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Extension writers serve a valuable purpose

They employ a certain science-based objectivity that lends itself well to an information-media environment.

Tim Hearden

May 19, 2021

2 Min Read
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University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources communications specialist Jeannette Warnert receives a Conservation Tillage Award from farm advisor Dan Munk for her support of the program.UCANR

One thing you’ll notice about all of our Farm Progress publications is that we use a lot of content from university Extension writers on our websites and occasionally in print – that is, when we’re not doing articles about Extension activities ourselves.

For one thing, providing insights into the latest in agriculture-related research feeds our mission of helping growers be forward-looking. While many media outlets tell you what is happening, we aim to tell growers what to expect and how they might deal with it. Problems abound in agriculture, from pests and crop disease to drought and regulation; we try to shine a light on potential solutions.

In our 10-state region, we are blessed with university writers who, in my view, would have the talent to work for any media organization in the country. As one example, Oregon State University graduate Steve Lundeberg covered sports and news for 25 years at the Albany Democrat-Herald before returning to the university in 2014 as a science and engineering writer.

These writers are also resources for journalists, pointing us to experts and in many cases facilitating the interviews. But they’re not really public relations folks; if you ask them about budgets they’ll give you facts and figures, as they’re not allowed to advocate for more funding from the Legislature. They employ a certain science-based objectivity that lends itself well to an information-media environment.

The University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources has two of the best in the business in Pamela Kan-Rice and Jeannette Warnert. Jeannette, who’s retiring June 30, got her start at a small daily newspaper in Los Angeles County before joining UCANR 31 years ago.

“It was really interesting, but it’s tough in Los Angeles to survive on a salary that a brand new journalist gets,” she told me. She contemplated a career in PR but “felt super-fortunate” to work for the UC.

“It’s not PR, but it’s public information,” she said. “It’s not like we have to try to sell our stories. We’re providing information to our partners in the news media. It has a different feel to it.”

I’d been talking by phone with Jeannette for years, but the first time I met her in person was in 2016, when I was covering research that would help growers weather the next drought. Jeannette scheduled a full day of interviews for me at the Kearney Agriculture Research and Extension center in Parlier.

“It’s been amazing – I’ve learned so much,” she said of her tenure working with the advisors and specialists who are keeping ag a viable industry. She’s been most excited about UCANR’s emphasis on conservation, she said.

We’ll miss Jeannette’s work and the help she’s provided over the years, although we know she’ll be a valuable resource for the next writer. We thank her and all the region’s Extension writers for the important work that they do.

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