ACDC News – Issue 05-02

Claude Gifford contributions being processed.

We are delighted to report on recent materials from Claude Gifford, retired Director of Information and an executive in Governmental and Public Affairs with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for more than 20 years. Claude received the USDA Distinguished Service Award and other honors for his contributions. Before joining the USDA he was associate editor of Farm Journal magazine for 23 years, including responsibilities for the editorial page.

The personal collection that Claude has contributed closely matches core interests of the Agricultural Communications Documentation Center. Some materials relate to his career, to farm publishing and to information services of the USDA. Others of research interest include, for example, the speeches of former U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture Earl Butz and Clifford M. Hardin. We appreciate this generous contribution and will keep you posted as materials are processed into the ACDC collection and University Archives during the months ahead.

Images of rural areas as theme parks.

“Too many city people regard rural areas as theme parks, put there to amuse us,” noted a recent commentary in Macleans (Canada). Anthony Wilson-Smith argued: “We want everything to stay the way it’s always been, but we want city-style comforts as well. Those are largely contradicting goals, so it’s no surprise that rural people often find outside intruders so invasive and annoying.”

“If we want rural Canada to flourish – and no one is opposed to that goal – a start would be a commitment on the part of various governments to give people in those regions the high-tech tools to do more jobs. ‘Life in the slow lane’ should refer to a matter of choice – and not a trip down the information highway.”

Reference: Life in the slow lane
Author: Wilson-Smith, Anthony
Posted @

On communicating to build or restore trust. 

Public and private interest groups strive for high levels of credibility and public trust. However, recent research among rural residents living near major nuclear power and hazardous waste storage facilities led authors to conclude in Environment and Behavior that achieving trust is not a “realistic goal” for environmental risk communicators.

Instead, they proposed that strategies for risk communicating should focus not on building trust but on establishing procedures and standards that the public understands and accepts.

Reference: Is trust a realistic goal for environmental risk communication?
Posted in PDF format @
Authors: Trettin, Lillian and Musham, Catherine

Better ways to boost credibility.

Similarly to results above, a study of public perceptions of agricultural biotechnologies in Europe led researchers to conclude that “just better public relations strategies” won’t do the job. Instead, they advised institutions to:

  • Admit past errors, uncertainty and lack of knowledge
  • Use input from all relevant sources (not just scientific experts)
  • Be transparent about how decisions are made, including explaining how different interests, risks and benefits have been balanced against each other.
  • Impose heavy sanctions in cases where mismanagement or fraud is identified.
  • Demonstrate that views of the public are understood, valued, respected and taken into account by decision-makers – even if they cannot all be satisfied.

Reference: Public perceptions of agricultural biotechnologies in Europe
Authors: Marris, Claire; Wynne, Brian; Simmons, Peter; and Weldon, Sue
Posted @

Tightening disclosure policies about scientist authors. 

We have added to ACDC a recent “conflict of interest” example involving the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives. Merrill Goozner examined 37 scientific studies published in EHP from December 2003 through February 2004. Only two included conflict of interest disclosure statements. Goozner investigated the first and last authors involved in the other 35 studies. Findings revealed “at least three articles (8.6%) where either the first or last authors should have disclosed conflicts in accordance with the disclosure policy.”

In response, the journal has strengthened instructions to authors and established a three-year ban on publication of information from authors who willfully fail to disclose a competing financial interest. You can track some of the dialogue about this matter at:

“Study on failures to disclose conflicts of interest in Environmental Health Perspectives”

“Embracing scrutiny” (commentary by the editor-in-chief)

“Journal’s new disclosure policy praised”

The extension worker’s code: a classic refresher.

Professional issues such as those above remind us of T.J. Talbert’s extension bulletin, The Extension Worker’s Code. It may be 83 years old, but it breathes an enduring freshness. Talbert was superintendent of institutes and extension schools at Kansas State Agricultural College in 1922. His concise code offers 46 ever-timely points of advice for extension workers. They range from “Study and serve the people,” “Stick to the truth” and “Forget yourself” to “Watch your bank account” and “Don’t mail that sarcastic letter.”

Let us know if you would like to see this 18-page classic and do not have local access to it.

Reference: The extension worker’s code
Posted in PDF format @
Author: Talbert, T.J.

How about placing government price controls on packaged foods?

The Harris Poll® #64, September 9, 2004 invited views from a national sample of U.S. adults. Responses:

Favor 26%
Oppose 70%
Not sure 4%

Posted @

Ag radio, never in a stronger position.

Lynn Ketelsen of Linder Farm Network, based in Minnesota, expressed that view in a recent issue of Behind the Mic. Among the reasons he cited:

  • “Farmers spend more time on and in vehicles than just about any consumer of information. And farm radio is with them.”
  • “No matter what the size of farmer, they want information from their farm broadcaster.”
  • “Farm broadcasting has adapted to a changing farmer.”
  • “Never in history has there been such interest in food, diet and health.”
  • “Farm broadcasting stations and networks are stronger and more committed than ever before.”

Reference: “Ag Radio, Never In a Stronger Position
Posted @

Author: Ketelsen, Lynn

Voice-recognition gremlins at work. 

During recent months we have experimented with voice-recognition software as a tool for creating ACDC citations more quickly and easily. It is a work in progress, apparently, as we are finding some tricky gremlins. For example, have you found examples such as these in wording of citations on the ACDC web site?
  • “One author was identified as being affiliated with the “Department of journalism and mask medications.”
  • “One abstract about crisis communications at land-grant universities explained: “On the angry campuses. Official crisis plans are most often found at the university level…”
  • “The abstract of a research paper said scholars “have advanced conceptual metaphoric ligature review.”
  • “The title of one article about microcomputers referred to “OA adapters and extensions” rather than the actual “early adopters and extension.”

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 we might add to this unique collection. We welcome them in hard copy (sent to

Ag Com Documentation Center,
510 LIAC, 1101 S.
Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801)
or electronic form (at )

January, 2005


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