ACDC News – Issue 02-12

Now more than 20,000 documents in ACDC.

 June 19 was a landmark day in the Agricultural Communications Documentation Center. That was when we passed the 20,000-document mark in our efforts to collect and share information about the communications aspects of agriculture, food, rural development and related topics. When we began this effort in the early 1980s we didn’t know how much of such literature we might find. Five thousand documents? Ten thousand documents? Now we know that we are barely scratching the surface. And we recognize more fully the importance of this special body of literature. We see more clearly how effective communicating is central to all in the food chain, from producers to consumers – and central to the sustainable development and wellbeing of our societies. Thanks to all who have contributed or suggested documents, shared ideas, developed the system, processed materials and offered encouragement along the way. We are now busy working toward the next landmark.

Consult or confront?

A recent commentary in Eco/Log Week posed this question concerning approaches to resolving public policy disputes about genetically modified food. “Many leaders, including some from the biotechnology industry itself, have urged the industry to engage in discussion with the public and with critics,” observed Colin Isaacs. However, he added, “Every indication so far is that the hawks have won and that the industry will fight its critics with television and media campaigns.” He said that the approaching international BIO 2002 conference in Toronto, Canada, will test the “consult versus confront” approach to controversy.

Reference: Use a title search (“Biotechnology conference will test”) or author search (Isaacs) for the full citation. The commentary was posted on:

Biotech bias of U.S. newspapers and news magazines.

 An analysis by Nick Parker of the Food First organization led to a “real concern that the news media is playing a biased role in opinion formation” about genetically modified foods and crops. He analyzed all opinion pieces (72 editorials and op-eds) published over a two-year period (September 1999 through August 2001) in the New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, Newsday, Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek and The Economist.

“We found a four to one.ratio of opinion pieces favoring genetically modified crops and foods compared to those opposing them or taking a generally critical stance.” The report also summarized arguments used in the opinion pieces.

Reference: Use a title search (“Biotech bias”) or author search (Parker) for the full citation. This report was posted on

Other ethics-related concerns being raised these days.

Here are some of them that that we have identified in recent documents being added to the ACDC collection:

  •     Misleading information on food labels
  •     Lack of leadership by agricultural journalists
  •     Cozy relationships between industry and media
  •     Sloppy, inaccurate reporting
  •     Loaded questions in public polls
  •     Piracy of indigenous knowledge

Reference: You can identify documents about these and other ethics-related concerns through a subject search, using the term “ethical issues.” The collection now contains more than 300 of such documents, with the recently published ones listed first.

New case study in crisis communications planning. 

Risks of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease or other foreign animal disease sparked an interesting collaborative planning process in Texas last year. David Mayes and Edith Chenault reported about it recently at an agricultural communications research conference. The case study sketches the cooperative planning efforts of communicators involving Texas public agencies – from the animal health commission to the department of criminal justice. Appendices include a step-by-step media response plan, an internal communications plan and sample news releases.

Reference: Use a title search (“Avoiding foot in mouth disease”) or author search (Chenault) for the full citation. The paper was posted online at:

Needed: more emphasis on local learning. 

“Agricultural development can no longer be seen as based on transfer of the products of scientific research and their subsequent spontaneous diffusion among the ‘target group’.” So contend Niels Roling and Jan Brouwers in a chapter of the recent book, Biological and cultural diversity.

“Most of the institutional knowledge systems we have designed to promote agricultural development depart from the assumption that science is the source of innovation. . Sustainable agriculture seems to require a totally different knowledge system to support it, with greater emphasis on the facilitation of local learning.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Living local knowledge”) or author search (Roling) for the full citation.

New Farm Journal magazine online.

 On May 15, the redesigned Internet home of Farm Journal magazine went online. Among the new features cited in an announcement release that we added recently to the ACDC collection:

  • “Outlook today” – Daily commentary about commodity and livestock markets by the Farm Journal economist.
  • “Editor’s notebook online” – Reports to readers from the editors, ranging from “interesting insights to thought-provoking perspectives.”
  • “Web extra” – Additional information and updates to stories published in the magazine.
  • “Field tests” – Results of the on-farm research and development program managed by the magazine.

Reference: Use a title search (“AgWeb welcomes”) or an author search (Conrady) for the full citation. The news article was posted May 15 at:

International challenge to agricultural journalists.

“Globalisation has not yet happened among ourselves,” according to Hans-Heinrich Matthiesen, president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. Writing in the May issue of IFAJ News, he observes that “We agricultural journalists write about this or that, but we have no real part in the international goings on. . We don’t think far enough, we don’t look beyond our own activities and do not register that international networks have long been established and are active – without us.” He calls for more effort to experience agriculture internationally.

Reference: Use a title search (“Editorial”) or author search (Matthiesen) for the full citation. The editorial was posted online at

  Professional activities approaching.

July 22-25, 2002
“Hit the jackpot in Reno!” Agricultural Publications Summit, fourth annual joint meeting of American Agricultural Editors’ Association, Livestock Publications Council, APA: the Association of Leading Ag Media Companies, and Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. Meeting at Reno, Nevada.
Information: orwww.livestockpublications.comBack to top

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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