ACDC News – Issue 04-09

Journalists as instant experts – in any subject.  

Conrad Smith, author of Media and Apocalypse, took that notion to task after finding poor media coverage of complex disasters such as forest fires, oil spills and earthquakes. The root of the problem appears to be twofold, he concluded:

  1. In the education of journalists, which deals primarily with routine stories.
  2. In the professional culture of journalism which perpetuates customs that interfere with good reporting and encourages the notion that any journalist can quickly acquire expertise in any subject.

“There will always be a need for generalists in journalism,” Smith said, “but as science and technology become more complex there will be increasing need for specialized reporters to translate those complexities into lay terms.” This notion speaks directly to potentials (and challenges) facing professional communicators who understand complexities of the agriculture/food enterprise.

Reference: Use a title search (Media and apocalypse) or author search (Smith) for the full citation.

Front doors locked, shades drawn.  

That is how Mark Stober recently described most agribusiness companies these days. He argued in Strategic Agribusiness Review that most agribusiness firms are “laboring under the foolish pretense that if they open up, someone will steal their great ideas and make off with their customers. What hogwash!”

Harvard Business Review article that examined businesses as ecosystems triggered Stober’s comments. The authors suggested that business ecosystems are kept viable by keystone firms that continually try to improve the health of the entire system by creating and sharing value (money, ideas, other) with their business partners. A keystone company is focused outward and system-wide. “Agribusiness is woefully short of keystones,” Stober observed.

Reference: Use a title search (Commentary on how agribusiness) or author search (Stober) for the full citation. The commentary was posted online at:

Big gap between saying and doing.  

Researchers found a big gap recently when they used several methods to study knowledge level, attitudes and behaviors involving food safety. They (1) surveyed a sample of 100 caregivers of children in Hartford, Connecticut, (2) made 10 in-depth household observations of food safety behavior and (3) conducted two focus groups.

Even though 97 percent of survey participants reported washing their hands with soap and water before preparing foods, only 1 of the 10 participants in the household observations actually did so.

Reference: Use a title search (Food safety knowledge) or author search (Bermudez-Millan) for the full citation. An abstract of the article in the Journal of Food Protection was archived March 22, 2004, at:

Three dimensions of public relations – not one.  

Firms, industries and organizations often think of public relations mainly in terms of attempting to influence public attitude and opinion in ways favorable to their interests. However, Stuart Rich of the University of Oregon emphasized two other vital dimensions in his introduction to a conference about public relations for the timber industry. They included:

  1. Gaining an understanding of public attitudes and opinions toward your industry.
  2. Taking those attitudes and opinions into account in managing your companies.

The use of all three dimensions plays out into public involvement that, he said, can be constructive rather than destructive.

Reference: Use a title search (Public relations in an era) or author search (Rich) for the full citation.

Problems with Internet video access. 

When A.M. Van Der Zanden and Bob Rost surveyed master gardeners in Oregon they found that 80 percent who completed their training in 2001 owned or had access to a computer. Ninety-three percent of those had access to the Internet. However, only 37 percent were able to view a 1.17-MB video clip via the Internet. Problems reported:

  • Extremely long download times (as much as 1 hour and 28 minutes)
  • Software not installed
  • Software not compatible

Reference: Use a title search (Internet video access) or author search (Rost) for the full citation.

Communicating when the power is off and pressure is on.  

“Eye of the storm” is the title of a case report that we added recently to the ACDC collection from the Cooperative Communicators Association newsletter. Jim Krut of Adams Electric Cooperative in south-central Pennsylvania identified six communications lessons learned through the devastation of a hurricane that hit the area late last year. “Just like lemons and lemonade,” he noted, “our communications team learned some valuable lessons from this destructive storm.”

Reference: Use a title search (Eye of the storm) or author search (Krut) for the full citation.

Ah, the wonders of headlines.  

How could we keep from passing along these examples from “So you want to be a journalist? Obviously, headlines about food are among those that provide eye-catching news.

  • “Kids make nutritious snacks”
  • “Typhoon rips through cemetery – hundreds dead”
  • “Chef throws his heart into helping feed needy”
  • “War dims hope for peace”

Do you have other examples to share – especially headlines involving food, agriculture, natural resources or rural affairs? We’d appreciate getting them.

Communicator activities approaching:

May 24-27, 2004
“Education and Extension for Multi-Function Agriculture.” Annual conference of the Association for International Agricultural and Extension Education in Dublin, Ireland.

June 10-12, 2004
“Red, White and Bluegrass.” Annual seminar of American Horse Publications in Lexington, Kentucky USA.

June 12-15, 2004
“Run for the Gold.” 2004 Institute of Cooperative Communicators Association (CCA) in Louisville, Kentucky USA.

June 20-24, 2004
“ACE’s High in Nevada.” 2004 International Meeting of the Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences (ACE) at Lake Tahoe, Nevada USA.

Best regards and good searching.  

Please pass along your reactions, suggestions 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. Send

  • hard copies to:
    Ag Com Documentation Center
    510 LIAC Library
    1101 S. Goodwin Avenue
    Urbana, IL 61801
  • or electronic copies to:

May 2004

Updated on