More apparent than real

A couple of weeks ago one of our stories told the tale of a young farmer who is using innovative approaches to his farm’s operations. And we left something out.

Few stories in The Western Producer run as they are written. The silent hands of editors are at work between you and the writers. The intention of editors is to improve news and information, making it more accurate and approachable. And that is what happened with the following story.

This farmer’s approach includes a regenerative agriculture program that plants a variety of species to the same fields, uses conventional tools as necessary for productivity and has added livestock into the farm’s processes — a sizable herd of purebred Limousin and Angus cattle and Suffolk sheep, as well as other stock for his own use. He also maintains a fitness and self-sufficiency regime on his place. Overall, this made his farm’s story an attractive one for The Western Producer.

We worked with a new freelance writer to tell an interesting story. That is where this tale fell into the social media-driven more-apparent-than-real category of news and information.

The writer of the story had included a line about the farmer being gay. The editor handling the copy looked at all the features of the piece and found that most of them related to how the farm is run and how the farmer lives a self-sufficient life, in tune with the land and environment. The editor found the reference to his sexuality out of step with the rest of the piece’s direction and cut it.

The farmer believed we dropped the reference to avoid causing an issue with our other farming readers. Nothing could have been further from the truth. We were working to improve the copy and story-telling process. We have run many stories over the years that include members of the LBGTQ community where it is critical to the tale being told.

In this case the writer’s inexperience and a lack of communication with the editor about the importance of the farmer’s sexuality to the story led to a social media firestorm that suggested we had cut that element to avoid controversy or worse.

I have spoken to the farmer and apologized for the controversy. We have added a reference to the farmer being gay to the online version of the piece.

We will be working with this producer in the future to identify other stories of social diversity on the Prairies and bring them to you.

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