ACDC News – Issue 02-23

Current environmental worries of Americans.

Agriculture-related aspects of the environment are on their minds these days, according to results of a national sample of adults surveyed in the Gallup Poll of March 2002. Following are the top five environmental problems about which respondents said they “personally worry…a great deal:”

  • Pollution of drinking water                                             57%
  • Pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs                        53%
  • Contamination of soil and water by toxic waste            53%
  • Maintenance of the nation’s supply of fresh water
    for household needs                                                     50%
  • Air pollution                                                                   45%

Reference: Use a title search (“Environmental problems”) for the full citation.

Media in the doghouse? “Maybe we deserve it.”

Hans Matthiessen, president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists, expressed that view recently in a blistering editorial. Triviality. Banality. Withering civil engagement. “News” talk shows that have “degenerated to tribunals.” Docu-soaps pretending to present reality. News broadcasts that are “a mere disaster.” Simplification. Sensationalism. These were among the concerns that Matthiessen expressed in his challenge: “It’s time for us to rekindle that flame between media and society.”

Reference: Use a title search (“If media”) or author search (Matthiessen) for the full citation. The editorial was posted on:

Recently reported shortfalls in covering food and agriculture.

Here are a couple of the examples that we have seen recently and added to the ACDC collection:

  • “Significant gaps in coverage.” An article in Columbia Journalism Review looked at how the media have covered two food safety issues (antibiotics fed to poultry and listeria poisoning) over the past few years. “We found significant gaps in coverage, and with few exceptions, little enterprise reporting or explanation of what an action or lack of one means to ordinary people.”
    Reference: Use a title search (“Food for thought”) or author search (Lieberman) for the full citation. Posted on:
  • “A little slight of hand” by the BBC. Cited as having referred to a food-related interest group as an independent watchdog.
    Reference: Use a title search (“Media bias”) or author search (DeGregori) for the full citation. Commentary posted on:

Another report of media bias in covering agriculture.

This time it involved the meat industry. And it concerned the New York Times, a newspaper not known for getting it wrong. “Wow,” said Dan Murphy in his recent commentary in ‘The Meating Place,’ “where do we start cataloguing the errors in this story?” He described errors and imbalances in a Times article about proposed guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture involving tests for E.coli at meat packing plants.

Reference: Use a title search (“NY Times twists story”) or author search (Murphy) for the full citation. The commentary was posted online October 1, 2002, at:

You can find other documents about media coverage…

By conducting “Subject” searches on the “Real Search” page. Here are some subject terms you might use:

  • Mass media
  • Coverage
  • Reporting
  • Media effectiveness
  • Accuracy
  • Bias

“Can TV cooks become food safety celebrities?”

Maybe, said Douglas Powell, scientific director of the Food Safety Network, in a recent commentary. But they need to clean up their act. He and his associates studied more than 160 hours of television broadcasts featuring celebrity chefs.

“Based on 29 hours of detailed viewing, we observed basic food safety errors about every five minutes, especially cross-contamination…and time-temperature violations. Few used meat thermometers. And no one talked about how they ensured the safety of ingredients entering the kitchen.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Can TV cooks become”) or author search (Powell) for the full citation. The report was archived October 17, 2002 at:

Farm periodicals – “the greatest agency for agricultural improvement.”

J. Clyde Marquis, editor of Country Gentleman magazine, made this observation during 1912 in a report about the social significance of the agricultural press. He pointed to the constant dissemination of information by hundreds of farm periodicals sent by the millions of copies each week to rural homes throughout the U.S. – “without ceasing and with growing force.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Social significance”) or author search (Marquis) for the full citation.

One of the most respected U.S. agricultural editors died on November 23.

He was Cordell Tindall, 88, long-time editor of Missouri Ruralist (1938-1979) and vice-president of Harvest Publishing Company (1971-1979). A 1935 agricultural journalism graduate of the University of Missouri, he was employed by an Illinois newspaper and by Capper Publications in Kansas before he became editor of the Missouri Ruralist. He served as president of the American Agricultural Editors’ Association in 1964.

An associate, Larry Harper, observed that “Cordell believed you had to have some fun while you were working. He enjoyed writing and writing about Missouri people.”

Chickens not birdbrains. More than dumb clucks.

Chickens are more intelligent than most people believe, according to researchers at the University of Bristol, England. Findings reported at a recent conference indicate that chickens can learn from each other. They can be taught what food to eat or avoid, adapt their behavior and learn to navigate.

Now, who can break their language code and permit ag communicators really to interact with them?

Reference: Use a title search (“Intelligence of pigs, chickens”) for the full citation. The news report was posted September 11, 2002, on:

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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