ACDC News – Issue 02-05

Behind an ill-fated biotech advertising campaign. 

A new book added recently to the ACDC collection provides background information about Monsanto Company’s public relations strategies and advertising campaign in Europe. The book:

Daniel Charles, Lords of the harvest: biotech, big money, and the future of food.

Farm raised, Charles was a technology correspondent for National Public Radio (US) from 1993-1999 and was Washington correspondent for New Scientist. His 348-page book offers a behind-the-curtain view of how genetically engineered crops came to be and why they became controversial. Communicators will find special interest in sections about Monsanto’s approach to public relations and an oft-cited advertising campaign that began in Europe during 1998.

Reference: Use a title or author search (above) for the full citation.

Informing about biotechnology – it’s not enough. 

Recent research suggests that “.factual knowledge, in and of itself, has limited bearing on.attitudes and evaluations of biotechnology.” Tracy Irani, Janas Sinclair and Michelle O’Malley surveyed 381 college students in three universities to explore relationships among knowledge level, attitude and perceptions of accountability regarding food biotechnology. They concluded that “messages designed to explain and engender confidence in the regulatory process and the seriousness with which the actors involved regard adherence to regulation might stand the most chance of being effective in terms of influencing public attitude toward genetically engineered foods.”

Reference: Use a title search (The importance of being accountable) or author search (Irani) for the full citation. This conference paper was posted online at:

“The trash heap of history is littered with failed communication technologies,”

Conclude Ronald E. Rice and James E. Katz in their new book, The Internet and health communication: experiences and expectations. “The video phone and the stand-alone kiosks in doctors’ offices for patients are but two of them. While we are not suggesting a similar fate for the Internet, the limits of computers also suggest that human communication cannot take place without regard to the biological and social linchpins that hold society together. Communication is a process of choreographic intensity and minute coordination.”

This book also documents the Digital Divide disparities that limit access in rural areas. And it describes some federal programs designed to help ensure that rural people can gain access to health education.

Reference: Use a title search (above) or author search (Rice) for the full citation.

Growth with equity. Will it ever happen? How soon? 

Two books identified recently for the ACDC collection raise these questions in two different cultures.

  • Arvind Singhal and Everett M. Rogers, India’s communication revolution: from bullock carts to cyber marts. Sage Publications, New Delhi. 2001. 297 pages.
  • John Hartley and Alan McKee, The indigenous public sphere: the reporting and reception of Aboriginal issues in the Australian media. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 2000. 369 pages.

Both books report on media development and performance. Both offer communications perspectives that range from bark paintings and message sticks to telework, e-commerce and informatization. Both shed light on the unique roles of various means of human communication. And both leave haunting questions about those (often in rural areas) left behind, misrepresented and unemancipated.

Family tree of approaches to development communication. 

We recently added to ACDC an interesting analysis of theories, methodologies and strategies in development communication. Silvio Waisbord of Rutgers University prepared it recently for the Rockefeller Foundation. His report reviewed theories such as:

  • Diffusion of innovations
  • Social marketing
  • Entertainment-education
  • Dependency theory
  • Participatory theories
  • Media advocacy
  • Social mobilization

The report concluded with six “points of convergence that suggest possible directions in the field of international communication.”

Reference: Use a title search (Family tree of theories) or author search (Waisbord) for the full citation. The report was posted online at:

Equal opportunities for female ag journalists? 

Meghan Sapp raised this question in a recent issue of the American Agricultural Editors’ Association newsletter, The ByLine. The article cited several perspectives, such as:

  • Difficult for women starting out because “there still is a ‘good old boys’ network.”
  • More women in this field now, and more at higher levels.
  • “Is it more important for the writer to look like the reader or for the writer to act and think like the reader?”
  • Maybe “we – as an industry – need to better convey messages about how varied and exciting career opportunities in agriculture can be.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Are there equal opportunities”) or author search (Sapp) for the full citation. The article was posted online at:

“Mad cow, a new American scare campaign” 

Offers a perspective on public relations efforts since 1999 to “ignite a U.S. panic over ‘mad cows’.” Guest Choice Network, a coalition of restaurant and tavern operators, posted this report in February 2001.

Reference: Use a title search (above) or author search (Guest Choice) for the full citation. The report was posted online at:

Television coverage of the developing world. 

Two worrisome issues and one hopeful sign emerged from a 2001 research report by the Glasgow Media Group, Scotland. Examination of beliefs and attitudes of UK television news broadcasters and audiences revealed that

  • “the decision made by broadcasters (on commercial criteria) about what viewers would desire to watch have in the long run produced very negative responses in TV audiences towards the developing world.”
  • “audiences are misinformed about the developing world because of the low level of explanations and context which is given in television reporting and because some explanations which are presented are partial and informed by what might be termed ‘post-colonial beliefs’.”
  • “a change in the quality of explanation which is given can radically alter both attitudes to the developing world and the level of audience interest in the subject.”

The last finding offers encouragement for those who report on development-related issues.

Reference: Use a title search (“Media coverage of the developing world”) for the full citation. The report was posted online at:

Professional meetings approaching.

April 17-19, 2002
“Catch the rhythm.” Agri-marketing conference and trade show at Nashville, Tennessee USA. Sponsored by National Agri-Marketing Association.

April 18, 2002
Public relations sessions and membership meeting of Agricultural Relations Council (ARC) in Nashville, Tennessee.

May 18-22, 2002
“Innovation through cooperation.” National Extension Technology Conference (NETC) at Pennsylvania State University. For persons interested in using or supporting technology in extension. Information:

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 unique collection. We welcome them in hard copy (sent to Ag Com Documentation Center, 69 Mumford Hall, 1301 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801) or electronic form (

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