Website offers conversation

By Paul Yanko

In the “olden” days, stories were written by reporters and read or “consumed” by our readers.

Social media changed that.

The goal today is to turn that antiquated one-way flow of information into much more of a conversation with our readers — a back and forth sharing of information that helps us engage with our readers, helps them get to know us, and, ideally, keeps them coming back.

Are we as good at this as we’d like? Probably not, there’s always room for improvement. But we’re getting better all the time. A good example of how this sort of conversation can benefit both readers and reporters became apparent last week.

WP reporter Robert Arnason wrote a story entitled “Glyphosate not a health risk: Health Canada” that was generating a quite a buzz in our online commenting system.

Robert was reading through the comments beneath that story when he saw one made by a reader named Dayton Funk. In his comment, Dayton posted the text of a message he had recently received from Grain Millers Inc. It read:

“This communication is to serve as official notification that as of harvest 2015 Grain Millers, Inc. will no longer accept any oats and/or oat products which have been treated with glyphosate. This change is driven by functional performance attributes of finished products manufactured from oats known to have been treated with glyphosate and by customer demand. This policy does not suggest any health or food safety concerns as reviewed and regulated by both the US FDA and/or CFIA/Health Canada.”

Arnason realized this was newsworthy and set about finding a way to contact Dayton to pursue this new story.

The result of that conversation (and several others) was a story, “Oat buyer says no to preharvest glypho-sate,” that’s become one of the most-read articles on the WP website since it was posted April 21.

And that story has generated a pile of comments on its own, one of the first from Dayton himself:

Grain Millers is to be applauded on this bold move. Seems glyphosate has become the tool of convenience for most farmers. In the last 10 or more years, we’ve grown 500 to 1,200 acres of oats annually for Grain Millers. With good, sound management we have never had any quality issues. Never used glyphosate either.

I don’t know how this issue is going to shake out in the days, months and years to come, but what is clear to me is these conversations that are now able to occur via social media — between readers, and with reporters — are a positive development for us all.

paul.yanko@producer.com

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