What happens when people rally around what they believe to be true, rather than what is?
There are entire media systems in the world that are formed to serve a variety of needs in the information marketplace. Entertainment is the most profitable. News is among the least. Somewhere in the middle lies professional interest publications such as The Western Producer and business-to-business publications, a close relative of agricultural media.
Publications like this one fall into a special place because we serve a very special community: farmers. Our users live in their workplaces. A farmyard is an acreage with oversized, tax-deductible yard tools. Farmers’ information needs stretch from global trade and public policy to child health, accounting and meal planning. Traditional sports such as rodeo and horse events and 4-H judging might be considered entertainment, but they also fall into industry and education on the farm.
The Western Producer serves a wide variety of farm information needs. And we do this in a modern media environment with a great deal of competition for your eyeballs. We were the first in our industry to offer internet versions of what had been a print publication, in 1995. We were the first domestic ag publication to offer video on internet, in 1998 — it came in three popular dial-up sizes: small, smaller and postage stamp.
As email evolved, we began offering newsletters to your in-boxes.
What we haven’t done is pander to any ideology. We have stuck to the unvarnished truth, no matter how inconvenient and occasionally unpopular. Branding photos, stories about things like brakes on farm equipment (see page 72), political policy by governments you might not favour and labour law changes don’t please all of you, and sometimes they might make you think we are not on your side.
But know this, we are on the side of agriculture, in all its forms, with all its greatness and its flaws, and we work hard to keep you informed, and what the other 97 percent of the population thinks about it.
Some media present news as they would like it to be rather than what it is. In its most extreme cases, people will allow their democratic governance decisions to be formed by that sort of information, now known as “alternative facts.”
That is the real fake news, and it can be dangerous.