Just a head’s up: If you apply for a position as an anchor/reporter for Brownfield Ag News, do not include in your cover letter a paragraph about how you want to agvocate for farmers or farm families or corn growers, cattlemen or asparagus producers. I’m not looking for Willie Nelson or Neil Young. This isn’t Farm Aid. I’m looking for a reporter.
It is not the job of a farm news broadcaster or agricultural journalist to be an “advocate.” A news reporter – ag or otherwise – who advocates for anything really isn’t a very good news reporter. If your program or segment of a program is commentary and not news, identify it as such. Otherwise, you give ag journalism a bad name.
One of the reporters on my team recently asked a question at a news conference that made some spokespeople participating and some in the audience uncomfortable. One of the men in the room turned to the person standing next to him and whispered, “Is she one of those liberal reporters out of Columbia?”
The person standing next to him just happened to be a former news reporter turned press secretary for a congresswoman. He responded “No, she’s an agricultural reporter. And a darned good one!”
Wouldn’t it be keen as-all-get-out if we all just held hands and sang “Kumbaya” and trusted that everything lawmakers, government officials and ag group leaders are doing is absolutely the very best thing for all of us? No need to ask questions! The lawmaker/government official/ag group representative is a member of your political party so they MUST be right. Right?
Too many people today demand “news” outlets that agree with them. Is “conservative news” or “liberal news” really news? How can it be news if there is a political angle to it?
The Code of Ethics for the Radio and Television News Director Association states that a journalist should: “Gather and report news without fear or favor, and vigorously resist undue influence from any outside forces, including advertisers, powerful individuals and special interest groups. … Resist any self-interest or peer pressure that might erode journalistic duty.”
A true journalist is accountable for his or her actions to the public, the profession and themselves.
The definition of “advocate” is to plead in favor of. Synonyms include support, back, champion, and endorse. If any of the reporters who work for me at Brownfield Ag News choose to champion, back, endorse or advocate instead of report agricultural news, they know they will soon be looking for a job elsewhere. And they will probably find a job elsewhere because there are a lot of so-called “news” outlets that just want their reporters to be popular and loved with no care in the world about covering all sides of a story relevant to the farmers who are listening, watching or reading.
The outspoken few who condemn ag news reporters for balanced reporting are the same ones who condemn reporters on the national news networks for unbalanced reporting. Professional conduct by a news reporter should include pursuit of the truth as well as presenting the news accurately, impartially, in context and as completely as possible.
Knowledge is power. If you don’t know where those who stand against you stand, how can you prepare to deal with the consequences?
Covering your ears or turning your head just because you disagree doesn’t serve your interests and certainly isn’t going to make you any smarter.