Help or Hinder?
Examining the Coverage of Farming in the Mainstream Media
There is a saying that goes: “There is no such thing as bad publicity,” but I wonder how many farmers would agree with it. Here in the UK, there seems to be a feeling that farming is somehow ‘disconnected’ from a largely urban population and, therefore, a largely urban media. It is a criticism I have heard from people I’ve interviewed, and even my own family.
But I also see the pressures on the other side of the fence. If our duty as journalists is to serve our audiences, it could be argued that news headlines should be relevant, and of interest, to the largest section of the population. We are an urbanised nation and most people are ‘townies’. How much, then, does that influence the media’s approach to farming? And would it make any difference if the industry carried more clout, politically and economically, or if the rural audience was larger?
My Nuffield is aimed at answering those questions. I am planning visits to the USA, Kenya, France, Belgium and Ireland. These are a diverse mix of countries with varying cultural and political attitudes towards farming and food production.
I’ll visit farms and newsrooms, talking to those who produce the food and those who report the news. And by examining the coverage of major agricultural stories, across newspapers, radio and television, I hope to build a picture of the relationship between agri-business and the news media in each country. First, to see how they compare and, secondly, whether lessons can be learned from how farmers interact with journalists, and vice versa, elsewhere in the world.
I feel very honoured to have two sponsors which will make my Nuffield Scholarship possible – The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society and The Trehane Trust. I am incredibly grateful to them, and the Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust, for this life-changing opportunity.