May 4, 2023
In late April I had the opportunity to attend the North American Agricultural Journalists’ annual meeting in Washington, D.C. And if this gathering is any indication, agriculture is in good hands in terms of being provided accurate, timely and honest information about the industry that feeds the world.
This was my second year of being involved in NAAJ and attending the conference, and this was an exciting year. For one thing, I received third-place and honorable-mention certificates in the respective spot news and in-depth news categories in our writing contest. The fun thing about that was where these awards were presented – at the National Press Club, where my grandfather was a member and attended conferences in the 1940s and ‘50s.
If anything, I’m at least as proud of the honorable mention because of what the judge, Neil Brown of Virginia State University, wrote about my work. Of my story examining the 2022 election results’ potential impact on Farm Bill negotiations, he wrote: “I was most impressed by the tone and ‘matter of fact’ writing style that the author used to communicate a topic that could […] evoke significant emotion from some readers. The article seemed unbiased and stated the topic plainly and clearly which I think was ideal for the topic and ideal for engaging a cross-section of readers.”
This is the goal I’ve had as a journalist from the beginning – to present news stories on sensitive topics in a balanced and matter-of-fact way that considers multiple points of view. And that’s why I’ve found such a home in NAAJ, which describes itself as an independent body committed to upholding the highest ideals of journalism and protecting First Amendment rights.
A unique thing about NAAJ is that it enables people from ag media outlets like Farm Progress to interact with journalists from mainstream news organizations who cover agriculture. Ellyn Ferguson, a senior reporter for CQ Roll Call, writes on NAAJ’s website: “Being an NAAJ member means I am connected to a community of journalists that is generous in sharing information and ideas on a complicated industry.” Having reporters from mainstream outlets such as Roll Call, Politico and Bloomberg News improves our access to newsmakers while also exposing these reporters to the culture of ag media, which has been enriched by the relationships with readers and sources that make us successful.
This year, I was blessed to be elected as Western Region Vice President of NAAJ. In this role, I’ll be on the organization’s board, helping to plan next year’s meeting, writing contest, newsmaker webinars and other offerings.
I believe we are on the cusp of a journalism renaissance as people rediscover the value of straight, fact-based, independent-minded, audience-oriented reporting in our information age. And ag media is a crucial part of this new landscape.
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