newspaper-computer.tif

Climate change. Funding for Black farmers. Shortcomings in the natural gas industry. Solar energy on farmland.

If the mere mention of those subjects gets your heart racing, you’re not alone.

We’ve heard from a handful of readers over the past few weeks who were happy, surprised, shocked or even offended to see those topics covered in Lancaster Farming.

Except in the case of solar, which interests farmers of all stripes, the readers who have been most frustrated with these topics are conservatives.

As you might expect, we have a lot of conservative readers, though we also have a good number of moderate and liberal readers too.

As a nonpartisan news organization, we report on perspectives across the ideological spectrum, and we welcome letters to the editor across that spectrum as well. They just have to be respectfully worded and relevant to agriculture.

Many readers see Lancaster Farming as a refuge from the broader landscape, and to some extent it is. Through eight years of writing for the paper, I’ve never made more than a passing reference to unrest in the Middle East.

Much of our reporting covers farm life, farm production and farm marketing, things that are more practical than political.

But politics plays a big role in farming as well, and as a balanced news source, we can’t pretend that controversial issues don’t exist.

Put another way, we are not pursuing a liberal agenda, but Joe Biden is, and it’s hard to cover agriculture right now without detailing what Biden’s USDA is doing and why.

Some of you will agree with what the government does. Others will disagree. Sometimes our reporting will bring you perspectives you hadn’t considered.

But we’re here for all farmers — of all commodities, scales, practices, opinions and demographic traits — to deliver the news they need to understand the industry and be successful in it.

Staying in Tune With Readers

A recent survey by the Media Insight Project, an initiative connected to The Associated Press, found that journalists and the public have somewhat different ideas about what a reporter’s job should entail.

Most nonjournalists said it was important for reporters to provide the facts — no surprise there.

But half or less strongly supported other goals of watchdog or investigative reporting — giving voice to the less powerful, monitoring the powerful, bringing information into the open, and spotlighting what’s not right.

News consumers said they were interested in news that presents potential solutions, not just problems, and in stories that highlight things that are working, not just those that aren’t.

Maybe that is one reason why Lancaster Farming, despite the recent smattering of criticism, continues to have incredibly strong buy-in from readers.

We do seem to run more positive stories than many general news sources do, and we do focus on solutions. What kind of service would we be providing if we told you that Palmer amaranth was in your state but didn’t tell you what herbicides would kill it?

Our reporting can’t be all fun and games, unfortunately. You might not like reading about climate change or plant-based meat, but we have to report on them, evenhandedly, because those topics affect your livelihood.

In the next month or two, Lancaster Farming will be rolling out a detailed reader survey to improve our understanding of who reads our paper and what they want to read.

Though I’ve mainly discussed political issues in this column, the survey itself is not about politics. It’s about practical matters — what you produce, how you produce it and what matters to you.

We last ran a major reader survey 10 years ago, and we know that our readers have changed in that time.

People are legally growing hemp now, and farmers are finding new ways to add value to what they produce. We want to make sure we are meeting our readers’ up-to-date needs.

We also suspect that there are topics that are meaningful to your life that we are not covering.

The survey will be available online and will also run in print for several weeks — just in case you get tied up with late planting or misplace the survey one week.

We will offer some prizes for participation, but the biggest benefit to you will be the outcome of the survey — making sure that we deliver the agricultural news that you need and want.

Lancaster Farming

Newsletter

What To Read Next