Media ethics and agriculture: Advertiser demands challenge farm press's ethical practices

Ann E. Reisner, Robert G. Hays

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The agricultural communicator is a key link in transmitting information to farmers. If agricultural communicators' ethics are compromised, the resulting biases in news production could have serious detrimental effects on the quality of information conveyed to farmers. But, to date, agricultural communicators' perceptions of ethical problems they encounter at work has not been examined. This study looks at the dimensions of ethical concerns for topics area (agricultural) journalists as defined by practitioners. To determine these dimensions, we sent open ended questionnaires (50 percent response rate) to members of two professional agricultural journalist associations: the Newspaper Farm Editors of America and the American Agricultural Editors' Association. Agricultural communicators overwhelmingly focus on one specific threat to objectivity-advertising pressure. Both NFEA and AAEA respondents indicated that agricultural journalists' responses to advertising pressure adversely affected the entire profession. The responses indicated that agricultural writers were concerned with the different types of pressures and the effects of advertising pressure on the industry as a whole. NFEA and AAEA respondents mentioned both indirect pressure, "freebies," conferences, trips and press releases from advertising or public relations sections of agri-business firms, and direct pressures from advertisers, salesmen and publishers. The respondents were clearly more comfortable when newspaper policy protected them from advertising pressure and when they had techniques to reduce this pressure. The editors' and reporters' perceptions of advertising pressure clearly indicates that advertising abuses are a clear and present danger and one worthy of far more attention than it has previously received.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-46
Number of pages7
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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