Marc van der Sterren

The predicament of agricultural journalists

Thanks to DuPont Pioneer, agricultural journalists from developing countries get the chance to attend the IFAJ-congress. A great opportunity for journalists who are serious about their job, but it also interferes with serious journalism. Is there an answer to this predicament?

IFAJ Congress 2017 in South Africa
The congress of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) in 2017 will take place South Africa

Farming, one might say, is not rocket science. No. It’s even more difficult! Rocket Science is a study where a whole team works on one goal: to bring a rocket in the sky. Farming is about one man or one women making crucial decisions every day on the most varying topics.

All farmers are different. They have varying capacities and ambitions. They all work in different circumstances regarding to climate, weather conditions, access to markets and finance, the availability of resources, access to water, credits and knowledge.

Luckily, most farmers can find advice from different people around them. But the decisions, he has to make himself. Therefore it’s crucial he receives the best information.

The best information for the farmer is independent information. Knowledge that’s not coloured by the interests of some group of activists or companies wanting to sell more than farmers need and want to buy more from them than they are willing to pay for. This kind of information is not in the interest of the farmer in the first place, but in the interest of the messenger.

The weight of the independency and pluriformity – the impartially and diversity of the information that reaches the farmer is neglected worldwide.

Just with a look in the diverse range of farmers magazines around the world, I can say most information that comes to the farmer is coloured by the agribusiness.

Agricultural journalists work under difficult circumstancesIt would be a welcome task for the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists to do some research on this topic. How much of the actual information in the media that targets the farmer comes from what different type of messengers? And what is their most important interest?

And, in case the information provided is mainly from parties with a different interest than the farmer (which is most likely), what can be done against this?

It would be a great theme to pick up during one of the yearly conferences. The masterclass would be the designated place for this.

The masterclass is sponsored by DuPont Pioneer. This doesn’t mean the masterclass will not Agricultural journalists from developing countries can attend the IFAJ DuPont Pioneer Master Class 2017professional. Judging from what I heard about previous sponsored masterclasses, I am sure the participants will learn a lot. But this kind of sponsorship does not have anything to do with independency.

Predicament

Not many things are more difficult than farming these days. I can only think of one thing: providing them independent information. Journalists deal with an enormous predicament. They move around in a commercial world and want to get payed for their job.

The farmers however, are not able to pay all the information those journalists provide. And they don’t have to. The commercial sector is big enough and willing to pay the biggest part.

Yes, this detracts independency. It undermines the credibility of the farmers who read it. What can be done against this? Is there a way out?

I think this would be a great topic to discuss during the masterclass.
© Marc van der Sterren

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