ACDC News – Issue 03-10

Rural life – a crime scene on network news. 

More than three of every four network television news stories about rural America focus on crime, according to a recent study by the Center for Media and Public affairs. A news release summarizing the findings of this 2002 analysis also reported an agenda gap between print and network coverage of rural issues.

“Land use issues such as urban sprawl received the most attention in major newspapers and news magazines, while television ignored these issues entirely. News reports in print or on television rarely linked rural life to agriculture, and Currier and Ives-like portrayals of rural charm were balanced by depictions of an economically challenged or socially marginal environment.”

Reference: On the ACDC “Real Search” page, use a title search (Rural life is a crime scene) for the full citation. The news release was posted on:

CBS Television also “stirred up a hornet’s nest in rural America”

 Recently when it decided to produce a reality show with real hillbillies. In FarmWeek, commentator Stewart Truelsen indicated: “Casting was under way in Appalachia and the South when CBS encountered a firestorm of criticism. … Country folks don’t mind poking a little fun at themselves, but get tired of New York and Hollywood looking down their noses at them.”

Reference: Use a title search (CBS stirs up) or author search (Truelsen) for the full citation. You can identify other related documents by conducting a subject search or cross-search, using terms such as “rural-urban communication” or “image farmers.” 

Communication and communications. New and old perspectives. 

Rapid changes in information technology are stirring new discussions about a well-worn subject. That is, how do “communication” and “communications” differ? A new book, Transforming communication, addressed the question aggressively as authors cited definitions that trace back decades, yet invite continuing renewal. One author put it this way:

Communication – “the quest for satisfactory and deeper human interaction and dialogue, based on a sharing of mutually recognized signs.”

Communications – “technology, systems innovation and the speed and quantity of messages.”

The editors observed in their introduction: “…more often than not communication is captured by information.” They described transformative communication as “future generations oriented, inclusive of alternative ways of knowing, critical of technocracy, and based on direct and structural free flow of ideas and of the worldviews that are seeded in them.”

Reference: Use a title search (Transforming communication) or author search (Leggett) for the full citation.

Can new grads side-step practical experience? 

“No,” say employers these days when they talk with aspiring agricultural communicators. Most insist that courses aren’t enough to prepare professional communicators. And not much has changed over the past 90 years or so. We recently entered into the ACDC collection a 1911 Agricultural Advertising commentary that offered advice to new “ad school” graduates.

“The evolution of the safe, sane, well-balanced, hundred-point advertising man requires a certain amount of time, no matter what his natural qualifications may be or how well grounded he is as to correct principles. No one was ever known to skip this practical apprenticeship and to arrive at the fullness of advertising ability. …at best, an advertising course only fits you to capably begin an advertising apprenticeship.”

Reference: Use a title search (Plaint of the ad school graduate) for the full citation.

How agricultural editors and publishers are using the Internet. 

A recent article in The ByLine, newsletter of the American Agricultural Editors’ Association (AAEA), examined this matter. Editors and publishers cited varied uses such as:

  • Expanding on articles
  • Providing additional sources of information
  • Reaching readers between issues, through e-newsletters
  • Increasing interactivity with readers and among readers
  • Providing an instant outlet for news and perspectives on the news
  • Conducting polls and other kinds of online research
  • Delivering online education

Reference: Use a title search (Up with the web) or author search (Gullickson) for the full citation.

For you farm magazine historians. 

Here’s another question for your consideration in our ongoing series:

When did demographic breakouts begin to appear in farm periodicals?

Let us know by June 15 if you have a handle on this one. There’ll be a big prize, of course.

Rural telephone customers taking a hit? 

“Affordable telephone service in rural America may be at risk”, according to a recent study on interstate cost recovery trends. A study by the National Exchange Carriers Association (NECA) showed that “the local service bill continues to increase as regulators shift costs from interstate access charges, paid by long distance carriers, to line items paid by end-user customers. These shifts have a disproportionate effect on rural customers, who live in areas where the underlying cost of service is higher than in non-rural areas and who have lower average incomes than their non-rural counterparts.”

Reference: Use a title search (Study reveals shifts) for the full citation. A news release about the study was posted on:

M. Wettach, agricultural photographer.

Two remarkable recent projects – a book and a television documentary – reveal the skills and eye of a man whose photos help reveal rural life and people in the Midwestern United States a half-century ago.

  • Leslie A. Loveless, A bountiful harvest: the Midwestern farm photographs of Pete Wettach, 1925-1965. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City. 2002. 137 pages, including more than 100 photos selected from thousands in the Wettach collection. Contact:
  • “The people in the pictures: stories from the Wettach farm photos.” This documentary, produced by Laurel Bower, aired to popular acclaim on Iowa Public Television and is available in VCR or DVD formats. Contact via or 800-532-1290.

Wettach worked for the Farm Security Administration as a county supervisor in southeastern Iowa during the 1930s and 1940s. An introduction to the book explains: “He carried his camera as he traveled across the countryside visiting clients. Although Wettach was not hired as an FSA photographer, his pictures provide a fascinating parallel to the more famous work of his FSA colleagues Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Russell Lee. Yet unlike their photographs, his reveal an amazing intimacy and familiarity with his subjects, who were frequently his friends, neighbors, family members, and clients.” During his career, he sold photos that appeared often in issues of Wallaces Farmer and other farm magazines, general interest publications and newspapers.

Professional activities approaching

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

June 18-21, 2003
Summer meeting of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB) In Louisville, Kentucky.
Information: or Jeanette Merritt at 317-684-4173

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

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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