ACDC News – Issue 03-19

“Hello! Can you hear me?” 

This question sounds familiar from a recent advertising campaign. But it also marked a well-publicized occasion in a Kentucky corn field during 1902. The question came from the son of Nathan Stubblefield, melon grower and inventor, during an early demonstration of the wireless telephone.

A recent book by Bob Lochte describes this development, along with “facts and folklore about Nathan Stubblefield.” The fascinating account informs as much about publicity methods and folklore generation as about technological pioneering. It examines conflicting perspectives that have swirled for decades around Stubblefield and his achievements. This account reveals a farmer/inventor who, working alone, invented two wireless telephone systems, carried out the first wireless broadcasts and foresaw that broadcasting would be an important application of wireless telephony. But was it radio?

Reference: Use a title search (Kentucky farmer invents wireless) or author search (Lochte) for the full citation.

How the rural press influences public policy: a case report. 

Recent research by Stuart Shulman highlighted the importance of agenda setting by the rural press during the early 1900s.

“Rural credit reform emerged in 1912 as a viable public policy issue only after the business and farm press favorably presented the idea of looking to European models of privately financed, cooperative rural credit,” he observed. “…The press was a powerful, though blunt, factor in the formulation of Progressive Era agrarian policy options.”

Reference: Use a title search (Progressive era farm press) for the full citation of an article in Journalism History. Chapters of the dissertation from which the article came were posted on the author’s web site at:

Media poorly equipped to cover long-term threats. 

“…the press and TV news are ill adapted for sustaining high-level coverage of long-term threats.” That was a conclusion of J. Kitzinger and J. Reilly in the European Journal of Communication. They based their finding on case studies of how news media covered the rise and fall of three risk crises: human genetics research, “False Memory Syndrome” and mad cow disease.

Reference: Use a title search (Rise and fall) or author search (Kitzinger) for the full citation.

The main gap is between minds. 

That is how Ralph Reeder, former agricultural editor at Purdue University, responded to a question about the main problems involved in research and extension publications.

“There is evidence that we are peeking timidly over the walls. (Some) states report using task groups, publications committees, etc., to study audience and distribution problems. Perhaps through these doors we can begin to base publications on programs for people rather than on subject matter. The real space-fillers we need to be…is in the sense of bridging the abyss between one mind and many minds. Most of us are not social scientists oriented by our training or our research. Yet we are editors in a time that is critical for our understanding of human needs and human reactions…”

Reference: Use a title search (Main gap is between) or author search (Reeder) for the full citation.

“Don’t use a softball as a windscreen for your microphone,” 

Advised National Association of Farm Broadcasters Executive Director Ken Root in a recent report to NAFB members. The independent journalist has become an endangered species, he argued in Chats. With many voices on the Internet (most with their own agendas) and more consolidation of media (with their own economic agendas), he said, “reporters who work in the best interest of their target audiences are one of freedom’s greatest strengths.”

“All points of view should be aired and all questions of relevance should be asked,” he said in urging farm broadcasters to “probe into an issue, obtain and give the hard truth.”

Reference: Use a title search (Freedom to speak) or author search (Root) for the full citation. Issues of NAFB Chats are posted, with delay, at:

Food chains and other myths. 

Research among students has identified four misconceptions about food in the ecosystem. Communicators and educators can find value in these insights and reminders:

  • Food webs are interpreted as simple food chains. (Scientific conception: food/energy relationships must be viewed as a complex web linking the organisms within an ecosystem.)
  • Organisms higher in a food web eat everything that is lower in the web. (Scientific conception: organisms higher in a food web feed on some organisms lower in the food web.)
  • The top of the food chain has the most energy because it accumulates up the chain. (Scientific conception: available energy decreases as one progresses up a food web.)
  • Populations higher on a food web increase in number because they deplete those lower in the web. (Scientific conception: the numbers of individuals in the populations of any species decrease with each step up the trophic levels because the available energy decreases while body size generally increases as one progresses up a food web.)

Reference: Use a title search (Ecological misconceptions) or author search (Munson) for the full citation.

Words are never enough. 

“Emerging technologies will always make emerging terminologies obsolete,” Zac Hanley and Kieran Elborough observed in a recent commentary about definitions of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). They were reacting to proposals from two scientists for coining new, more taxonomy-based terms for genetic modification.

“Transgenic has a well-entrenched meaning to the public and attempts to redefine it spread confusion or suspicion rather than enlightenment,” the commentators said. “Only when we have done an excellent job of explaining what we are talking about can we enjoy the luxury of encapsulating it all in a pithy word or phrase like intragenic.”

Reference: Use a title search (Emerging terminology) or author search (Hanley) for the full citation. The commentary was posted online at:

“Yeh, they made us quit thinking a long time ago and now they’ve made us stop talking.”

That lament came from a frustrated U.S. Department of Agriculture field communicator during the mid-1930s when poverty and economic depression triggered new, top-down rural programs that often lacked coordination.

Reference: Use a title search (Relations with various divisions) or author search (Keilholz) for the full citation.

Professional activities approaching

October 30, 2003
“The River Murray – cool water or hot potato.” Featured speaker Hon. John Hill at luncheon meeting of Rural Media South Australia at Adelaide Oval. Information:

November 11-16, 2003
“NAFB – a voice for agriculture.” Annual convention of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters at the Westin Crown Center, Kansas City, Missouri. Information:

Best regards and good searching.

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October 2003

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