ACDC News – Issue 03-08

Higher-wire balancing act for science communicators. 

A talk delivered at the recent annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science highlighted this need. David Dickson used recent food safety scares in Britain to illustrate how “science communication has become a major factor in the formulation of policy on science-related issues, not just a commentary on the way such issues are addressed.” He argued that science communicators must “balance a desire to inform the public about the scientific perspective on controversial issues – such as BSE or genetically-modified crops – with an awareness of the political interests that may lie on each side of such a dispute.”

He recommended a two-way process in which science communicators become “proxies for the public when it comes to interpreting and articulating the relationship between science and society, or to put it another way, between knowledge and power.”

Reference: Use a title search (Bringing science communication) or author search (Dickson) for the full citation. The presentation was posted online at:

Rural America after 9/11.

A quarter of people who live in large cities nationwide say their lives have changed in a major way” since the attacks of September 11, 2001, according to a year-later survey by Princeton Survey Research Associates. That is “twice the rate found in small towns and rural areas.”

Reference: Use a title search (One year later) for the full citation. This survey report was posted on:

How an era of media mergers may affect environmental news coverage. 

Will fewer media outlets and pervasive cross-ownership result in one-dimensional coverage of environmental issues? Probably not, according to results of a recent 29-year content analysis involving 1,180 articles about environmental pollution. They appeared in four kinds of newspapers that vary widely in circulation, geographic location and types of readers. Researcher Linda Jean Kensicki observed that predictions of one-dimensional content may be off base. Why? Because the content already is one-dimensional and has been unchanging. “…all newspapers showed a rather monolithic presentation of the environmental movement and of air pollution. … This could only be explained by a pervasive strength in journalist norms, routines and values.”

Reference: Use a title search (No exceptions to the rule) or author search (Kensicki) for the full citation. The research paper was posted (September 2002, Week 3) on:

Dangers of editing with both eyes on the advertisers. 

“If an editor must write with both eyes on the advertisers, it’s a long farewell to social, economic and moral progress.” This comment in an editorial of Farm, Stock and Home (1915)reveals the deep roots of concern about the dangers of compromising editorial freedom and integrity in commercial farm publishing. The concern has not been confined to farm publishing, of course, but touches all periodicals that rely on reader subscriptions and advertising for their survival. Nor has the concern appeared to diminish through the decades.

Reference: Use a title search (Advertising and editorial freedom) for the full citation. For another early reference about this issue, use a title search (Standards of practice).

New research about media coverage of agriculture. 

Two research reports dealt with this subject at the recent National Agricultural Education Research Conference in Nevada:

  1. Cartmell, J. Dyer and R. Birkenholz, “Gatekeeping decisions of Arkansas daily newspaper editors in publishing agricultural news.” Results showed, for example, that in choosing agricultural news the editors viewed health, food safety and environmental issues as the areas of greatest interest.

“J. Haygood, S. Hagins, C. Akers and L. Kieth, “Associated Press Wire Service coverage of agricultural issues.” Findings indicated that fewer than one-half of the statements from the Associated Press news service were based on verifiable facts. Researchers called for “continued educational efforts to increase the agricultural literacy of reporters.”

Reference: The papers were posted online at:

Innovative rural uses of information technologies. 

The East Clare Telecottage in Ireland offers an interesting example, as reported in a 2001 report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). County of East Clare features a predominantly agricultural economy (sheep and dairy) that is experiencing a population drain. The East Clare Telecottage, created in 1991 as a cooperative venture, later became private. At the time of the OECD report, it employed nine persons fulltime and delivered to the community a wide range of IT-related services. Examples:

  • printing, word processing, mailing, photocopying, message services
  • telemarketing services and call center services to help local businesses reach customers through advertising or marketing campaigns
  • consultancy services to help local interests respond to calls for proposals
  • training programs for individuals and businesses. Examples: delivery of the European Computer Driving License and courses for farmers through an agreement with the National Farm IT Centre

Reference: Use a title search (Information and communication technologies) for the full citation.

“Communicator, market thyself,” 

urged Mark Bagby in his president’s column within a recent issue of CCA News. He explained to fellow members of the Cooperative Communicators Association, “…we went into this line of work because we love to create communications. We never realized we’d have to market ourselves and our departments, but that’s exactly what has happened, particularly when the term ‘communications’ has been co-opted by some to mean ‘hardware’.” He described other reasons for urgency in communicating within organizations about the value of what communicators do.

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

Professional activities approaching

June 14-17, 2003
Cool bytes: jazz nights.” Annual meeting of the International Association of Agricultural Communicators in Education (ACE), National Extension Technology Conference (NETC) and National Agricultural Communicators Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT) in Kansas City, Missouri.

June 18-22, 2003
“Farming under the public eye.” Meeting of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) at the Agricultural University of Wageningen, The Netherlands.

June 21-24, 2003
50 years: raising the standards of cooperative communication.50th Annual Institute of the Cooperative Communicators Association(CCA) in Madison, Wisconsin. Information:www.communicators.coo

Hotshot agricultural salesmanship.

From an agri-business letter to a customer:

“We note that we have not been favored with your patronage for some time, and hope for a continuance of same.”

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 (at

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