

Reference: Use a title search (“Rural access by radio and Internet”) or author search (Gallagher) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Media tips for the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Thanks to Brian Baxter of Baxter Communications, Indianapolis, Indiana, for providing a copy of his remarks during March to a USDA advisory board. An experienced agricultural reporter, Baxter offered several suggestions about working with the media:

  • The media are not the enemy – misinformation is the enemy
  • Recognize your news opportunities
  • Identify, train and equip your spokespersons
  • Keep the pipeline filled with information about food, agriculture and science
  • Stay committed to communicating

Reference: Use a title search (“Communicating about agricultural research, education and extension”) or author search (Baxter) for the full citation.

Advice to young agricultural communicators.

Orion Samuelson of WGN Radio/Tribune Radio Network, Chicago, Illinois, shared nearly 50 years of insights about farm broadcasting when he visited with students at the University of Illinois on April 17. Among his key points:

  • There is “a thirst for information” about food, farming and other topics that farm broadcasters know and can address. Provide information that listeners and viewers — rural and urban — find interesting and useful.
  • Communicate honestly. “You can’t compromise on credibility and honesty.”
  • Good farm broadcasters are important, in part, because they “bring personality” and they “talk with people the computer people don’t see.” New media won’t put present ones out of business, although present ones must change.
  • It is not as important to be first as to be right.
  • If you follow a story it will take you to its conclusion. Don’t prejudge or shape it.
  • The biggest change he has seen during his years as a farm broadcaster? Globalization. He said it has greatly influenced the programming he airs and has taken him to 43 countries for news and information to report.

Reference: Use a title search (“Communicating with and selling to agricultural people”) or author search (Samuelson) for the full citation.

Ensuring safe food: where consumers turn.

Most consumers surveyed in Quebec, Canada, during February expressed “little confidence in government regulators when it comes to ensuring the safety of the food we eat.” Only 6% of the respondents said they had the most confidence in government regulators. Instead, they placed most confidence in consumer groups (32%), health professionals (23%) and associations that represent food producers (14%).

Reference: Use a title search (“Big vote for organic food”) or author search (Beaudin) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Claron Burnett and the teacher’s impact.

Thousands of learners throughout the world improved their agricultural writing and reporting skills through the teaching of Professor Claron Burnett, University of Wisconsin-Madison, even though they may not have met him. He died on April 17 at the age of 82. His workbook text, Agricultural news writing, with co-authors Richard Powers and John Ross served students and practitioners for decades, beginning as early as 1959. Readers found it concise, readable, easy to use and sound in principle and method. It continues, in revised form, as Writing for agriculture: a new approach using tested ideas, by Burnett and Mark Tucker.

We join others in recognizing these and other important contributions that Claron Burnett made in journalism education, research and extension during his career.

Professional activities approaching:

June 28-July 1, 2001
East Region Meeting of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB) in Leamington, Ontario, Canada.

July 28-August 1, 2001
Joint meeting of Agricultural Communicators in Education (ACE) and the National Extension Technology Conference (NETC) in Toronto, Canada.
Information: 1-4, 2001

Agricultural Publications Summit in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Joint meeting of American Agricultural Editors’ Association, Livestock Publications Council and APA: the Association of Leading Ag Media Companies.

Best regards and good searching.

Please pass along your reactions, questions and ideas for ACDC. Feel free to invite our help as you search for information. And please suggest (or send) agricultural communications documents that we might add to this collection. We welcome them in hard copy (sent to Ag Com Documentation Center, 69 Mumford Hall, University of Illinois, 1301 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801) or electronic form ( Thank you.

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