Farmers and ranchers are on the front lines of the fight against internet hucksters and food faddists. Even so, respectful media relationships and an empathetic approach can help win the day, agricultural journalists Brian Winnekins and Sabrina Hill told farmers and ranchers at a workshop at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 100th Annual Convention.
Trust, the two journalists said, underlies all successful media relations.
Farmers who want fair and accurate coverage should go out of their way to help reporters learn how agriculture really works. Rather than waiting for last-minute questions from journalists, ag advocates need to help writers learn their beats when they are new to the industry. Getting to know reporters and showing then how real farms operate is a good first step.
Farmers face many challenges, they said, but the current trend towards treating livestock as though they are pets is one of the most pernicious. Anti-science attitudes towards GMOs and other technologies also pose obstacles for farmers.
While bad and even unfair coverage sometimes happens, the two urged farmers not to back down, and not to hide from media some believe are antagonistic towards farmers. Persistence and a helpful attitude are more effective.
A similar approach to social media also helps, they said. Instead of lambasting or embarrassing others over their misinformed Facebook pages, a friendly inbox message or email with a link to relevant information may result in the removal of anti-ag nonsense, they said. Be nice, they said, but stay factual.