ACDC News – Issue 03-12

“I don’t get to be Bob Woodward every day here

but I do have a chance to make a difference in our community.” That was the observation of one reporter cited in a recent article about rural weekly newspapers in West Virginia. The article described rural newspaper journalism as an “intimate undertaking” and rural weeklies as “invaluable voices that often are the only source of local news.”

Reference: On the “Real Search” page of the ACDC web site, use a title search (Up close and personal) or author search (Temple) for the full citation.

Never use the word “miracle” in reporting about food or health.

“Leave that to ministers, mayonnaise-makers and sportswriters,” according to Mervin Block. His suggestion was part of an article in American Journalism Reviewabout how news media can help consumers deal with confusing, conflicting information about fat in the foods they eat.

Reference: Use a title search (Fat city) or author search (Smolkin) for the full citation.

Why “farmer participation” is often more talk than walk. 

Internationally, hundreds of agricultural and rural development proposals and analyses call for greater farmer participation in matters that affect them. Experiences throughout the world are showing the need for “grassroots” rather than “top-down” approaches. A recent article in the Journal of Social Development in Africa offered a case example and identified some reasons for resistance to participatory approaches. Among them:

  • Participatory development “means giving away some of the authority that is most treasured by the traditional practitioner – the authority to decide for others.”
  • It calls for a total change in management styles, official and personal interactions as well as procedures. “It requires that development agencies soften their hierarchy, revise project management procedures and produce new training materials.”
  • Non-governmental organizations that “are the most relevant in spreading the ideals of participatory development” rely on external funding, so must account to their financiers rather than to the communities they are supposed to assist.”Reference: Use a title search (Trends in participatory development) or author search (Dipholo) for the full citation.

Training of environmental reporters. 

A study reported in Newspaper Research Journal during late 2000 showed that fewer than half (45 percent) of the surveyed environmental reporters had specific training to cover the environment. Researchers also found that “many environmental reporters have reduced their commitment to the beat, and see their news organizations as doing the same.”

Reference: Use a title search (Changing work environments) or author search (Detjen) for the full citation.

Similar situation in training for health reporting. 

A 1999 survey by Melinda Voss among newspaper health reporters in the Midwest U.S. showed that nearly 83 percent said they had “no training, besides on-the-job experience, that specifically helped them cover health issues.” Only 31 percent felt “very confident” reporting health news; others said they lacked proficiency and wanted help.

In a 2003 issue of Nieman Reports, Voss offered ideas about how to encourage professional development through workshops, seminars and curricula.

Reference: Use a title search (Why reporters and editors) or author search (Voss) for the full citation. The article was posted on:

A related report by Voss was posted on:

What interest does ACDC take in environmental and health reporting? 

When you search the ACDC collection you can find hundreds of articles about these fields of interest. We don’t, however, include all aspects of environmental and health communicating. Here are some of the guidelines used to decide what goes into ACDC:

  • Environmental communications. We look for environment-related literature that touches on the connections between the environment and agriculture, food, and rural matters. For example, we are particularly interested in communications as related to soil and water conservation; pollution due to runoff of soil, fertilizers or pesticides from farmland; management of forests, wildlife and other rural aspects of natural resource management; food-related implications of global warming; and management of livestock wastes, among others. You will also find literature on media reporting about these aspects of the environment.
  • Health communications. In this broad subject area, we search particularly for literature about communications as related to (a) food, diet and nutrition and (b) rural health. As a result, for example, you will find considerable information in ACDC about consumer perceptions and understanding of food; how consumers make decisions about their diets; health aspects of food promotion and purchase; and nutrition education programs. You will also find literature about attitudes of rural people toward their health; information technology for delivering rural health services; and programs of health information/education for rural people.

On the powerful role of agricultural information.

This study provides new evidence on the powerful role of information in shaping consumer response to agricultural biotechnology,” concluded a recent report from the Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. The researchers used an experimental auction to assess consumers’ willingness to pay for three different food items with and without biotech labels. Prior to the bidding, each participant received one of six information packets containing statements about biotechnology gathered from a variety of revealed sources.

Findings showed that the information participants received significantly affected their bids for biotech-labeled and plain-labeled foods. Also, the study showed how consumers reacted not just to the content of information, but also to the source.

Reference: Use a title search (Effects of information on consumer demand) or author search (Tegene) for the full citation. The technical bulletin was posted on:

Ethics and methods of covering sensitive rural matters.

The Amish, Old Orders and the Media” was the title of a conference in Pennsylvania that addressed the topic during 2001. Recently we added to the ACDC collection a conference report published by Media Ethics. It featured six views of the “culture clash between the traditional Old Orders and the modern media of mass communication.” Presenters offered case examples, including perspectives on avoiding stereotypes and misrepresentations, finding sources, taking photographs, reporting deaths and crimes, and handling the “perils of insensitive deadline-driven ‘outsiders’ reporting on ‘insiders’.”

Reference: Use a title search (Amish, old orders and the media) for the full citation, including authors, titles and subjects covered in the individual presentations.

So, how did you farm magazine historians do?

How did you respond to the question raised in Issue 03-10:

When did demographic breakouts begin to appear in farm periodicals?

Our hunch – 1893 – is based on a technique, “zone advertising,” used by James M. Pierce, publisher of Pierce’s Farm Weeklies, as early as that year. In “zone advertising,” publishers divided their circulation so advertisers could cover territories or zones favorable to their selling plans. Pierce “zoned” editorial content as well as advertising.

Professional activities approaching

July 27-30, 2003
“Cleveland Rocks!” Agricultural Publications Summit, a joint meeting of
American Agricultural Editors’ Association (AAEA), Livestock Publications Council (LPC) and American Business Media: Agri-Council in Cleveland, Ohio. Information:

July 30-31, 2003
Summer Meeting, Agricultural Relations Council, at Cleveland, Ohio. Celebrates 50th anniversary of ARC.

July 30-August 1, 2003
InfoAg 2003 at Indianapolis, Indiana. Organized by the Foundation for Agronomic Research, Potash and Phosphate Institute and Croplife Media Group.

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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