farmers talking to journalists, from a journalist's perspective
We wonder what angle he’s coming from?
As a reporter, a big part of my job is getting farmers to talk to me.
In this column, I’m going to tell you why you might want to think twice about being interviewed. Or, if you decide to talk to a journalist, what you need to know.
Before tapping out this column, I spoke to Tom Button, editor at Country Guide, about the idea. He said he’s always been amazed at how forthcoming farmers are when they’re talking about their situations. That’s been my experience too, and I don’t want to abuse that trust.
But there are risks to stepping into the spotlight. Here are four things you need to know about the media.
1. A reporter is not there to be your friend
Beware any reporter who claims to be acting in your interest. We serve our readers first, not our interview subjects. Deep down even the kindest reporter is a wolf trying to sniff out a story.
This might seem a little heartless, but bad things happen when reporters forget who they serve. For example, in 2014 Rolling Stone published a dramatic account of a campus rape that didn’t hold up to scrutiny. Part of the problem was that the reporter and editors didn’t want to harm the alleged victim by carefully verifying her account. It backfired badly.
Even a good news story on your farm isn’t going to be entirely your story. It’s going to be the story the reporter thinks her readers want. If the story is on a controversial or complex topic, the reporter will be nosing out other sources, who may disagree with you. If you’re discussing an agronomic problem on your farm, your agronomic practices may be laid bare for everyone to see and judge.
Before you agree to an interview, find out who the reporter works for. Don’t be afraid to ask him what type of story he’s working on before you spill the beans.
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