Needed: more agricultural reporting beyond the political sound bites.
Three major challenges face agricultural journalists today, said Anthony Rosen in a recent issue of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) newsletter. They include:
- Contraction of agricultural publications caused by “the virtual world-wide economic recession in farming and the subsequent limitation on advertising revenues.”
- “Interference by proprietorial influences, usually politically inspired, which may oblige journalists to follow a specific line whatever their own beliefs.”
- “Third, and most importantly, is the sad demise of the journalistic commentator who is, all too frequently, being replaced by the simple reporter.”
Reference: Use a title search (“Introspect”) or author search (Rosen) for the full citation. The commentary was posted online at www.ifaj.org/newsletter/IFAJMay02.pdf.
Reporting on the “shabby science that’s swaying public opinion.
“Recently we added to the ACDC collection a news report from Canada about a call for “creation of a special agency to discredit the misleading information purposely being circulated to sway public opinion against the livestock industry.” This call came from an agricultural engineer who recommended creating an advocacy group or a special agency dedicated to making “people in the scientific and journalistic world accountable for the information that they are producing.”
Reference: Use a title search (“Manitoba engineer calls”) for the full citation. The article was posted on: www.foodsafetynetwork.ca
Rural life and people swept toward urbanism by new technologies?
Ronald R. Kline’s recent book, Consumer in the Country, reveals a “surprising persistence of rural culture” in the face of rapid technological and social change in rural America during the past 80 years. His historical analysis traced the introduction of the telephone, radio, automobiles, electricity and other technologies into rural areas. Findings prompted him to question whether “the telephone, the automobile, radio and electricity were autonomous social forces that revolutionized rural life in ways predicted by promoters.”
Farm people use new technology in innovative ways to create their own forms of modernity, Kline observed. Also, he called attention to signs of a continued ruralization of urban America. Recent examples: popularity of country music and pickup trucks
Reference: Use a title search (above) or author search (Kline) for the full citation.
“Metropolitan agriculture may have a promising future –
Providing urban and rural areas can work out their differences and begin to work together.” That vision and communications challenge came recently from Lorna Michael Butler, a speaker at the Agriculture Outlook Forum 2002 in Washington, D.C. She examined the history of rural-urban relationships in the U.S., described changes that are leading to greater rural-urban interdependence and identified five fronts on which agriculture could help bridge the rural-urban gap. Communicators would play a major role in the proposals that she sketched.
Reference: Use a title search (“Rural-urban interdependency”) or author search (Butler) for the full citation. The presentation was posted on: www.usda.gov/oce/waob/oc2002/speeches/Butler.pdf
Why do I care?
That is the driving question in doing farm television in a metro market, according to Dan Wilkinson of WRAL-TV, Raleigh, North Carolina. In the June issue of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters newsletter, NAFB Chats, Wilkinson explained how he presents his story ideas to staff associates. They are looking for hard news with urban interest. The article described how this orientation influences his role and his programming decisions.
Reference: Use a title search (“Television farm news in the urban market”) or author search (Wilkinson) for the full citation. The article was posted online at: www.nafb.com/acrobat/jun02chats.pdf
The spray gun mentality in communicating.
“We have to get away from the spray gun mentality – that communications can be sprayed onto people and they will somehow get the right ideas from it.” This reminder came to our attention recently in a workshop proceedings about communicating with the rural disadvantaged.
Robert Crawford added: “Communication is a way in which you develop community between two persons or groups, regardless of color. It is a mutuality, a respect, a learning from each other. It is not a technique, but a principle. It is hard to do and is done differently in different situations.”
Reference: Use a title search (“Why methods fail”) or author search (Sutherland) for the full citation.
Four lessons about rural development.
Juan Flavier of the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, Philippines, shared them at a rural development seminar in Ghana 25 years ago. All involve communicating – and all continue to carry an important ring, in any part of the world.
- Be sure that “what we do is wanted and needed.”
- Encourage participation in the planning and decision-making of projects, not only in their implementation.
- Livelihood, health, education and culture, civic responsibility – all must be addressed in an integrated way. “The successful solution of one [problem] depends upon the successful solution of the others.”
- Be sensitive to the adequacy and use of language in trying to explain scientific information.
Reference: Use a title search (“Keynote address”) or author search (Flavier) for the full citation of this presentation.
How do you feel needs?
Flavier reported that rural workers often ask how to feel needs. His advice: Go to the field. Observe. Talk. Survey. Read existing records. “Not by one way, but a combination of available ways.”
Advertising agencies – managing tough times in agriculture.
Low commodity prices. Client mergers and buyouts. Reduced advertising budgets. Changing markets and audiences. New media alternatives. Executives of seven advertising agencies that serve agricultural clients explained in the May issue of Agri Marketing magazine how they are dealing with such challenges these days. Other questions they addressed in the article:
- Where is the ag industry going?
- Have you developed new clients in non-traditional areas of agriculture?
- Have the issues or advertising objectives of your clients changed?
- Have the services that you offer changed?
- Do you see shifts from traditional ag media?
Reference: Use a title search (“Riding the ups and downs”) for the full citation. Posted in May 2002 issue on: www.agrimarketing.com/show_story.php?id=13078
“Optimism for the future is again high.”
Greg Leaf, president of the Agricultural Relations Council expressed this view in a recent issue of ARCLight Newsletter. He observed to fellow professionals in this agricultural public relations organization: “There is a real sense that business-as-usual is back. Companies are again investing in their own futures. Agencies are competing for clients. The business climate is as intense as ever.” He commended members for exploring new opportunities and being innovative in the way they handle their chosen professions.
Reference: Use an author search (Leaf) for the full citation. The newsletter was posted on: www.nama.org/arc/arclight/june02/June2002ARCLight.htm
Professional activities approaching.
September 6-8, 2002
Meeting of North American Agricultural Journalists at St. Paul, Minnesota.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)