It’s a question that arises from time to time when The Western Producer publishes a story or opinion that many farmers disagree with.
Of course we are, but not because we act as a spokesperson for the industry. Rather, it’s because we place a lens on the industry to try to get a clearer take on what’s going on.
The Producer’s experienced staff covers agriculture with vigour and a journalist’s skeptical eye.
We try to bring completeness to issues, through stories and follow-ups that present as many sides as possible. Sometimes, it angers readers to see a story they disagree with. We see it as our responsibility to give readers the opportunity to see opposite arguments, presented responsibly by journalists who have an interest in being fair.
It’s the same with opinions.
No doubt many readers disagreed with last week’s editorial cautioning against the use of guns to address property theft, but the responsible argument has to be made so it can be discussed. It’s an important approach to good journalism, rather than just joining a chorus of voices saying the same thing.
And with so many people questioning the veracity of news these days, you can put your own lens to the Producer’s work by asking questions about stories, such as where it originated (press release, industry announcement, government source, anonymous source) and did we make that clear.
Look for when the story came out. So-called “fake news” often arises long after the original story. If you have doubts, Google key terms. You can use reverse imaging to see if a photo is real. (When we use an older photo to illustrate a story, we label it with “file photo” for transparency).
Look at the sources. Are they speaking on behalf of legitimate organizations? Are they knowledgeable? Did we explain their expertise in our stories? Ask yourself about the motivation of sources. Did we provide balance and place the story in context by providing important background?
We try to do all these things so readers can get a more complete picture of issues arising in agriculture.
We do our best to ensure we maintain journalistic standards to give readers as many sides to the issue as are relevant — to cover the industry, warts and all.
In that respect, yes, we are on the farmer’s side.