Farming is a risky business. We all know that all too well at planting season. So, whenever possible, producers try to manage or minimize risks. It is not surprising that, when it comes to talking to the media, many in agriculture would avoid talking to a non-agricultural journalist.
Fear-mongering about food is an easy way for media outlets to boost ratings and generate publicity. In addition, activist groups regularly use media outlets to advance their agenda.
Recently, I was involved in teaching a group of agricultural leaders how to work with the media to tell the story of agriculture. I sensed some resistance in the room, and it finally came out when someone asked, “Why should we even talk to them? They are only going to twist our words and make us look bad?”
This is a legitimate question based on some of the smear stories, undercover videos, and downright lies that many media outlets have turned out about agriculture. Yet, though hiding under a rock or flying under the radar may sound safe, it is not. In today’s media-saturated, over-tweeted, bot-driven social media, hiding is impossible. It is also impossible to control what is said about you.
So, my answer to the questioner was that it is worth the risk.
When talking to the non-ag media, keep your message simple, make it personal, and know your facts. This will not guarantee you get a positive ag story, but if you don’t tell your story, I guarantee they will find someone who will, which may not be the story you want.
Keep in mind not all journalists are low life, blood-sucking, slimeballs. Sometimes their misinformation on agriculture comes from just not knowing the facts. The more we can make ourselves available and tell our story in a way that is relatable to their non-farm audience, the better the chances are they may get the story right.
We can also be proactive in our own local communities. Take the initiative and reach out to your local newspaper, radio station or television station. Offer to be a resource on agriculture. Help them think of ag-related stories that are of interest to their audience. If you don’t engage with the media, the real risk you run is not just an inaccurate story, but the risk of having your views marginalized and your way of life threatened.
That’s how I see it.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Hoosier Ag Today, its employees, advertisers, or affiliated radio stations.