Messengers beware! Risk of being shot for delivery of controversial news can be high. Proceed at your peril.
Of course that comes with the territory; it’s part of the job description of anyone who writes for public consumption. Thin-skinned souls need not apply.
It’s my job as a journalist to deliver information to readers. In my case, that means to farmers, ranchers and the industries and organizations that support them. Not all the news I report is what readers want to hear. Over the past few years, for instance, I’ve written far more stories about crop failures due to drought than I would have liked. I’ve reported too many times on the failure of Congress to act in the best interest of agriculture. I’ve chronicled hail damage, freeze damage and collapsing markets. That’s not good news.
But bear in mind, my job is to report on the good the bad and the absurd. I don’t create droughts, have no sway with Congress and exert no influence on how much cotton China decides to buy in a given year.
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I, as well as other Farm Press writers, cover meetings and interview experts on various subjects that have to do with agriculture. We don’t write their speeches. We report what they say.
And we are sometimes criticized for reporting on items that may be controversial. I’ve been accused, at various times, of being too conservative or too liberal, too pro-industry or overly supportive of environmental causes. I consider that a fairly good indication that I’m doing my job.
Much of what we write are as accurate accounts as we can cobble together of what a marketing, environmental or policy expert explains at a meeting or during an interview. Failure to report on something that may affect agriculture just because it’s controversial means we are negligent.
I have been roundly chastised for writing about biotechnology. And I sometimes defend it in commentaries and blogs. That’s where you’ll find my opinion and it will be labeled—commentary or blog, just so you’ll know.
I have also been chastised for writing about the Affordable Care Act and how it could affect rural communities. I didn’t defend it; I reported about it. Readers need to know these things.
We recently published a piece about climate change and received negative responses about our liberal tendencies. The report quoted several sources, scientists, who discussed the ramifications of climate change, regardless of what may cause it, and the article pointed out that several opinions exist on the origins and whether we need to address it at all.
We do. At least we in the news business need to examine it, report on any new findings and provide pertinent information from the best sources available on what, if anything, farmers and ranchers need to change on their operations to prepare for it.
Doing anything less would be incompetence.
Finally, if I make a mistake in my reporting—and I assure you that I will—I need to know about it so I can fix it. If you read a blog you don’t agree with, write me a respectful comment with your name on it and I’ll post it so you’ll get your say. And if you read a report with which you disagree, please let me know. But don’t blame the messenger for delivering news you don’t like. It’s my job.