Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Tuesday 08/06/13

Notes from the Ag Media Summit: Reporting versus Agvocating

I'm sorry about the lack of updates on the blog, but there isn't exactly a whole lot of news.

Ag media have invaded Buffalo, N.Y., this week, injecting money into the local economy. If you are ever in Buffalo, hit the Anchor Bar for wings -- not the Anchor Inn. Don't let your GPS fool you like mine did. If you want a massive prime steak that makes you wake up with a beef hangover, go to the Buffalo Chophouse.

With that, I noted that the Sunday editorial in the Buffalo News was about the farm bill. Titled, "Wrong and Wrong," the editorial lamented the lack of willingness of the House to cap crop insurance premium subsidies for farmers making more than $750,000 AGI while the House pushes for higher SNAP cuts. The editorial also highlighted the GAO report on payments to dead farmers.

"The takeaway here could be that being a farmer, even a dead one, with a large operation beats being a poor hungry person in need of food stamps."

On Monday, I got to be on a panel with Sarah Muirhead, publisher of Feedstuffs, and Greg Henderson of Drovers. We discussed the issues of ag reporting versus "agvocating," both how the lines have blurred and how we have to approach all those emotional issues in agriculture. In 20 years as a reporter, a great deal has changed in the media environment. Most journalists were simply a name on a byline. Now, with Facebook, Twitter and blogs like this one, we have personalities. It was a theme for multiple panel discussions at the event. We've all had issues or conflicts with different people or groups over stories or commentary. Another panel going on at the same time as ours had survey results from young farmers. The farmers want ag journalists to be agvocates for the industry while at the same time those farmers responded in a separate question that we must remain objective. I can tell you every day we have to balance between agvocating and fairness. Objectivity, though, is in the eye of the beholder.

I closed my rambling discussion by expressing some concern about where journalism will be in society in the coming years. Politicians often like to talk about slippery slopes while they dig canyons. I certainly can't imagine the Justice Department ever going after me because of a USDA whistleblower, but I'm troubled by the Obama administration's pursuit of journalists in leak investigations. Each subsequent White House and executive branch tends to build upon precedents set in the prior administration. So when the Justice Department gets all the phone records for Associated Press reporters over a security leak, it allows the government to further abuse its power down the line.

Then there are so-called "ag gag" laws. Farm lobbies, rural lawmakers and agribusinesses have been trumpeted these laws as a way to stem animal-right activism and those videos of abuse at farms or meatpacking plants. I think those laws will backfire on the industry. Once again, how does that become enforced or broadened over time? I shoot a bunch of photos just because I like the imagery or think that DTN can use the photo for a stock picture to go with a future story. Just last week, I was touring Kansas. I stopped on the side of the road to take pictures of windmills, oil rigs, buffalo grazing, corn suffering from drought stress, center pivots in action, cattle at a feedlot, signs of an ethanol plant, a billboard from a center pivot company. One day, am I and everyone else going to be restricted from photographing from a public road?

The media environment continues to change. Even as we discussed our own perspectives in our respective positions, businesses and readership, the American Farm Bureau Federation on Monday announced it was buying a Cygnus Business Media's publications and agricultural events. The magazines include Farm & Grain Magazine and the Case IH Farm Forum. The farm shows include Farmfest, Dakotafest, Amarillo Farm and Ranch Show, Northern Illinois Farm Show and the IDEAg Interconnectivity Conference. In a news release, AFBF stated that all the current managers and staff for the publicans and events agreed to continue in their positions.

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Posted at 6:28AM CDT 08/06/13 by Chris Clayton
Comments (11)
WOW Chris it will be great when Beef Pork magazines stop attacking the RFS and tell us how the JBS and Smithfield takeover of packinghouses and a large share of the livestock feeding and production is going to affect the midwest. I am sure that cheap corn is on there lobbying agenda.
Posted by melvin meister at 7:31AM CDT 08/06/13
What is not troubling about the Obama administration. See
Posted by John Olson at 7:43AM CDT 08/06/13
Still more evidence of Obama's corruption see To think that Obama should be trusted with our healthcare? Time for rino's to defund Obamacare!
Posted by John Olson at 8:08AM CDT 08/06/13
Corruption over runneth John,,, remember in 2008 Obama said he was 47 years old, last week he said he was 51 and NOW he stated he was 52!!!! GO GET EM TEA PARTY!!!!!!
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 11:56AM CDT 08/06/13
Open your eyes Jay see
Posted by John Olson at 12:13PM CDT 08/06/13
Chris, Is objective reporting a product that can be produced anymore? FOX and other "news" outlets promote their lack of objectivity and their adoring audience repeats it all as fact. The WSJ always had a sterling reputation in my youth and now it is a rag echoing FOX type rant. When you see it being quoted by known crazies, you know its credibility is gone.
Posted by Don Thompson at 7:10AM CDT 08/07/13
Don I like your post only you forgot that a little truth also helps.
Posted by melvin meister at 8:04AM CDT 08/07/13
Why do you highlite Fox, Don? NBC, CBS, ABC, CNBC are so ratings oriented, even their weather forcast is unpredictable.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 9:43AM CDT 08/07/13
Yeah but Bonnie,,,, did you see Fox's election predictions last Nov compared to the others? I myself prefer NPR or BBC to the big guys but Faux News is where I go for a laugh!
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 5:33AM CDT 08/08/13
I wanted to thank all of your guys for your posts. We tend to grapple a lot with these issues and the kind of media people gravitate to watch these days.
Posted by CHRIS CLAYTON at 6:31AM CDT 08/08/13
More laughs for you Jay - see
Posted by John Olson at 7:12AM CDT 08/08/13
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