Mainstream Media Misinformation about Agriculture, summary of #agchat responses from August 25, 2009


Questions and summary excerpts from the Twitter dialog for #agchat from August 25, 2009, on the topic of Mainstream Media Misinformation about Agriculture.

Reference info for the discussion:

Q1 via @narthur Is mainstream media sensationalizing (e.g. Jerry Springer) to combat traditional media malaise? What do we do?
  • capitalpress: Q1 It would be a mistake to generalize about media, just like ag industry doesn't want to be generalized.
  • agchick: Q1 It's all a ratings game, driving advertiser dollars. Entertain'm or lose'm So yes, "news" must be entertaining.
  • capitalpress: Q1 Compare your local paper or TV station to Springer and you are starting off on a bad foot
  • agchick: Q1 Even ag industry media outlets struggle to maintain audience against competing entertainment. My radio show had 2 be gud AND fun.
  • Jambutter: RT @Kubileya Seems any journalist not toeing 'ag is perfect' party line is automatically written off as sensationalist liar
  • Jambutter: Q1 What are you including in mainstream media?
  • THE_REAL_BEEF: Q1: From our experience with Time...yes. Obvious attempt to tell one side of the story to sell mags. Look at cover.
  • AgriLawyer: Q1: MSM is reacting to declining sales as the TMZs and bloggers of the world break news faster w/ less research
  • capitalpress: Q1 it's easy to see the holes in stories when it's about you or your business.
  • WriteNowBiz: this isn't bringing much for converesation so talking blind here but division is an issue - with ag facing many fronts
  • kubileya: Q1: Don't think MSM is sensationalizing much. In fact, don't think they go far enough in reporting some of the bad stuff that I C
  • Jambutter: Q1: 24 hour news is sensational. Weekly or less frequent magazines are investigative. Otherwise they wouldn't exist today.
  • agchat: Folks, how about we all take a deep breath and realize there is no sense in pointing fingers. This is a conversation - two-sided.

[Editor note: this one question has much more dialog. Suggest reading transcript for more detail.]

Q2 via @akleinschmidt If the journalists were here tonight, what would you like them to know about your #farm or part of #ag?

  • agchick: Q2 some interests have sold notion that "big ag" victimizes "family farmers" I'd like to correct that.
  • lucas_sjostrom: Q2 The farmer is not the brand name (and profit) using the farmer image.
  • bstammen06: Q2:Even though my family maybe contract growers, we are still a family farm
  • TopProducerMag: Q2. I'd actually like to find out what they view as big.
  • wheatworld: Q2 Not wheat-specific: farmers are real people, and so are folks who work at the companies they hear the worst about! Talk to them!
  • akleinschmidt: Q2 answering my own question: I'd like to extend a personal invitation to visit several modern ag farms. Both crops and livestock.
  • fugazimocon: RT @Jambutter: Not liking a thoroughly investigate story (e.g., 60 Minutes, Fast Food Nation) doesn't mean its sensational.
  • KYSheepandGoat: Q2 Back in the quill pen days when I was a working "Journalist" we tried to be fair representing both sides. Afraid that's missing
  • THE_REAL_BEEF: Q2: That so-called "factory farmers" regardless of position in food chain are real people who care about the food they produce.
  • AgriBlogger: Q2: They should get out on some farms (plural) before making judgments for one thing. Talk to farmers!
  • noonfarm: Q2 Seems we need to answer question "why does ag have to defend themselves" How did we become the bad guys?

Q3 via @TruffleMedia Is #ag calling kettle black? Hard ?, but tactics used in recent articles have likely been used by modern ag.

  • AgriBlogger: Q3: Can anyone point to an example of ag using the kind of tactic that started this?
  • maureenogle: Q3: I wd. say not. Again, my view is as historian. Ag interests have always had trouble getting message out.
  • lucas_sjostrom: Q3 I think we play a lot more defense than offense, so we don't have as much time to sensationalize stuff, otherwise we might more
  • maureenogle: Q3: & as others have sd. tonite, part of prob. is the many faces of ag. No single "voice" of ag
  • AgriBlogger: Q3: No. I can't think of ag even having that kind of "audience" to do something like the Time article.
  • tbtamartin: Q3 I don't care what issue it is journalism has the responsiblity of exposing ALL sides of the story

Q4 via @TruffleMedia What are the outcomes we want to accomplish by a rebuttal to current media stories?

  • mpaynknoper: Q4 Proactive positioning is best outcome #ag can ask for. #farms & others in ag need to connect w/people to get balanced story.
  • agropinion: Q4 Our city friends need to know we can't feed the world via farmer's market. Farming big doesn't mean you aren't safe or healthy
  • lucas_sjostrom: @agropinion Re Q4... and farming small doesnt mean safe or healthy! Or economical... can be, but isnt necessarily true
  • AgriLawyer: Q4: I hope it isn't a knee-jerk rebuttal, but rather a call to get out the many sides (not just two) on the issues discussed in MSM
  • THE_REAL_BEEF: Q4 For MSM to ID opinion as opinion. If TIME wants to be opinion, so be it. Don't disguise as news.
  • Jambutter: There are no sacred cows, e.g., Whole Foods ( My #ProFood interests focus on farmers and consumers.
  • alexayers1953: Q4: I think we want the consumer to understand that there is no way to feed the world by farming the way my grandparents did

Q5 Via @NEFarmBureau Would there be interest in a clearinghouse to report agenda-driven media contacts (those who seem suspicous)?

  • AgriLawyer: Q5: NO
  • TopProducerMag: Q5. Immediate response is YES. what cost. If we start blacklisting reporters, you cut off your nose to spite your face.
  • agchick: Q5 Remember, that plays to both sides. I think this train has already left the station. Naive to expect a return 2 true "journalism"
  • mlewindy: Q5 why?
  • NateJaeger: Q5: I think a clearinghouse is bad use of time. Let's spend it organizing our own message and not worry about who's against us
  • lmworden: Q5 Not sure there would be a benefit to that...We're already hearing so much about "those that don't agree" and bias, see no point
  • AgriLawyer: Q5: a clearinghouse sounds too much like a "propaganda ministry" to me, where they are the final call on what is bias
  • amgrose: Is there a readily available resource for reporters to find sources/real farmers of all types?
  • TruffleMedia: @agchat Q5 re: clearinghouse; crowd sourcing info on "bad" articles/reporters/writers, Digg like up/down? +space for other side?
  • agropinion: Q5-- I want to know who is a vegetarian or a card carrying HSUS member
  • KYSheepandGoat: Q5 Afraid that sounds a little like a potential hit list.
  • JoDee_George: Q5: Turning our back on all of the time-stretched reporters is nail in coffin. It is good to share info abt media but that's it.

Q6 via @farmerscotty Why does the media portray us in #ag as stuck in 1950’s-era through photos & references to good ole days?

  • NateJaeger: Q6: If that's what they have in mind, let's use it! Our family farms still posses all of those qualities.
  • lucas_sjostrom: @agchat Q6 Because it is hard to take pictures inside our beautiful new ventilated and more humane barns, red looks good in the sun
  • AgriLawyer: Q6: I'm not sure if I agree with the assertion as based on recent criticisms of "factory farms and feedlots overrunning the country"
  • TopProducerMag: Q6 It's Charlotte's Web view of the world. It's what people know and want to believe.
  • KYSheepandGoat: Q6 Comfort zone. They'd like things romanticized, but I don't think you can feed 7 billion people that way.
  • mpaynknoper: @NateJaeger Q6 Can't agree. Disconnection creates distrust. We should be proud of science, technology & animal care advances
  • agchick: Q6 BUT, when I twitpic photos, vids from my farm, I'm accused of advocating big ag. So where's my line of tolerance
  • THE_REAL_BEEF: Q6 Sometimes we're our own worst enemy on this one. We perpetuate the American Gothic image rather than shaping a future one.
  • TruffleMedia: #agchat Q6 the word "farm" has that old time feel; continuing the myth: Old McDonald Had a Farm, fairs,&commercials portray farming that way

Q7 via @akleinschmidt Inference is big, modern, efficient=bad, unsafe, ’souless’. Where/when did we lose connection-How to repair?

  • NateJaeger: Q7: was it Jack in the Box?
  • lmworden: Q7 I think that ag has been trying to repair that image by showing how efficiencies make farms more sustainable.
  • agchick: Q7 Jack in the Box, melamine in milk, hepatitis in strawberries. All things more frequently reported as our detection improves.
  • fredomartin: this consumer does not want GMOs in his plate because independent safety research is not allowed
  • phildawgkey: Q7: Lost connection because there are only about 700,000 farms left that gross over $10,000/yr in product.
  • Jambutter: Wonder if #agchat will ever give serious consideration of how industrial food's $30B+/year budget to warp public perceptions...

Final Q - AKA Q8: What’s the one executable idea you’ve picked up from #agchat tonight?

  • chicknafoxhole: Q8 Be proactive. Tell your story before the lies get published.
  • NateJaeger: Q8: take a deep breath before responding to negative MSM issues and try to see all sides
  • AgriBlogger: Q8: Keep using new media tools to tell our story. Nothing like communicating direct with people!
  • agchat: Don't forget to go to our #agchat FB page, (expand) & follow @agchat for updates. Tell your friends to keep the party hopping!
  • THE_REAL_BEEF: Q8 Take our story straight to consumers...MSM is increasingly biased against modern food production
  • animalag: Q8 All segments of ag need to work together- there's room for all production types at the discussion table. We need to speak up now!
  • jody_donohue: Q8 make sure i have the science I can reference every time.