ACDC News – Issue 03-04

See new agricultural communications research papers on the “New Features” page of this ACDC web site.

You can get full-text copy of nine papers presented recently to the Agricultural Communications Section of the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists (SAAS). Members met in Mobile, Alabama, during early February.

Reference: On the ACDC home page, click on “Feature Articles” (left side menu).

Remembering the value of research-based communicating. 

“It was the experiment station and not the agricultural college that has wrought such a marvelous change in the farmers of America toward scientific agriculture,” said Frank H. Hall in 1904. He was speaking at a meeting of the American Association of Farmers’ Institute Workers in St. Louis, Missouri.

Hall explained: “It was my privilege to compare the agricultural conventions of this state…at two periods separated by a decade within which the experiment station became a potent influence. The dominant intellectual and moral attitude of the earlier period was distinctly disputatious and dogmatic. … In the second period the dominant attitude was that of scientific conference.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Relation of the agricultural college”) or author search (Hall) for the full citation.

Horses and houses in competition. 

A newspaper in the heart of Kentucky’s Bluegrass country helped local citizens find common ground for community development through an award winning series of articles. “Common ground: deciding how the Bluegrass should grow” was the title of this eight-part series published by the Lexington Herald-Leader. “We wanted to get past pat phrases and ideological camps,” explained the editor. The series won first prize for investigative reporting from the Kentucky Press Association.

Reference: For a case report of the effort, use a title search (“Lexington builds common ground”) or author search (Ford) for the full citation. The report in Civic Catalyst Newsletter was posted on:

Attitudes of newspaper editors toward agriculture? 

Generally positive, according to the results of a recent study among daily newspaper editors in Arkansas. Researchers found that editors “possessed positive attitudes toward the agricultural industry, although they were less positive about the image of agriculture or about agriculture’s performance in educating the public about the agricultural industry.”

Editors also “agreed that journalists should receive instruction in agriculture and that K-12 students should be required to take at least one course in agriculture.” Researchers offered recommendations for such efforts.

Reference: Use a title search (“Attitudes of Arkansas”) or author search (Cartmell) for the full citation. The research paper was posted on:

Media still struggling to cover biotechnology. 

An article in the December issue of “AgBiotech in the News” explored some of the dilemmas facing mass media as they attempt to cover complex issues related to agricultural biotechnology. Among these dilemmas cited:

  • The typical journalistic approach of seeking balance by pitting one side against the other creates problems. Opposing voices selected for coverage may be extreme, or they may be unbalanced in the depth and soundness of arguments they present.
  • Some opposing voices may have more resources with which to gain public attention.
  • Scientists often don’t want to comment on “hot-button” issues.
  • Coverage varies widely from one mass medium to another, and within media.
  • There is a tendency for some media “to cast players in over-simplified roles.”
  • International differences may influence media coverage of biotechnology. For example, reporting in Europe may reflect more environmental or health concerns than that in the U.S. because Europeans “have lived through a number of food crises and tend to have less faith in regulators.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Odd couple”) for the full citation. The article was posted on:

The most important form of grassroots communicating in the world. 

It’s community radio, according to Charles Fairchild in a new book, Community radio and public culture. “Community radio is fast becoming the most important form of grassroots communication in the world,” he argued. Why? “…this is due in large part to the strong reactions by many people to the aggressive expansion of specifically American media worldwide, especially in Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

“As corporate entities become increasingly distant and untouchable, local media institutions are developing that are immediate, participatory, and increasingly able to contact and talk to one another. They are no competition for direct broadcast satellites and probably never will be, but they are the only possible institutions that can be controlled and directed by the local population and made to serve their interests, needs and desires.”

Fairchild included some rural dimensions in his thought-provoking examination of media access and equity in Canada and the United States. Examples include the respected Farm Forum programs in Canada and a case study of a community radio station serving native Canadians in the rural Six Nations and New Credit Reserves near Brantford, Ontario.

Reference: Use a title search (“Community radio and public culture”) or author search (Fairchild) for the full citation.

“Are your livestock depressed?” 

An online commentary from the United Kingdom raised that question recently, in the wake of traumatic disease scares. Commentator Mike Meredith reported on research that described signs of “depression” in farm animals: reduced activity, loss of reactivity, heads drooping, eyes half-closed

“Could it be that stress, or even more specifically ‘depression,’ is at least as important as the infectious agents that we usually focus our disease preventive attention on?” Meredith asked. Referring to a trend toward a more holistic approach to human health — one that involves beliefs and faith along with medicines and surgery — he concluded: “Is there a livestock equivalent of ‘faith, hope, and compassion’?”

Reference: Use a title search (“Are your livestock”) or author search (Meredith) for the full citation. The commentary was posted on:

First specialized agricultural periodical in the U.S. The Horticultural Register was America’s first specialty paper devoted to a branch of agriculture – founded in January 1835. That’s according to Frank J. Holt in an historical analysis of the agricultural press of America, 1792-1850. Holt carried out this research project for a master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin.

Professional activities approaching

April 15-17, 2003
“Keep it fresh.” Agri-Marketing Conference and Trade Show at San Diego, California. Sponsored by the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA).

Who might have known this?

Could today’s scholar in agricultural journalism gain ready access to this kind of insight about the history of farm publishing in the U.S.? This piece of the past came from a master’s thesis. How many master’s theses get distributed widely, summarized in scholarly journals, or otherwise reported for long-term access?

We ask these questions for a special reason – to encourage you to let us know when you see theses or dissertations that are not already in the ACDC collection. Please help us identify and make available these valuable materials that often sit on library shelves, little known and little used.

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, 1301 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana, Illinois 61801) or electronic form (at

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