Does mainstream media help or hinder farming?

January 23, 2018

Key findings from Nuffield Scholar, Anna Jones’ report Help or Hinder?  How the Mainstream Media Portrays Farming to the Public were:

The urban/rural disconnect is real, more so in Western and urbanised societies, and both the media and farming industry are contributing to it.

Some mainstream media coverage is clouded by urban bias, knee-jerk distrust of agribusiness, failing to differentiate between campaigners and informers and an over-reliance on too few sources with an overt political agenda. There is a severe lack of agricultural specialism among general news journalists.

Farmers and industry are fuelling the disconnect through a lack of openness and transparency, disproportionate defensiveness in the face of legitimate challenge, disunity among farming sectors and a sense of ‘exceptionalism’ or entitlement to positive coverage.

The public debate and narrative around agriculture is being dominated by farming unions and lobbyists. Politics at an industry level is drowning out individuals at a farm level, contributing to more distrust.

Her full report is here.

Jones visited USA, Kenya, Denmark, Ireland, France and Belgium. Would her findings be very  different here?

New Zealand has some very good rural journalists in the print media including the Otago Daily Times’ Sally Rae; Stuff’s  Kate Taylor, Gerald  Piddock and Gerard Hutching; NZ Farming Weekly’s Neal Wallace, Annette Scott, Richard Rennie, Tim Fulton, Alan Williams; Pam Tipa and Nigel Malthus at Rural News and RNZ’s  Alexa Cook.

We also have a good variety of rural shows on radio and television.

Jamie Mackay does an excellent job of covering farming and wider rural issues on The Country as does Andy Thompson on The Muster.

Country Calendar seems to cover more lifestyle and alternative farmers now but still does very good work. Rural Delivery was always interesting but now it’s failed to get NZ on AIr funding probably won’t be back.

RNZ  has Country Life and its Friday night and early Saturday morning slots don’t matter so much when it’s easy to listen online at a time that suits better.

We are generally well served by rural media and rural journalists in general media.

The problem is other journalists outside rural media who don’t understand farming and wider rural issues.

They’re the ones who buy the anti-farming propaganda often wrapped in faux-green wrapping; the ones who pedal the emotion and don’t have the inclination or time to check the facts.

They’re the ones who serve farming and the wider rural community badly and undo much of the good rural media and journalists do.

 


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