It’s hard to believe another year has come and gone. Now that 2014 is in full swing, I’m looking forward to what the New Year has to offer, particularly for agriculturalists.
All signs are looking that this will be the year for the livestock producer. The corn bubble is weakening; cattle prices are at an all-time high; demand is booming in our global markets; and, supplies are tight. If you’re in the business of raising beef, 2014 certainly looks bright.
If you’re a crop farmer, perhaps you’re bummed about the prospect of $3 to $4 corn, but we know this is cyclical. I imagine the escalated prices of land rent and auction prices will start to decline, and land opportunities might be bountiful for those ready to seize the day.
Whether you’re feeling bearish or bullish about the New Year, I think we can all agree that one of our biggest challenges in agriculture — no matter which sector you are involved in — is consumer misconceptions fueled by a biased, sensationalist media.
I read an article titled, “Year Of Hoaxes” that appeared in the North American Meat Association newsletter. The article shows the problem we face in educating a confused public in the face of sub-par journalism. Here is an excerpt:
“We in the meat industry are accustomed to a certain number of misinformed and misleading media stories. However, an article in Esquire last week suggests that the number of such stories will continue to increase. In ‘The Year We Broke the Internet,’ Luke O’Neil explains how websites — even reputable ones — benefit economically from publishing false news: Once when they report the false news, and a second time when they debunk it. As evidence of this, he points to a frighteningly long list of ‘viral’ news stories from 2013 all of which were hoaxes. He then confesses:
“Among all the things I’ve written this year, the ones that took the least amount of time and effort usually did the most traffic. The more in-depth, reported pieces didn’t stand a chance against riffs on things predestined to go viral. That’s the secret that Upworthy, BuzzFeed, MailOnline, Viral Nova, and their dozens of knockoffs have figured out: You don’t need to write anymore—just write a good headline and point. If what you’re pointing at turns out to be a steaming turd, well, then repackage the steam and sell it back to us.”
If that’s not an indication of the challenge we face, I don’t know what is. But, every time a newspaper, blog of Facebook post shares a mistruth about antibiotics in the meat industry or GMO-crops, these false truths start to become “fact,” simply based on the power of word of mouth and how viral rumors and misinformation can spread if presented in a palatable format.
So my challenge to all of you in 2014 is to look beyond what’s going on in your fields and pastures and start listening to what the mainstream media is saying. Be proactive instead of reactive about sharing the true information about your products. Only then can we overcome the slanderous, libelous mainstream media. And to journalists everywhere, buck up. It’s not just about page views anymore. We want accurate reporting, not just a lot of “likes” on Facebook. ❖