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Agriculture and Tampa Bay news how do local news media frame agribusiness?
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Ritzheimer, Alex R
University of South Florida
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Tampa, Fla
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News framing
Dissertations, Academic -- Applied Anthropology -- Masters -- USF   ( lcsh )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


ABSTRACT: The purpose for this thesis was to explore a dynamic between the news media, their subjects, and their audience. I investigate whether everyday news media frame the information they deliver in such a way as to potentially direct the audience on how to respond to news stories. The setting for this research question is in the Tampa Bay area of Florida and the subject matter deals specifically with agriculture, its practitioners, how they do business, and how the local news media report about it. The issue will be explored from an applied anthropological perspective, basing conclusions on field research and an internship with the Department of Environmental Protection and their agricultural liaison. Several newspaper articles and television news broadcasts were monitored over several years and selected on a basis of their relevancy to the topic. The anthropological value of this study is in discovering how media disseminate this particular subject matter and how a deficiency in information flow could result. I explore a body of literature that is both diverse and germane to the field of media studies to gain a broad perspective on how different news events are mediated. Following the analysis, a qualitative assessment is given to further the understanding of how local news media frame reports related to the practice of agriculture.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
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by Alex R. Ritzheimer.
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Document formatted into pages; contains 74 pages.

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Agriculture and Tampa Bay news :
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by Alex R. Ritzheimer.
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University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 74 pages.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
3 520
ABSTRACT: The purpose for this thesis was to explore a dynamic between the news media, their subjects, and their audience. I investigate whether everyday news media frame the information they deliver in such a way as to potentially direct the audience on how to respond to news stories. The setting for this research question is in the Tampa Bay area of Florida and the subject matter deals specifically with agriculture, its practitioners, how they do business, and how the local news media report about it. The issue will be explored from an applied anthropological perspective, basing conclusions on field research and an internship with the Department of Environmental Protection and their agricultural liaison. Several newspaper articles and television news broadcasts were monitored over several years and selected on a basis of their relevancy to the topic. The anthropological value of this study is in discovering how media disseminate this particular subject matter and how a deficiency in information flow could result. I explore a body of literature that is both diverse and germane to the field of media studies to gain a broad perspective on how different news events are mediated. Following the analysis, a qualitative assessment is given to further the understanding of how local news media frame reports related to the practice of agriculture.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Advisor: S. Elizabeth Bird, Ph.D.
News framing
Dissertations, Academic
x Applied Anthropology
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
4 856


Agriculture and Tampa Bay News: How Do Local News Media Frame Agribusiness? by Alex R. Ritzheimer A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of Anthropology College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: S. Elizabeth Bird, Ph.D. Brent Weisman, Ph.D. Susan Greenbaum, Ph.D. Date of Approval: October 20, 2009 Keywords: anthropology, audience, farming, journalism, news framing Copyright 2009, Alex R. Ritzheimer


Dedication This thesis is dedicated to hardworking fa rmers and the journalists who will tell about them.


Acknowledgements First I must thank my wife, Laura, who ne ver once told me I could not finish this thesis in light of the impossi ble schedules we both keep. W ithout her, I may have never overcome my technological challe nges and resistance to evolve. Likewise, I will always consider Jemy Hinton, her hospi tality, and her guidance in my internship to be some of the most endearing experiences of my life. I wish to fondly acknowledge the support of those who teach and have taught me in the field of anthropology. Dr. Terry Prewitt from the University of West Florida has been and always will be my source of encouragement, understanding, and most importantly friendship in my anthropological endeavors. At the University of South Florida, the Departme nt of Anthropology deserves my deepest regards for the support, encouragement, impartment of knowledge, and the most enriching and enjoyable classroom and field experiences I have ever had. I thank Dr. Lorena Madrigal for her faith in me in the beginning and supporting my acceptance into the graduate program. Finally, I extend my a ppreciation, greater than she will ever know, to Dr. S. Elizabeth Bird for recognizing my need for academic validation, and extending great wisdom that allowed me to assemble all of the pieces of my academic and extracurricular experiences into this thesis.


i Table of Contents Abstract iii Chapter 1: Introduction 1 The Research Question 2 Choices available to media consumers 3 The face of agriculture and agribusiness in Tampa Bay 5 Foodways and information pathways 7 Media’s attention to farming issues 8 Academia’s attention to agricultural journalism 9 My background and inspiration for the research 10 Chapter 2: Literature Review 12 Fair shake 12 Media production 13 Media ethnography and expressive culture 14 Agenda-setting, framing, and news as narrative 19 The new news 24 Cultivation and dependency 24 Third-person effect hypothesis 26 Imagery 28 Advocacy and deception 29 Anthropology and agriculture 31 Press coverage of agriculture 34


ii Chapter 3: Research and Context 38 The ethnographical primer 38 Methodology 43 Chapter 4: Conclusion 50 Results 50 Conclusions 56 Implications 62 Suggestions for future study 66 References Cited 68 Bibliography 73


iii Agriculture and Tampa Bay News: How do Local News Media Frame Agribusiness? Alex R. Ritzheimer ABSTRACT The purpose for this thesis was to expl ore a dynamic between the news media, their subjects, and their audience. I inves tigate whether everyday news media frame the information they deliver in such a way as to potentially direct th e audience on how to respond to news stories. The setting for this research question is in the Tampa Bay area of Florida and the subject matte r deals specifically with agri culture, its practitioners, how they do business, and how the local news media report about it. The issue will be explored from an applied anthropological perspective, basing conclusions on field research and an internship with the Depart ment of Environmental Protection and their agricultural liaison. Several ne wspaper articles and television news broadcasts were monitored over several years and selected on a basis of their relevanc y to the topic. The anthropological value of th is study is in discovering how media disseminate this particular subject matter and how a deficiency in information flow could result. I explore a body of literature that is both diverse and germane to the fiel d of media studies to gain a broad perspective on how different news events are mediated. Following the analysis, a qualitative assessment is given to further the understanding of how local news media frame reports related to the practice of agriculture.


1 Chapter 1 Introduction “While the mass media may not be successful in telling us what to think, they are stunningly successful in telling us what to think about” (Bernard Cohen, 1963) The purpose of this thesis is to examin e how the news media disseminate news related to agriculture and agribusiness in the Tampa Bay region of Florida. Essentially, I want to find out what the “scrip t” is that the news media write for audiences and how that might affect people’s understanding, opinions and actions related to these issues. My purpose is not to indict popular news media for scripting their news st ories; the fact that they do appears to be common knowledge among most informed media consumers and media scholars. However, I believe that whatever the form of news media (e.g. television, internet, or print), the creators of the news stor ies have some intention or motivation for scripting or framing those stor ies the way they do. These intentions may eventually produce consequences that may not be clearly appare nt until long after specific stories are told. One of the reasons for the particular fram ing of agricultural issues by news media may be the training of journalists, who often lack expertise in more specialized areas. “Whereas journalists had been trained in how to write, they were ill equipped to fully understand their influence in the complex re lationship between producers and consumers (Whitaker, Dyer 2000: 125).” Thomas F. Pa wlick (2001) describes a 1994 study in his


2 book surveying members of the American Ag ricultural Editors’ Association and the National Association of Agricultural Journali sts about the quality of agricultural reporting in the daily press. Pawlick concluded that “both groups of judges sa id general-interest reporters’ agricultural coverage is superficial, event-oriented, and often too cute or folksy (2001: 3).” Such findings suggest there is good reason to use an interdisciplinary approach to explore the relationship between the media, a subject they report on, and the news consumers. Most specificall y, I chose to look qualitatively at the lack of informative reporting with regard to the public at large and thei r food sources. The Research Question Are the media framing the news about ag ricultural and agribusiness issues in Tampa Bay in such a way to cause understand ing of these issues to be inadequate? Everyone who tunes into their local news channel or reads a local newspaper is subject not only to the information that is broadcast to them, but also to the way the players for that news source choose to frame that info rmation. Whitaker and Dyer (2000) performed a quantitative study of bias in agricultural re porting addressing specific themes such as food safety, sources cited, and so on for agricu ltural news articles. The results of this study are discussed in Chapter 4, relating their findings to my more qualitative observations. My own observations from watching televi sion news systematically, for example, suggest that quite subtle elemen ts may affect the way a story is presented. For instance, voice inflexions by the news anchor can create a positive, neutral, or even negative frame


3 for the viewer as the anchor places vocal emphasis on different poi nts that direct the viewer to what are considered to be the most important elements of the story. Similarly, headlines may be used to frame what is rega rded to be the key poi nt before the reader even starts the story. I will address such phenomenon in my research findings through analysis of text in printed news articles, as well as broadcasted news stories that show this tendency. Furthermore, the positioning of the arti cle within the publication may shroud a core issue. Whitaker and Dyer, for example, fo und that articles pertaining to agriculture were often obscured by placing them in sections of the newspaper that did not appear to be relevant to the s ubject matter (p. 125). Thus my study was designed to analyze loca l news broadcast content and the text in newspaper articles in the context of farm-related news stories, from a qualitative standpoint, to determine whether audiences ma y be receiving news that is framed to cover the issues in particular directions th at could potentially lead to misinformation. In the course of graduate study, I disc overed that the farming industry and its participants had an important story to tell, but the main c onduit for that story, the popular news media, may not be telling the story. Therefore, an anthropological view of this discrepancy should contribute to not only anthropology, but also to the interdisciplinary field of journalism studies. Choices available to news consumers There are hundreds of news sources availa ble to every consumer especially with the phenomenal growth of the internet over the last couple of decades. The inherent


4 problem with that is that with more choices comes more effort necessary to weed through the information in order to reach an informed and accurate view of any issue. This is no different than becoming an informed automob ile consumer. However, what percentage of automobile or news consumers actually inve st the time and research necessary to gain a solid understanding of what they consume? This point captures the reasoning behind my choice to analyze popular media. I believ e that sources of information that are the most readily available to most people will be most influential. Are there agriculture-specific news sources available to the public? While all news media do cover agricultural subject ma tter on occasion, it seems as though farming news is shrinking like the farmlands about whic h they report. Thomas F. Pawlick (2001) points out, “Whether in North America, the fo rmer Soviet Union, or Africa, the media resources devoted to coverage of agriculture and rural affairs are dwindling or inadequate (2001: 5).” This would suggest that reporting on agricultural economics and sociocultural issues, for example, is not reaching the audience to which it is most important, the actual end consumer of all agricultu ral efforts. Simply put, if you eat, you may wish to be informed of at least the baseline issues a ffecting your local food growers and producers. I intend to discover whether or not the popular news media in the Tampa area appear to be covering these issues adequately. The research design will be outlined in chapter 3, but generally I monitored the four major television network affiliates in Tampa Bay, NBC’s channel 8 news, CBS’s channel 10 news, Fox Network’s channel 13 news, and ABC’s channel 28 news. I also researched for farming-related article s in the two popular newspapers, the Tampa Tribune


5 and the St. Petersburg Times These represent the major sources of popular news for the Tampa Bay region. For comparison, I reviewed articles from a local, specialized periodical that came into circulation during the time of my research known as In The Field, a monthly magazine-styled publication by Be rry Publications, Inc. in Plant City, Florida that is for and about Hillsbo rough County’s agricultural community. In The Field is not readily available unless one drives to Pl ant City and finds it at certain businesses. The publisher only mails it to “…a target ma rket, which includes all of the Greenbelt Property owners, members of the Hillsbor ough County Farm Bureau, and Strawberry Grower’s Association ( In The Field Feb. 2005, p.5).” Therefore, the largest urban concentrations of the population in Tampa Bay ar e probably not getting the benefit of this publication’s content. One other source of agricultural news is Florida Agriculture This is the journal of the Florida Farm Bureau, pr inted quarterly and dist ributed only to paying members of the local county bureaus. Th is is a very comprehensive yet concise periodical for Florida’s grow ers and producers to keep them informed of legislative effects on farming; however, it is also only available to a small sample of the state’s population and certainly a neglig ible number of lay people. The face of agriculture and agribusiness in Tampa Bay The setting for my internship and research provided one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. A fellow graduate st udent, Lori Collins, suggested I look into an internship with the Department of Envi ronmental Regulation where she had been employed in the past. From there, I met with Jemi Hinton, the agricultural liaison for the DEP in Hillsborough County, the largest farming county in the Tampa area. I


6 accompanied her on her weekly farm visits where her job was to check in with agribusiness owners and find out whether they were successfully navigating through the vast amount of regulatory red tape dictated by her agency as well as a large list of other regulatory agencies. She then would encourag e me to interview the farm owners and ask questions that would help me with my research. Jemi further encouraged me attend meetings of the Hillsborough County Agricultural Economic Development Counc il (AEDC) who directly advise the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners on all matters relating to farming operations and how they affect and are aff ected by political decision making. They ultimately function to provide the board with an ongoing clear and holistic view of how agriculture contribu tes to the overall economy of th e county and how that can be preserved and developed in the face of regulat ory hindrances. This setting is where I gained regulatory knowledge and experience as a participant-obs erver described in Chapter 4. My experiences were both broad and inte nsified by working with Jemi as she introduced me into the offices of some of th e largest agricultural operations where I could perform some informal interviews with busin ess owners. I would have otherwise spent months and perhaps even years trying to get appointments to speak with some of these individuals as they are heavily consumed w ith regulatory functions in their businesses these days. Therefore, the opportunity affo rded by this arrangement has ever since proven to be invaluable to my growi ng understanding of the farming industry. During this internship, I learned that Hillsborough County in Florida, which includes Tampa as the larg est metro area, is the 59th largest (out of 3076) agricultural


7 product—producing county in the United States (Hillsborough County Economic Development, 2008). Not once during my res earch of local news sources did I find mention of any facts regarding the size or economic impact of agribusinesses in Tampa Bay. The face of agriculture in Tampa Bay is certainly not unvarying. The demography and culture of this industry is ma de up of a collection of farm owners, hard working men and women who have adapted, so metimes on a daily basis, to the volumes of regulations, industry fluc tuations, disproportionate food safety alarms sounded by news media, competition from foreign trade, family challenges, environmental changes, and just about anything else the world may throw at them to challenge the everyday process of growing and harvesting to feed thei r neighbors. The interv iews I will describe later will hopefully reinforce this picture in detail. Foodways and information pathways What legitimizes a media—audience st udy as real anthr opology? Anthropology has produced many studies on how people eat, what they eat, how they obtain food, basically the culture of foodway s and how they are intimately woven within the fabric of our existence. The phenomenon of human subsis tence is as interesting today as it ever has been as people’s strategi es continue to evolve. A nother dynamic that intimately exists alongside subsistence is the politic al decision-making with regard to all the parameters of food production, safety, and consumption. In today’s highly mediated world, the news media can have profound e ffects on how that dynamic is understood by the public, thus having the power to introdu ce change into the pos tmodern culture of


8 food. “As an essential yet al so mundane everyday activity, eating in all cultures is expressive of both belief-systems and social distinctions that exist within them. While this has been recognized in social scienc e and, particularly, anthropology many questions concerning the meanings of foodways within the overall patterns of "post-modern" culture have yet to be tackled (Crouch and Oneill, 2000: 181).” Simply stated, I believe that the analys is of mainstream media dissemination of information about everyday issues around s ubsistence choices is definitely real anthropology. Bird (2003) states, “we need to consider all our qualitative methodologies as different types of ethnographic encounter that will necessarily produce different kinds of discourse depending on the context (2003:10 ).” Utilizing her pe rspective as support for this paradigm of qualitative research, th e results from my ethnographic findings and textual analysis will prove generally valu able as applied anth ropological inquiry. Media’s attention to farming issues Proper attention to farming issues may be defined as coverage relevant to the nuances of agribusiness, the culture of fam ily farming, and how they relate to the end consumer and the voting public at large. The family farm has been credited as being the very cornerstone and “key engine of grow th in the opening and development of North America by Europeans, and stamped its charac ter on the democracies of the United States and Canada (Pawlick, 2001: 14).” This stat ement underscores the political importance of a healthy and informed public opinion of agriculture a nd indeed grants a massive responsibility to the composers of the inform ation stream. In essence, how the news media handles agricultural journalism coul d have profound effects upon the very future


9 of democracy in some nations. The reason I be lieve this is that for every family farm lost, a corporate farm may often take over that space, and no other influence on policy seems to be greater than large corpor ations and the power of their lobby. So, what may news media do to give ag ribusiness its due? They may start by not sensationalizing news topics. On a persona l level, journalists have the freedom to research, interview, and present the story in as complete a form as they can, guided by professional ethics. Editors, of course, are also concerned with how well they are marketing to the consumer, protecting the adve rtisers’ interests, and not being sued for libel. Professional news values tend to favor th e dramatic and sensational, rather than the mundane, leading to news coverage that may help to create “moral panics” over particular social issues a point that can be directly rele vant to coverage of food-related topics. For example, Bird’s case study about an urban legend rela ted to AIDS infection that became journalistic “truth” is an extreme yet very real example of how the public can be led to see issues in an inaccura te and sensationalized way (Bird, 2003). Academia’s attention to agricultural journalism As Pawlick (2001) points out, “Worldwide, most reporters and editors are urbanbred, urban-based, and urban-oriented, ge nerations removed from farm life.” He continues, “Lack of any personal experience w ith agriculture or of the opportunity to learn about it in school, rende rs the countryside a literal terra incognita to many media people –out of sight and out of mind (2001:7).” I would elabor ate that as close as some subdivided housing developments are to larg e scale family farms, the food production


10 values and richness of culture that exists there are completely obscured by perimeter walls where only the odors of farming are recognized. Therefore, there may well be a deficien cy within the training structure of journalism students that should be addressed. Later in chapter 4, I will suggest some changes that I believe are important to make the mass communicat ion curriculum more holistic and better qualified to outfit a journalism student for agricultural reporting. My background and inspiration for the research My early intentions were to follow a need s assessment path. More specifically, I thought that the participatory—ac tion model would be the most valuable in th e context of this research. I believed the agribusiness co mmunity needed empowerment in the area of their public image and how it was perceived by the consumers. Inspired by Greenbaum’s (2002) studies of the Hope VI housing developm ent projects in Tampa, this seemed to be a valuable and relevant appr oach to research. However, I came to believe that a qualitative ethnography and textual analysis w ould be a necessary step toward advocacy if my research would show that the farming co mmunity even had a need in this area. As time has proven, however, that desire for advo cacy has taken a natural course in that I was recently asked to serve as director fo r the Young Farmer and Rancher Committee for the Pasco County Farm Bureau, and I believe this research will directly inform my activities in that capacity. I believe that the inspiration for the res earch described here was simply born out of my living environment combined with ma ny applied anthropology classes. My wife Laura and I moved to a rural agricultural town during my second semester of graduate


11 classes in applied anthropology. The town is Dade City, a county seat in Pasco County, Florida. Dade City has deep roots in beef and citrus commodities and a multigenerational residence base. This community, as well as scores of other rural towns in the U.S., is right in the middle (both cultura lly and geographically) of the urban sprawl phenomenon. The first and obvious question for me was whether or not there could be a disenfranchised subculture with in this agricultural community that was being victimized by unplanned growth and the insidious developm ent dollar. I believed that was a reality; however, I needed to reign in my research scope immediately because urban sprawl phenomena, while certainly worthy of any and all research efforts, were too large and complex for a master’s thesis. So, if th e agriculturalists in my town and surrounding areas had a need, what was it? Realistica lly, I could not produ ce an ethnography that would influence state and federal congression al members to cut agricultural regulation red tape that directly results from encroach ing suburbs and causes bottle necks in farm productivity. I could, however, combine my ethnographic experiences with an analysis of how farming was being portr ayed to the public by their lo cal news sources and observe how media framing plays out in this specific subject area and locality. The folks under those new rooftops, that were being plante d faster than any orange grove ever was, must have known they were sharing space with farmers because the local news media was reporting about agri culture. But were farmers being seen by the public through a filter that may be affecti ng the clarity, the entirety, or the accuracy of the vision?


12 Chapter 2 Literature Review “So what is an anthropological perspective on news and journa lism? Briefly put, it is a way to explore the nature of news as a form of cultural meaning making-its creation, content, and dissemination.” ( S.Elizabeth Bird, 2009) Fair shake F arming matters seem to bore most urbani tes and suburbanites until the fair rolls into town with those wonderful greasy cor ndogs. For a brief few days, consumers get a closer view of where their br eakfast, lunch, and dinner come from while they splurge on junk food snacks and spend too much money on stuffed animal toys. The irony in that cultural activity we call the festival or fair, whereby farmers’ animals, grown commodities, and equipment samples come toge ther with the public that otherwise does not seem to care about agriculture, continually intrigues me. The first state fair was in Michigan. The following is an excerpt from a website giving information about the fair: The Michigan Fair has the di stinction of being the first State Fair in America, starting a tradition of providing a show case for the agricu ltural products and accomplishments of farmers in the region. Th e first Michigan State Fair was held in 1849. The location of the fair changed frequently, but in 1958, the fair was dedicated as State Historic Site #172, whic h is the permanent home of the event. Generations of farmers have been inspir ed to do a better job and to use improved methods in farming. The fair provides a chance for farmers to learn about new methods and to compare notes about th e best technology. Fa ir participants motivate each other to be even be tter at what they do (Nyholm, 2008). The fact that Michigan’s fair system still places so much emphasis on their agricultural roots is en couraging; however, Florida’s st ate fair system cannot boast the


13 same. From my own observations and the opini ons of those I have sp ent time with at the AEDC meetings, Florida’s Stat e Fair, held every winter in Tampa, has consistently placed less emphasis on farmers and their products. I am only mentioning this change in fair climate to emphasize just how alarmingly low the public opinion of farms, farmers, and farming may become in Tampa Bay if the media are not mindful of how they portray farm-related news. I have personally observed exhibit spaces, previously dedicated to agricultural commodities and farm equipment, slowly but continuously being transformed into vendor space or agriculturally irrelevant disp lays. Perhaps fair attendees have been let down by their news sources in not informing them of how important awareness is of these elements upon which the fair concept was built. Maybe if they were better informed, they would demand less midway space for rides and more display area for farms. For the purposes of this study, I decide d to look at varying concepts of how mediated issues and events are conceived of by anthropology and other media-oriented scholarly endeavors and the various study para digms that a select group of scholars have embarked upon to describe news medi a as culturally significant. Media production As with any subject matter, why shoul d anthropology study news media? This question must be answered in terms of what stratifications exis t within the phenomenon of mediated culture and what the definition of media actually is. So to define specifically what media production is, I chose the follo wing description:


14 Like consumption, media production is fundamentally a social and cultural act, involving not only the creation of media texts, but also the generation of identities, interpretations, subjecti vities, statuses, and meanings among the persons engaged in media production (Peterson, 2003: 161). Herein describes the very essence of unders tanding media culture as perceived through intense ethnography of mass media. This is truly what applied anthropology was “born” to do. Deconstructing mediated cultural phe nomena is only the canvas upon which the painting of truth is to be por trayed, however. From there, we must know what these messages have the power to do, what they can actually change inside a culture. There are many conceptions of how media interact with people within the cont ext of their everyday lives, so I chose the following scholars and their studies for their relevancy to my topic of how local news is reporting on agribusiness in Tampa Bay. The discipline of applied anthropology is well equipped, now more than ever, to fully understand the dynamics of mass media, th e fabric of information that is woven throughout all of the textual c onstructs, and therefore be able to interpret why the interaction of all of the cultural variables contained therein matter to the human race. Media ethnography and expressive culture Peterson’s definition of media producti on is so comprehensive, that one can visualize a newsroom and all of its shades of sociopolitical agendas, painstaking motivations for advancement, and the adopting a nd discarding of self images as if they were chewing gum. I reviewed seve ral concepts in Pe terson’s (2003) book, Anthropology and Mass Media: Media and Myth in the New Millennium and found them


15 to be essential to studying the cultural eff ects of news mediation. Primarily, I felt his departure from the traditional discussion of in terdisciplinary studies when referring to anthropology and mass communication studies was very intriguing. He chooses to approach these studies not as a combining of disciplinary paradigm s but with a “crossfertilization” model (2003: 16) where results are more productive and less skewed by overlapping or clashing methodol ogies. He states, “Academic disciplines are cultural systems with different sets of values and diffe rent practices. They have different methods and theoretical assumptions that lead them to pay attention to different things, or to understand (and value) the same things in di fferent ways (2003:16—17).” Therefore, as Peterson sees it, when members from varied di sciplines all take on separate aspects of a research project, specific to their talents, they are not necessarily benefitting from the perspectives of the other researchers. He feels the more productive approach is to retheorize “through interdisciplinary readi ng, discussion and collabo ration (2003: 17).” So for my purposes of reaching further in to the framing phenomenon of local news and how it affects its nearby food producers, ongoing dialogue between mass communication scholars, agricultural scientists, political scientists, marketing research experts, and applied anthropologists would effectively produce solid data that may change the way farm news is handled by popular media. Another concept that Peters on addresses is one that vi ews media as a member of the field of expressive culture. Here he re fers to William O. Beeman’s (1982) use of the term to mean “institutions and practices through whic h people enact, display, and manipulate symbolic materials ‘with the imp licit [or explicit] expectation that other individuals will be directly affected by such presentations’ (2003: 18).” If so, then my


16 use of the term ‘scripts’ in the introducti on of this thesis may be applicable to understanding the basis for popular news a nd their mediation of events. The raw materials that journalists gather from their sources may be seen as simply concepts for the narrative that follows. If expr essive culture also includes “drama, art, play myth and ritual” as Peterson points out (2003:19), then this could accurately describe how a news story is actually born and further framed to produce an intended result. One could look at this view as empowering media with the abilit y to entertain the audi ence while allegedly informing them or perhaps you could take the view that media is simply a source of entertainment first and an information sour ce secondly. Audience studies, however, have surely proven that popular news media are cons idered to be the primary source of truth for the general public, thus putting them at the top of the power structure in the elements of expressive culture. Ontologically, I believe that power exists to set public agendas within the structure of media’s expressive ness and it has fueled my entir e motivation for this study. Epistemologically, I feel that much more analysis should be do ne, both ethnographical and quantitative in nature, on wh at specific effects take place politically and socially as the result of framing agribusiness news. Only then will we have the knowledge of just how that expressive power play s out. I feel that Peterson ’s book would be an excellent text for a class on media ethnography and an essential tool for an ethnographer actively engaged in media consumption studies. Elizabeth Bird’s (2003) book, The Audience in Everyday Life: Living in a Media World was the basic text and inspiration for this thesis. She teaches that media are indeed an integral element in culture and that their messages are tightly woven into the fabric of


17 everyday human life. Her discussions of how members of the audience incorporate those messages, ranging from her media deprivation exercise to prove a dependency on media input (2003: 1—3) to her case study about how news media’s power to transform an urban legend (unconfirmed story in a magazi ne) into a perceived-as-factual cultural narrative entering “public c onsciousness” (2003:147), leads me to ponder whether academic training may even be sufficient to provide an immunity against the agendasetting function of the news media. Bird (2003) further describes a research design where subjects of a focus group, American Indian and non-Indian, are asked to cr eate a fictional television series that they would view on a regular basis, one condition be ing that one character had to be a Native American. In the course of character creation, the non-Indi an participants based their design of the Indian characters on stereotypes they had learned about from past mediated visions of Indians and Indian lifeways (P p. 86—117). I believe this example is a clear display of media’s power of imagery and how ingrained images may become in people’s minds just by portraying those images in so me mediated fashion. Reading about this study inspired me to coin the phrase, “gr een acres mentality” to refer to how media portray farmers and farm life. Ironically, the television series from the sixties where I use the term from was about a city lawyer and his socially-imbedded wife who move to a rural community to live his dream of becoming a farmer. Of course, he was a “gentleman farmer” and not a “sharecropper” that was “d irt poor” or uneducated like some of the other characters on the show. Perhaps those images of farm life, as portrayed by the writers of that sitcom, have endured in the minds of viewers from that time. I hypothesize that if Bird’s study was replicat ed, changing only the constituent character


18 from an American Indian to an American farmer, the same types of stereotypical descriptions would pervade the writers’ visions for that ch aracter’s profil e, echoing the comedy series just described. Through Bird’s (2003) ethnogra phical experiences, she teaches that media are woven tightly through the lifes tyles of most ordinary people. From a cultural perspective, she writes, “media bring ente rtainment, diversion, food for thought, and shared symbols that unite people, whethe r they are connecting interpersonally or electronically (2003:165).” I am most intere sted in the “food for thought” aspect of her description as it is most germane to my t opic here; however, every function of media she lists proves that media as a cu ltural construct is perhaps bigg er than life itself. Without these opportunities for narrati ng life, what meaning would only biological existence provide for us? Therefore, we must grasp th e full meaning of how it interacts with every member of society if we are indeed interest ed in knowing which dir ection our society is heading. For thinking people, I believe all forms of media, especially news, are a reflective tool for which to ponder the progr essions and regressions of our species. Whether sensationalized, purely objective, or concentrated lies, every headline that speaks to us has the power to dash all hopes of our advancement or provide glee in seeing another human get it right for a change. Bi rd (2003) poses the question whether media provide the necessary symbols for which to live by, or whethe r they are “insidious tools of economic, cultural, and po litical oppression” or both ( 2003:167). I believe media are all of that and much more as we continue to discover what these narratives mean in the context of global culture.


19 Agenda-setting, framing, and news as narrative “The press does more than bring [political ] issues to a level of political awareness among the public. The idea of ag enda-setting asserts that the priorities of the press to some degree become the priorities of the public (McCombs and Shaw, 1977:6).” Another reason to study media influences is to comprehend complex theories such as the agenda-setting ‘function’ of the press and how far that power reaches. McCombs calls the agenda-setting “perspective” a “model of limited media effects (Bryant and Zillman, 1994:7).” He further instructs that “…issu es can be arrayed along a continuum ranging from obtrusive to unobstrusive. As the term im plies, some issues literally obtrude in our daily lives (1994:7).” In other words, the existence of some social phenomenon may become knowledge for some people because of its overarching impact to the society it occurs in and no mediation of the event w ould necessarily had to have occurred. Therefore, the ability to set an agenda, as far as media are concerned, would not be exclusive to journalists. Cu rrently, an example of how media effects are limited would be the housing foreclosure wave that has reac hed across the entire United States, an issue McCombs would describe as “obtrusive”. Many people would not even have to own a television to feel the effect s of the economic decline resu lting from the “obtruding” housing crisis. Those being displaced from th eir homes in the midst of their realization of this phenomenon would not need any form of media to help them grasp that reality. The agenda-setting model can be clearly seen in the current pervasiveness of national healthcare topics acr oss the media. The last tim e I remember anyone speaking passionately about the status quo of our nati on’s healthcare system was when first lady Hillary Clinton had chosen to take on legi slating change in the same areas President


20 Obama is attempting to today. As a consumer I might ask whether the agenda is being set by the needs of the people, the need s of the powerful juggernaut known as the insurance lobby, the insurance investment portf olios of the decision-makers themselves, or by the news media and their quest for po litical fodder. Perhaps all of the above scenarios contribute. Saliency is the core characteristic of a headlines and story lines and therefore needs to be considered by media consum ers and scholars alike. McCombs (1994) describes how saliency may be controlled by the news according to time and space constraints and that this is “t he first step in the gatekeepi ng routine.” He adds, “ but the items that pass through the gate do not receiv e equal treatment when presented to the audience…newspapers, for example, clearly st ate the journalistic salience of an item through its page placement, headline, and length (1994: 4).” So in essence what McCombs is eluding to is that saliency can be manipulated in ways to change the meaning of story by framing it for optimal news worthi ness or a variety of other motives. McCombs (1977) also describes the episte mological aspects of agenda-setting as ranging from simple to complex. The simplest model, he says, is basically binary in nature and is related to basic audience knowle dge. If the media do not disclose an issue that exists outside the everyday environmen t of the audience, then it simply does not become part of their personal agenda. McCombs (1977) states, To a considerable degree, especially in the realm of public affairs, only items communicated by the media can app ear on personal age ndas. In this simple 0/1 situation there necessarily is significant linkage between media


21 and personal agendas, especially for items outside the immediate environment (Shaw and McCombs, 1977: 99). This would allege that the media have a very powerful methodology imbedded within their practice of news handling. However, with the advent of the internet, I would presume that the sheer volume of news input available now compared to when he made that statement would have an influence on the agenda-setting powers of news media today. McCombs (1977) explains further that the complexity can increase from binary to multi-variabled as news priorities and audience priorities are directly proportional. He elaborates, …such characteristics as display and position –page one versus inside, top of the page versus bottom, large he adline versus small headline-and sheer length are key attributes of the stimulus presented to the audience…and…the sheer frequency of appearance of the stimulus is an important aspect of the learning process (Shaw and McCombs, 1977:99). These characteristics have undoubtedly endured well and have even evolved into serial news events, for example the O.J. Simpson tr ial and scores of ot her crime and justice news stories ever since. So having described some features of ag enda-setting, I will discuss the topic of news framing as it is the substance of this research endeavor. Tr umbo (1996) calls news frames “The themes that emerge in media representation of an issue (1996: 270).” A deeper description of framing by Entman (1993) places emphasis on “selection” and “salience” according to Trumbo (1996: 271). Th ey agree that to frame news, the writers select aspects of the story that make it most salient to the audience so that it may capture


22 their attention and be meaningful to them. Entman specifies that the four functions of framing are: “to define problems, diagnose cau ses, make moral judgments, and to suggest remedies (Trumbo, 1996: 271).” Therefore, obj ectivity may not exist in any pure form but is more or less a journalistic ideal. In the case of internationa l conflict, even though the framing of such may be motivated by Entman’s functions, Beaudoin and Thorson (2003) charge that media do not offer solutions for resolution in thei r reporting of conflict among other nations and argue that “…nations and their citizens ma y use international news coverage to sculpt predominantly nega tive impressions of ot her nations, which can then lead to increased feeli ngs of hostility (Gilboa, 2003:46).” Therein lays the inherent danger in framing news as even unintended effects can become unmanageable, especially where foreign and domestic policies are concer ned. Tumber (2003) poi nts out that “the culture of promotionalism ha s taken over many areas of public life” and that the blurring of party lines “has led politicians to turn increasingly to political consultants and public relations advisors” to assist in re-electi on activities as well as for policy decisions (Gilboa, 2003:137). So it woul d appear that politicians have turned framing into a necessary evil for getting the job done; theref ore, framing of information has become a management practice that is unavoidable. Journalism practices then should focus on interdisciplinary approaches to news dissemination. I see the framing of news as a prope rty of mediation that may inspire an anthropologist to research further due to how subjective the reali ties of broadcast and print news have become. More so, however, news as cultural narrative is just the conceptual territory where additional research is needed. “Humans create narratives to explain the world, and journali sts have been using this to ol since the inception of


23 newspapers (Wardle, 2003:243).” Bird ( 2009) acknowledges that “we all know that ethnographers and journalists are both in th e business of gatheri ng information about people and constructing narratives about what they learn for an audience (2009: 4).” You could also say journalists do what they do to compose the screenplay that follows tomorrow’s headline. News does not just inform or entertain. News becomes part of or perhaps one of the largest sources for the c ontent in our everyday dialogue amongst each other while conversing about life and the issues that surround us. When it comes to the daily news, “The facts, names, and details change almost daily, but the framework into which they fit-the symbolic system-is more enduring (Bird and Dardenne 1988: 69).” My concern is how news and headlines endure to become part of the everyday narrative of life with regard to agricu ltural reporting. If the headlines about lo cal farming and the news stories that follow tend to manifest a negative frame, for example polluting farms, bad smells, et cetera, within the narrative of everyday news, then the audience may adopt a negative viewpoint of the farming industry as a whole. Bird and Dardenne (1988) point out that “like news, history and anthropology na rrate real events, and their practitioners are finding that to understand their narrativ es, they must examine how they are constructed, including the stor y-telling devices that are an integral part of that construction (1988: 68).” This is the essen ce of what motivated me to conduct this study of content analysis; to determine what exactly the farm news narrativ e is about in Tampa Bay.


24 The new news Many people express nervousness about globa lization and the perpetuation of one world order. Certainly the rise of electronic communication will speed the evolution of all societies around the globe. I agree with Bird, however, th at the internet has made some of the audience members more discrimi natory as to what they will consider newsworthy. In addition, the web log feedb ack has given decision-makers a cornucopia of ideas and feelings from their c onstituents (Bird, 2003: 173,182-185). I further speculate the biggest value of web-based comm unications may turn out to be the removal of newsroom politics and economic agendas from adjusting priorities for reports since it changes the stage setting for the narratives. For anthropology, more emphasis should be made on media studies internationally since participation online a nd the thinking that follows now reaches across the globe. As Bird describes the inevitable, mirroring Pawlick mentioned earlier, “… the shrinking and increasingly triv ial coverage of internati onal news (2003: 180)” should motivate anthropology to fill the void with new ethnographical reports of how media operate in other cultures. The knowledge of such will be essen tial to our political economy sooner than most thought, as the Un ited States, from its shrinking domestic gross product, is evolving toward a reliance on global relations quicker than ever. Cultivation and dependency Indeed anthropology should continually in vent its own paradigms for media study while borrowing from the body of existing studie s. In “Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research”, Bryant and Zillma nn (1994) compiled a comprehensive array of


25 edited works that address severa l topics of media study. There were several perspectives that I found intriguing in th e book because of their application to my study of farm reporting content. The first was “the cultiv ation perspective (Ger bner, Gross, Morgan, and Signorielli, 1994),” for example, which describes how television is “transcending historic barriers of literacy and mobility” and “has become the primary common source of socialization and everyday information ( 1994: 18).” Because of these phenomena, these scholars call for a shift from effects modeling, in which the research is limited to finding short term changes that are constricted by “selective viewing” of individual media texts and not “total immersi on” (1994: 20). Such immersi on, on the other hand, leads to the “cultivation” of attitudes over time and acros s various types of media. This could be the mechanism for the narrative constructed in the process of daily news dissemination. Anthropologically, this is in teresting because it does lend better to the paradigm of holism that we take great comfort in as social scientists, versus th e highly quantified and statistical cause and effect modality. Scient ifically it makes sense, because as people have turned more to television for their news, they are more subject to the cultivationary style of broadcast news and how they develop not just the text of th e story, but also the images over time until it becomes part of everyone’s daily dialogue. For my purposes here, I find that reality ironic, because journa lists appear to farm each story for ratings just like farmers cultivate land for food products Further, as Bird and other scholars have pointed out, the effects of framing and agenda-setting do not move in a unidirectional path, but follow more of a “continual, dynamic, ongoing process of interaction among messages and contexts (Ger bner, et al., 1994: 27).” For me, this reinforces how important a holistic perspective is in gathering information about cultural


26 phenomena, especially when approaching a topic that involves subsistence and the mediation of all its dynamics. Media dependency is a concept that I f ound to be essential in understanding the cyclical nature of news narra tives and what role the audi ence plays in news making. According to Ball-Rokeach and DeFleur (1976 ), “The media system dependency model suggests that under conditions of ambiguity, as in the case of social system disruptions resulting from natural or human-made disast ers, the mass media will become the public’s primary information source, and media eff ects will become more pronounced (Hindman, 2004:29).” Hindman’s research has also shown that in periods where major system disruptions occur, for example the 2001 Trade Center tragedy, that people will judge the performance of the news media more positively than in times of normality. This is an unfortunate ability that jour nalism has acquired, in my opinion, due to the fact that impressionism can be molded into thought-c hanging processes th at can have profound social and economic effects, for example the reporting of “swine flu” when the human version has absolutely no relation, other than a few genetic base pairs, to the disease which is really named the H1N1 virus. Third-person effect hypothesis An article I found very inte resting addressed the thir d-person effect hypothesis whereby “people tend to perceive mass medi a messages to have a greater impact on others than on themselves (Wei, et al., 2007: 665 ).” I believe I may also be guilty of this trend as I often feel I can th ink around the spin. The resear ch by Wei, et al. was designed to find the significance of optimistic bias re lative to third person perceptions of news


27 stories about bird flu in Taiwan. Optimistic bias apparently works similarly when applied to a specific risk assessment. Considering “the probability of encountering negative life events such as contracting diseases, people tend to make assessments comparatively and believe that they are less vulnerable to risk s than others (Wei, et al., 2007: 667).” That research team found the two concepts to be unrelated with respect to psychological aspects but nonetheless statisti cally significant enough to consider them valid phenomena relating to mediated events. Applied to news about farming, media system dependency is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored. The reas on for this is that public health and food safety issues resulting from agricultural sources could fall into an optimistically biased frame for some audience members and Currently, our country is facing the “swine flu” pandemic and the media’s choice of headline, according to the Fox Network ne ws channel, was credited to potentially ending the pork product industry. Reporter Ma rianne Silber stated, “Hog farmers are fighting to stay afloat as global demand fo r pork has plummeted. In six months, the American pork business has gone from strugg ling to the verge of collapse.” This was attributed to the news media’s use of the te rm “swine flu” instead of the scientific description, H1N1 virus (Silber, 2009). Repres entatives of the pork industry have cried out to the media to stop using the term “swi ne flu” but according to the report, “the message isn’t sticking. Pork producers say so me news outlets continue using the term “Swine Flu” and it’s killing their business.” “Georgia State University Professor of Marketing Chris Lemely says H1N1 is too scientific and too hard for most people to remember. ‘Once something emotionally conn ects with a person, a name emotionally connects with a person, they tend to remember it. The emotional connection here is a


28 threat,’ Lemley says. ‘That just has a str ong emotional tie to people. The name 'Swine Flu' came out with that threat and we just encoded it’ (Blanton, 2009).” So, even though the third-person effect may apply in some settings, a headline perceived as informative with regard to an acute or immediate personal threat that transcends normal, everyday threat messages could lead to behavior change. In the case of this story, the behavior change of people not buying pork out of f ear of getting sick, even though that is impossible according to the expe rts, has had a drastic negative economic impact on an entire agricultural product industry. This is u ndoubtedly a culturally significant event worthy of anth ropological investigation into how perceived threats may overcome or even nullify the third-person effect hypothesis. Another interesting dimension of this report is that it objectiv ely describes how the news media themselves and their choice of headline terminology are being deemed responsible for the possible demise of the pork product indus try; simultaneously, they conti nue to use the term ‘swine flu’ in place of H1N1 virus. This sh ows how framing can become as natural to journalists as the message becomes to the audience. Imagery Another fascinating concept for anth ropological inquiry, and perhaps underresearched in media, is the power of imagery. I believe that visual images are as essential to the incorporation of news stories into people’s lives as oxygen is an essential element in the air we breathe. Bird goes even furthe r to say, “indeed in television, the existence of a striking image will actually determine whet her a story is used or not, especially on that rating-driven genre, local news, whic h is watched by far more Americans than


29 national news (2003: 176).” The image relative to my topic here that always comes to mind is the mad cow reports from years past and how the television news would play over and over the image of a sick cow trying to keep its balance during a prion-induced seizure from the disease and how this elicited such an emo tional response from me and other viewers. Imagery conveys symbols a nd symbols are structur al components of our individual identities, making th is an essential area of study for the discipline of applied anthropology. “So far, visu al anthropologists, many of whose interests include the analysis of ethnographic images, have paid lit tle attention to news photographs; this is an area ripe for anthropological interpretation (Bird, 2009: 11).” Advocacy and deception Journalists are probably no different in their motivati onal structure than other academically trained professionals. What inspir es and drives a journalist to adopt ideals and methodologies within the application of their profession is undoubtedly related or possibly identical heuristically to that of anthropologists. Agreeably, however, the field methodologies are distinctly different and worthy of consideration. As anthropologists, we have come to understand from applied anthropological research that advocacy on the part of the researcher is not necessarily an unintended result. Additionally, advocacy has been e xonerated from being an impediment to objectivity but rather a conse quence of objective study by our di scipline. For journalism, however, the concept of advocacy brings up interesting observations. Ryan states, “there are people who w ill say that you can’t even put those two words-advocacy and journalism-together, that they constitute an oxymoron, and anyone


30 who has made a career as a journalist is fa miliar with the ethic behind that argument and respects it (LaMay, Dennis 1991:81).” Teya Ry an is a journalist who questions whether a balanced perspective or rigid obj ectivity is even appropriate in light of the horrific social conditions that come to light as a result of investigative reporting. She was the senior producer of “Network Earth,” a solutions-oriented program se ries that first aired on the TBS network on August 12, 1990. The series was an environment-based informational program founded on “its commitment to advocacy,” Ryan writes (LaMay, Dennis 1991:83). Unfortunately, though, the mere existence of the audience empowers journalists and anthropologists alike to become the one w ith the ‘true’ viewpoint Therefore, being human, either may be subject to withholdi ng, constraining, filteri ng, even fabricating information as to play more influentially to their cause. So, if advocacy is inevitable for some researchers and journalists, then so should be the comprehension of deceptive practices-by anyone studying media. Lee (2004) writes, “Journalistic deception is an occupa tional construct shaped by professional demands (2004: 109).” Out of 20 journalists with whom Lee conducted depth interviews, described as “an extended conversation with a pur pose (2004: 99),” Lee found 14 to admit using deception in the course of their work. According to Elliot and Culver (1992), “justifications are offered ro utinely as journalists narrate their use of deception. Their attempts to normalize deception or make it socially acceptable demonstrate that deception is a prima facie wrong (Lee, 2004: 101).” So, as Lee points out, “situational ethics” fuel the justification pr ocess and as far as journalists seem to be concerned, deception is justifiable on a “case-by case” basis (2004:101).


31 Anthropology and agriculture There is probably more anthropology of rural communities and lifeways that are inclusive of agricultu re and agribusiness than specif ic ethnology of agriculture and agribusiness. This is due perhaps to the mo re interesting topics and subject matter like the Amish and their resistance to modernit y (Hostetler, 1955), or the few remaining endangered Appalachian families and their deeply rooted and seemingly backward cultural practices (Keefe, 1986). These are interesting because they are both exotic and local and the subject matter that fits into both of those categories is perceived to be limited. I argue, however, that from the mo ment an individual decides to become a farmer to the moment where the first net-prof it dollar is realized (which for some may never be) and beyond, there are sets of circumstances that rocket past other more profitable industrys’ challenges and difficulties, that indeed make agribusiness one of the most interesting local and exo tic cultural studies an anth ropologist could embark upon. In fact, there may be more journalism on ag ribusiness or agriculture in general than anthropological material, not including arch aeology of course, if my keyword searches for germane literature were any indicator. Alexander M. Ervin (1985) addresses the shortage of anthropological study on agrarian groups and explains that “…attention has been focu sed on tribal horticulturalists and peasants because the presumed mandate fo r anthropologists has been cross-cultural, largely non-Western, and methodologies had emerged for the study of small scale societies and village communitie s which were often perceive d as being under threats of cultural extinction (1985 : 36).” I would argue that th e urban sprawl phenomenon places local farming culture in Tampa Bay in the same path of extinction and therefore in


32 critical need of attention by an thropologists. Ervin further argues, “…there is a need to maintain, or in most cases create, a more integrated perspec tive on agriculture for analysis which might influence agricultural policy (1985: 36).” Right here is where I must emphasize how important anthropology could be to the policy-making process surrounding the agricultural indus try. Anthropologists can he lp bridge the information gap that exists between news media, politicians, and the constituency. Peasants and farmers have been studied in varying degrees by anthropologists and a brief comparison of these two subcultures bear mentioning here. Ervin (1985) further provides references for which to categorically define peasantry and farming. There are distinctions between the two a nd they seem to be heavily influenced by geographical and cultural specific ities. For purposes of anthropological enlightenment, Ervin’s distinctions should be noted: There are some features that might indicate some relative distinction between farmers and peasants within (a) continuum. Peasants rely on large extended families; farmers, although sometimes involved in extended family networks, more freque ntly organize thei r enterprises on a nuclear family basis. Peasants are subsistence-oriented and diversified with regard to crops and livestock ; farmers are more specialized and oriented toward cash crops. Peasants are more labour-intensive; farmers are more mechanized. Peasants may be subject to more community imposed socio-economic obligations of shared labour and the redistribution of surpluses; farmers’ enterprises are more independent of community demands (1985:41-42).


33 As evidenced here, anthropology as a discipline has performed far beyond the expectations of other social sciences in defining cultural constructs and providing crosscultural analyses in the process. But I feel th at applied advocacy rese arch is still in its infancy in our discipline and my area of empha sis here is as deserving as any for more consideration. Cognizance of a society’s food supply is ab solutely necessary on the part of its leaders and citizens and theref ore anthropological studies of farming are essential to facilitate that understanding. Stone (2001) disc usses “depeasantization” in the context of capitalism and its effects on agricultural capita l. He also points out that the roots of industrialized farming began in the English countryside “before the 18th-century parliamentary enclosures” and it was here “t hat market forces were first used to expropriate land rights and force farmers into tenancy (2001: 575).” This fact is why my concern grows for the resilience of the family farm. Voters and pol iticians, unless they look to the source, are only given the popular media imagery and narrative for agricultural issues and thus the values of peasantry are comple tely lost on them. I have recently witnessed this dynamic, the domination of subcontracted farms by a large corporation, in Alabama where a close friend’s daughter and son-in-law contract with the Tyson Corporation. Stone says these “food megacorporations…further proletarianize farmers through debt traps and extract weal th from local communities, enjoying state protection all the while (2001: 576).” My frie nds have told me that Tyson makes them upgrade their equipment, whether it needs it or not. Tyson finances all upgrades for them, soon after they start to see equity in their farm, and this has happened several times in the course of a few years. This business plan has kept them in debt with no resolution in


34 sight. These realities of megacorporate co ntrol will probably not be viewed by local news consumers, and if one looked hard enough sponsorship by these corporations of the news media could undoubtedly be found. This would indeed be a vital area for an anthropologist to take interest in and advocate for small farm owners. Press coverage of agriculture There are mounds of literature on how the media handles a variety of social issues. However, where agriculture is concer ned, there were only a few that stood out in my searches. Pawlick’s (2001) work, referenc ed earlier, seems to be the most solutionsoriented that I read specific to the current l ack of reporting of agri culture-centered issues. Though his emphasis is global, his discoveries and suggestions ma y be applied on the local level. He calls for better traini ng and more emphasis on agricultural reporting within the halls of journalism academics as he emphasizes that “… the number of daily newspapers listing full-time agriculture or farm writers or editors on their news staffs has been in decline since the 1950’s--dropping by well over 60 percent in the past 20 years alone in most of North America… (2001: 85).” Pawlick’s book is a concise explanation as to the how and why of sh rinking agricultural journalism a nd could be a vital reference for an intense anthropological inquiry into farm journalism. He asks, “…what logic dictates that amusements—or sports, fashion, music, or trav el, all of which, as beats, involve more staff than farm news—should be considered more deserving of attention than the industry that supplie s the food we eat (2001: 90).” I would also include crime reporting within those “more-emphasized” t opics he mentions and pose the same challenge to anthropology.


35 For a historical perspective on agricu ltural reporting, Schlebecker (1957) is an interesting read on how dairy farm journa lists came into being and how only two publications had survived up to the point when he wrote the article. He attributed their survival to both having a “large potential audience” and they reported on “vital issues.” He credited both journals’ owners to be “competent businessmen” who took the lead of their editors in creating a voice that echoed that of their readers. And lastly, he pointed out that both owners changed over time with the changing trends in their area of journalism (1957:33). I would o ffer that this journal article would be a worthy reference in a class designed for farm journalism because of its historical value and eloquence in describing how that era handled the mediation of farming issues. Hays (1992) talks about the “pseudo event” which he describes as events that are planned for and designed around media coverage and how influential t hose events can be on public opinion. He asks two very important questions with regard to this area of media reporting: “To what extent do the ma ss media affect public opinion?” and “To what extent do planned events affect what the media report and thus, indirectly, audiences’ views (1992: 62)?” This is interesting to me because now we are introduced to another variable affec ting public knowledge and opini on. For example, if an environmental activist group decided to plan a protest against the use of a certain pesticide on crops, created a press release, a nd then subsequently held the event, the event would undoubtedly gain plenty of cove rage by local media and to some degree, national news interests. Histor ically, we have seen that the other side of the story is not attended to at all or it is reported ambiguousl y. Perhaps, in this hypothetical scenario, the several new chemicals, initially judged (early lab testing) as inert, designed to replace


36 that one protested agent, are largely untested as to their effects on the soil, the crops, human biology, et cetera. This scenario has actually taken place w ithin the strawberry industry regarding its use of methyl bromide as a soil sterilizer to remove bacteria and fungi before planting. The controversy over me thyl bromide’s toxicity to humans began in California. The EPA approved methyl i odide, since omitted, was judged to be worse environmentally than its predecessor (Phil pott, 2007). Florida, the nation’s second largest producer of strawberri es (Mossler and Nesheim, 2009) has had to follow suit and has had many challenges with replacement chemicals that are also rumored to be worse for the environment. Pseudo events, then, can be a powerful force for formulating and perhaps manipulating public opinion with the media acting as the mechanism. Objectivity is a journalistic principal that may not be as ethically sound as it was once perceived to be. Hays (1992) calls jo urnalists’ use of objec tivity a “protective blanket” that enables them to report events without responsibility for the consequences that may arise from the public receiving th at knowledge. He further charges, “…the standards of objectivity permit journalists the luxury of a ‘let the chips fall where they may’ approach to their work (1992:64).” In the course of ne ws mediation, then, objectivity could actually be a mechanism for bi as because other crucial elements to the story, e.g. value judgments of reporters and consequentially the re jection of the value judgments of others, are omitted. An applie d anthropologist and field ethnographer may take comfort here, right or wrong, in knowing th at much more goes into their description of the human condition. Hays charges …the mass media and individual jour nalists rely too heavily on event coverage and on the principle of object ivity in decisions about what they


37 report and how they report it. This has serious implications for the formation of public opinion based on incomplete and possibly inaccurate information. Policy decisions affec ting agriculture and the environment can be difficult under the best of circumstances; they need to be made without deliberately misled public opinion abetted by unwitting media (1992:65). The language here is strong and somewhat i ndicting, however, needs to be considered by journalism scholars when they tr ain future news reporters.


38 Chapter 3 Research and Context “That pleasure and power coexist, that cr itical understanding and gr atification struggle with one another, that guilty laughter and embarrassed tears may be simultaneously evoked by the same messages, these are fundamental to the human condition.” (Mark Allen Peterson, 2002) The ethnographical primer As I described in the first chapter, my internship led me to an agriculturallysteeped ethnographic experience. I conducted informal inte rviews along the way asking questions that related to economics, demogr aphy, public opinion, a nd also the everyday mundane activities employed in keeping a fa rm running. I explained to the farmers I spoke with what I was working on and they were all very willing to participate with me on an informal platform and were even willing to be surveyed in the future should further study take place. These interviews were not in tended to be scientifically analyzed, but rather to provide a heuristic. I needed to be familiarized with the culture of farming so as to make me an optimal participant observer and not a spectator. I felt that submittal to the IRB would not be necessary due to the na ture of the population I was interacting with and the fact that none of th e people I talked to fit into the category of “vulnerable populations” defined by the code of federa l regulations (LeCompte, 1999: 57). The


39 interviews did, however, serve as a basis from which to formulate survey questions in the future. The following are a few of the types of agribusinesses visited by my internship supervisor, Jemy, and I. They were extremel y helpful in my adaptation to this area of study and I will forever be gr ateful for their time, cons ideration, and hospitality. 1. Agribusiness A, located in Tampa, FL is a provider of da iry and fruit juice products. The owner, D.M., provided information that will follow as a brief case study that I observed during my internship. D. has been extremely proactive in implementing best management practices (BMP’s) on his dairy farms and is a model for other local farms. 2. Agribusiness B, located in Hillsborough County, owns and leases over 30,000 acres on which the owner raises cow/calf pa irs and grows citrus trees. The owner is one of the largest grossing cattlemen in central Florida and always very willing to discuss farm industry-related challenges to help educate others. He is an active member of the AEDC and spends much time helping with th e preservation of agricultural economics in Tampa Bay. 3. Agribusiness C, located in Dover, Flor ida processes and packs fish and other seafood from farms, and fresh and salt wa ter sources. It provides waste water irrigation for agribusiness D, which we al so visited, implemented after years of painstaking efforts on the parts of both bus inesses and agents of the local, state, and federal regulatory entities. 4. Agribusiness E is located in Plant Cit y, Florida and is owned and operated by C.G. C. is a very innovative and proac tive farmer and extremely revered in his


40 community. He shared about the many environmental and regulatory challenges he has faced since starting his farm in 1974. 5. Agribusiness F was located in Zephyrhil ls, Florida and was owned and operated by F.G. I was present during a meeting between F. and the DEP which was conducted for the purposes of environmenta lly regulating the cl osure of the dairy farm. F. was the first dairy farmer in Florida to implement computers in running his operation and assisting in the design of a composting program. When I asked him why he was closing his dairy, his re sponse was, “I’ve milked enough cows.” There is currently a large retail center on the property that has been built for over a year and Publix, a southeastern grocer, is the only tenant in the center. Were it not for Publix, there would be a vacan t shopping plaza where a large productive dairy existed only 36 months ago. 6. Agribusiness G, located in southern Hillsborough County, introduced us to a program they implemented from an EPA grant that created a water treatment wetland to address the nutrient run-off from their dairy. The informal discussions I had with those individual agribusine ss owners yielded a wealth of perspectives for me on what efforts were necessary to keep a farm business equitable in west central Florida. Questions related to the economy of farm ing were usually answered with positive responses. Other than the usual challe nges to profitability, for example heavy regulations, weather, and family issues, most farmers seem content with their earnings and the ability to support their families and businesses.


41 Demographically, I discovered that ev ery farmer I met was a member of a multigenerational tradition. Certain variab les like crop produced or specific plot locations may change over time, but ever yone I spoke with who farms now was at least the second generation and most were third generation farmers and beyond. Only a couple of agribusiness owners expressed that their children had an interest in carrying on the family business. Most expr essed a disappointment that their children and grandchildren wanted nothing to do with agriculture after high school. Every owner I spoke with felt strongly a bout the level of respect they and their products held within the community in wh ich they lived and worked. Only a few seemed to be concerned with what public opinion may be rega rding their trade; however, all farmers we met voiced a great amount support for public education and awareness of agriculture, feeling that the farm bureau offices and extension offices were vital to those campaigns. Their res ponses to how the local press handles public education were almost always cynical in tone and content. Generally, I found a comfortable sa tisfaction amongst these agribusiness practitioners with regard to the lifestyles they lead. Like any economic sector, they are met with challenges that range from the mundane to paramount, but not one of them appeared to have faced any situation without the utmost gallantry to achieve mutually beneficial solutions. I attended six monthly meetings of the Hillsborough County Agriculture Economic Development Council (AEDC) at th e county’s Farm Bureau Federation office over the course of about nine months. That committee directly advises the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners on all issues that relate to agriculture and its economy


42 within the county boundaries. I felt that I needed to gain understanding of the current state of agricultural policy-making and its effects on this economic group and these meetings were the perfect arena for me to become a participant observer and heighten my awareness in those areas. The following list (Hillsborough County Farm Bureau, Online) outlines the goals of the AEDC: 1. Discourage the premature conversion of productive farmland to non-agricultural use. 2. Minimize the impact of the regulatory pro cess on agriculture’s ability to conduct business, while still achieving th e goals of those regulations. 3. Improve the economic sustainability of agriculture in Hillsborough County through increased marketing options, alte rnative crops, value-added processing, capital financing opportunities, and identific ation of barriers to the expansion or sustainability of agriculture. 4. Promote the expansion and relocation of agribusiness firms to Hillsborough County. My goal was simply to listen to the issues that the AEDC confronted and learn about the process of how they disseminate informa tion and advise the county commissioners on those issues. I was asked for my input on several occasions by council members and did my best to answer them as a fellow agri culturalist and not as an anthropologist representing the discipline of applied anthr opology. However, from that experience, I have formulated recommendations for Farm Bureau and AEDC in the following chapter that may be useful later on in thei r public relations activities.


43 Methodology I examined by reading, viewing, and listeni ng to the news output from the most popular news sources in Tampa Bay. Ther e are two major news paper publishers, the Tampa Tribune and the Saint Petersburg Times I performed both keyword searches on the internet and also clipped articles from hard copy editi ons. All four major national television networks have a representative lo cal news channel in the Tampa area and they are: Fox Network’s WTVT channel 13 ne ws, CBS Network’s WTSP channel 10 news, NBC Network’s WFLA channel 8 news, and ABC Network’s WFTS channel 28 news. A smaller more independent network owne d by the local cable provider, Brighthouse Communications, Bay News 9, was also mon itored. I performed keyword searches on the internet and monitored live news stories on television for each channel. The keyword searches performed for channel 8 news a nd the Tampa Tribune were performed on a website on which the two entities partner, known as, which stands for Tampa Bay Online. The keywords that were i nput were farm, farming, agriculture, and agribusiness, in an attempt to reference news stories that were specifi c to this industry in Tampa Bay. Further keyword searches were performed on the basis of the most popular and prevalent farm commodities in the Tampa area and included the terms ‘strawberry’, ‘beef’, ‘citrus’, ‘hay’, ‘poultry’, and ‘dairy’. Obviously the search could be expanded to include every known agricultural product-relate d term that relates to those produced in the Tampa Bay region; however, that would extend the complexity way beyond the scope of this study and would therefore be appropriate in further research ac tivities. Each news story had to be read for cont ent and selected on a basis of its relevance to the local industry of farming and also farm-related cont ent from outside the geographical area of


44 Tampa. I found that to focus only on local news stories that were sp ecifically about local farms produced too few reports for analysis. Th is should not skew results due to the fact that any news story, told locally and framed in such a way that the narrative adds to the sphere of public opinion about the farming i ndustry, has the potentia l to affect policy. Opinion pieces and editorial ar ticles were not considered for this analysis as they would not necessarily reflect the framing of news by the news media themselves. The keyword searches returned a considerable number of stories that had little or no relevance to farming due to some abstract usage of the te rms being searched for. Those stories were not considered for this study. The criteria fo r an article or news story being chosen for analysis were that the content of the text ha d to describe something relevant to a local farm or farmer. The requirement was inten tionally generalized so that a true holistic view could be obtained for how these medi a outlets framed their news relating to agriculture. To exclude any content that wa s pertinent to farming would mean that the framing description to follow would be incomp lete. The news stories were gathered and organized chronologically from April 15, 2000 to October, 11, 2009, nearly nine years of news reports on agri cultural topics. Next, I needed to standardize the frames in which to place each news story after the content was analyzed. I be lieve that the basis for which to formulate these criteria should be that the content coul d be assimilated in such a wa y that an individual audience member may form an opinion, either positive or negative, or feel obj ectively informed so as to remain in a state of ne utrality. My reason ing for this formulation is based upon the common knowledge that public opinion is wh at largely drives policy decisions.


45 Since the concepts of positivism, negativ ity, and neutrality are highly subjective relative to each audience member, I should establish boundaries familiar to the study of anthropology and social science as a whole. Primarily, however, because news framing’s potential influence on policy is what I consider to be at stake for agriculture, a simple operative definition would be a logical pl ace to begin formulating these criteria. I chose to obtain the most current and modern definitions for the terms ‘positive, negative, and neutral since I am research ing media framing in the here and now; therefore, I utilized the internet to develop my definitions. The word ‘positive’ is defined in the Webster’s online dictionary as “involving advantage or good” and “of or relating to positivism (Webster’s Online Dictionary, 2009).” These definitions will operate well in th is context of research due to the first definition’s semantic simplicity and the sec ond definition’s use of the term ‘positivism’ as this has been a well discussed topic am ong social scientists since Auguste Compte developed the idea in his six-volumes, The Course of Positive Philosophy between 1830 and 1842 (Bernard, 2006: 13). In order to ground this definition for the purposes of this study and establish it as most germane to the analysis of agricultural news framing, Bernard’s (2006) following explanation fits well: The central position of positivism is that experience is the foundation of knowledge. We record what we expe rience—what we see others do, what we hear others say, what we feel othe rs feel. The quality of the recording, then, becomes the key to knowledge. Ca n we, in fact, record what others do, say, and feel? Yes, of course we can. Are there pitfalls in doing so? Yes, of course there are. To some social researchers, these pitfalls are


46 evidence of natural limits to a science of humanity; to others, like me, they are a challenge to extend the current limits by improving measurement. The fact that knowledge is tentative is something we all learn to live with (18). So, when I categorize a news story as being ‘positively’ framed, then the following conditions will apply to the te xt and accompanying imagery upon reading, hearing, or viewing: an opini on is conceived on the part of the analyst, myself, that evokes a feeling that some good or advantage may take place during the course, or as a result of the reported event on behalf of the subject members, participants, the audience, or all three; the news story will speak to the audience as if from first-hand experience; the quality of the news story will be easily judged as high-quality, well researched and articulated information even if there is clear room for improvement in the quality of that report. Right here I should point out that the terms ‘subjec t members’, ‘participants’, and ‘audience’ are considered to be comprised of people who make up the total of the food consuming population that will be affected by local media framing. As Bernard indicated that knowledge is indeed tentative, then so is the analysis of th e content of knowledge and its narrative; therefore, as a learned an thropologist, I must consider that what may appear as a positively framed news story about agriculturalists today, may be viewed as the opposite following certain cultural or bi ological evolutionary changes. This, I believe, is the very essence of what make s anthropology a great academic discipline in that no discovery is ever considered by the re searcher to be exclusive and static; without being deeply humbled by the oft wondrous implications as it unfolds.


47 Negatively framed stories should be di scernable by their lack of the above mentioned qualities or simply being completely opposed to them. Webster’s online defines the term ‘negative’ as “Characterized by or displa ying negation or denial or opposition or resistance; having no positive features; having the quality of something harmful or unpleasant (Webster’s Online Dictionary, 2009).” Therefore, for an article or broadcast news story to be considered for placement into the ‘negatively framed’ category, it must solicit an opinion based on feelings opposite to those evoked by a ‘positively framed’ news item and leave the read er or viewer with a sense that there could be harmful or unpleasant outcomes on behalf of the subject members, participants, and audience members as a result of the even t(s) or issue(s) being reported on. As discussed in the literatur e review, pure objectivity is theoretically unobtainable due to the human factor in researching and reporting news worthy events. However, to create a third framing category, and to avoid an either/-or data set that really would not be considerate of a holistic analysis, the term ‘n eutral’ will be applied to reflect qualities inherent within news stories that do not fit strongly into the ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ categories. Additionally, I feel that a journalist who is self-reflective, well informed, and culturally aware, is one who can obtain a level of objectivity necessary to flatly inform an audience member and be outside a narrati ve far enough to avoid creating an opinion based upon positive or negative feelings elicited purely from the framing of the content. Let me state quite emphatically that I only hypothesize that I will find a news story that qualifies as ‘neutral’, or ‘unframed’ for my purposes here, but I realize that it would require agreement by several scholars more qua lified than me to establish it as so. ‘Neutral’ is defined by Webster’s online as “of no distinctive quality or characteristics or


48 type; lacking distinguishing qua lity or characteristics; not supporting or favoring either side in a war, dispute, or contest (Webster’s Online Dictionary, 2009).” This may be the most difficult category to select for, so I in tend to look for news content that is clearly presented in a way that avoids being framed with any qualities of positivism or negativity that were previously established. Before analyzing the content of the procured news storie s, I chose to consider the following definition by Waples and Berels on (1941): “Systematic content analysis attempts to define more causal descriptions of the content, so as to show objectively the nature and relative strength of the stimuli a pplied to the reader or listener (Berelson, 1952:14).” My described qualifications for how these news stories were framed seem to fit with this definition; however, Berelson (1952: 15) describes six characteristics of content analysis that should help qualify my methodology: 1. It applies only to social science generalizations (Leites & Pool, 1942). 2. It applies only, or primarily, to th e determination of the effects of communications (Waples & Berelson, 1941). 3. It applies only to the syntactic and sema ntic dimensions of language (Leites & Pool, 1942). 4. It must be “objective” (Waples & Bere lson, 1941; Leites & Pool, 1942; Janis, 1949; Kaplan, 1943). 5. It must be “systematic” (Leites & Pool, 1942; Kaplan & Goldsen, 1949; Kaplan, 1943). 6. It must be quantitative (Waples & Berelson, 1941; Leites & Pool, 1942; Kaplan & Goldsen, 1949; Janis, 1949; Kaplan, 1943).


49 The first two qualifications are obviously met by the context of this research. As for the syntactic and semantic characteristics, Berelson states that “content analysis is ordinarily limited to the manifest content of the communi cation and is not normally done directly in terms of latent intentions which the content may express nor the latent responses which it may elicit (1952: 16).” My analysis should fu rther qualify as I am not attempting to project what causes and effects may be possibl e resulting from the types of framing I find in these news stories, and have taken steps to avoid the “pragmatic dimension (Berelson, 1952:16)” by excluding my own experiences an d value judgments while attempting to characterize how each story is framed. Objectivity should prevail through the standardization of definitions for the three ca tegories. The methods and results should be reproducible as a result of this The gathering of news stor ies and the categorization were done systematically, applying the same methods to each story selected and analyzed. Although minimally quantitative, this study will apply rudimentary num erical values to each category’s frequency relative to the total of news stories analyzed. Since this study is primarily qualitative and only quasi-qua ntitative, though, I should make one final justification for its design: “A great number of non-numerical content studies call for attention by virtue of their general contributions in insi ght and interest (Berelson, 1952:114).”


50 Chapter 4 Conclusion “Our ultimate dependence on agriculture—as individuals and as a society—makes farming a different kind of business and i ndustry. Farming depends upon seasons, climate, and basic biological processes.” (Ronald C. Wimberley, 2002) To the above quote, I would add political pr ocesses to the list of the factors upon which farming depends. The results, conclu sions, implications, and suggestions that follow will hopefully be contributory in some way to the great body of agricultural, communication, and anthropological data both existing and hereafter. Results Of the hundreds of news stories return ed on keyword searches and monitored on television and newspapers, a total of 228 reports were selected for framing analysis due to the salient nature of their content. Over the nearly nine year time span, I was able to obtain a representative sample fr om each news source I listed ear lier so that if a pattern emerged from one or more news sources, th at pattern should be recognizable, although no claim for statistical significan ce is made. The first recogni zable fact was that the two newspapers dominated the volume of stories co llected. Printed news stories totaled 132 while broadcast news stories made up the remaining 96 reports.


51 As predicted, recognizing a news story for placement into the ‘neutral’ category was not unproblematic and required multiple readings of the story while rigorously applying the established criteria The criteria were expande d in the process of content analysis as certain semantic qualities stood out from the body of the text or headline. An example would be the use of words like ‘fear,’ ‘anger,’ and ‘threat’ in one type of article versus the use of words like ‘sweet ,’ ‘celebrate,’ or ‘success’ in another type of article. Articles that clearly avoided positive or negative framing were found to predominantly quote their sources, list statistical facts, not include writer opinions, summarize without the use of negative or positive connotations, a nd their headlines were simply relevant to the content of the article without implying a ny negative or positive effect(s). A sum of 28 articles met these conditions, making the percentage of “neutral” news stories approximately 12.3%. There was a variety of content in these re ports ranging from predominantly weather issues to political hi ghlights to human interest stories. There were no articles classified as neutral found from May 12, 2006 until January 2, 2008. Roughly 21.5% (49) of the news stories analyzed were determined to be positively framed. Each contained a story line consistent with positive values, for example advocacy toward farming, nutritional merit, farmland preservation, agricultural viability, community benefits, et cetera. Semantically a nd syntactically, those news stories were told and arranged in such a way as to inform the audience while predicating some element of optimism upon the overall ‘p icture’ the writer conveyed. Headlines often conformed to the style of ‘cute’ or ‘fol ksy’ as described earlier for example, “This really takes the shortcake,” in an article a bout genetic varieties of strawberries (Velde, 2009). Several articles descri bed farmers’ triumphs over environmental challenges such


52 as weather and insects while speaking hopefully about seasonal yields. Of the 49 stories, 31 were written or broadcast in 2009, so about 63.3% of the positively framed news reports occurred in the final 10 months of thos e reports analyzed. Of those 31, most were from the Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times and were relatively equally distributed between each news source. The total number of negatively framed news reports was 147, accounting for nearly 64.5 % of all the news stories analyzed. Of the 96 television ne ws stories, 79 were included into the ‘negative’ group. Ther efore, approximately 34.6% of all reports gathered were broadcast and clas sified as negative; this is a notable statistic. I found this group to be the least problematic to classify, due to the writ ers’ use of words within the headlines and body of the reports that clearly carried negativ e connotations. The most prevalent words were ‘threat’, ‘disease’, ‘fea r(s)’, ‘crisis’, ‘conflict’ and ‘pollution’. Of all the headlines for the 147 ne gatively classified reports, the most noteworthy was found on WTSP, channel 10, the local CBS affilia te, and was titled, “Mad cow disease discovered in the United States (10 Connect, 2003).” The first sentence of the report, however, tells a differe nt story, “Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman says the first-ever U.S. case of mad cow disease is su spected in a single cow in Washington state, but the American food supply is safe (10 C, 2003).” The operative words here are ‘suspected’ and ‘safe’ which contrast a great deal with the headline. Four days later, the one diseased animal was pinpoint ed to have originated in Canada (10, 2003). This was the finest exam ple of sensationaliza tion that I discovered among the stories I studied and coincided with findings by Whitaker and Dyer (2000) in which they found “The depth in reporting of environmental and food safety issues is


53 lacking (2000: 132).” The news stories I classified as negatively framed carried a diverse range of agriculture-related topics The dominant issues had public health implications, such as pollution from farm s, public protests of odors, poisoning, and disease. These findings also agree with Whitaker and Dyer (2000) in their comparison study between news magazines a nd agricultural magazines (p. 131). Disease stories were not found to be qualified with statistical fre quencies. The second mo st prevalent issues were indicative of economics, as they pertai ned to the survival of farms, crop yields, government aid, and costs to consumers. Agai n, statistical evidence rarely occurred in the description of these certain cause and effect-based news reports. Commonly, when numbers were used to reinforce facts, i.e. monetary impacts, they tended to be large numbers, most often into the millions and billions. There appeared to be a relatively equal distribution between news stories that contained negative events happening to farms and farmers versus reports about negative events that occurred because of farms or farmers. The former scenario was compri sed of stories mostly about environmental pressures and encroachment by development and the latter were predominantly public health-related. Generally sp eaking, after several analyses of the 147 articles deemed negative in the framing of their content, I felt a strong sense of desperation for the farming industry and its image as w hole for this Tampa Bay region. There were a total of four news reports, approximately 1.75% of the total, that could not be classified in any of the above three categories. The best way to describe these stories is to say that they would be c onsidered neutral were it not for some clear contradictory message within the content or in cluded imagery of the report. For instance, my favorite one of these outliers was a newspaper article in the St. Petersburg Times by


54 Janet Zink on November 26, 2003. The headline read, “City dwellers meet farm at downtown festival.” The body of the article wa s a somewhat folksy description of the event that was held in downtown Tampa. Th at event was intended to expose urbanites to local farm commodities and culture. So, this story could be perceived as neutrally informative with a positive sense except fo r the large photo that accompanied the article and was almost the same size. The picture was of a very large plastic Holstein cow that was at the event to simulate hand milking for those who wished to try it; but next to the cow was a father holding his approximately tw o-year-old daughter who looked as if she had been frightened and angered as she was profusely crying (Zink, 2003). While I am not claiming a scientific basis for this observation, this did send a contradictory message to me as the reader. It is worth noting in this context that the choice and placing of photos in a news story is always careful a nd deliberate; many images are always taken, and the choice of which one to use does carry significance. The other three were similar in structure except the contradictions were w ithin the text and not from imagery. Those stories simply left me with a complete lack of opinion of what feeling, if any, had been derived from reading them. As mentioned earlier, a review of the agriculture magazines, Florida Agriculture and In the Field was performed by reading through the publications obtained between 2003 and 2009. As expected, the practice of ag riculture, its practitioners, and related activities were definitely framed in a positiv e light in the headlines and content of the articles surveyed. Surprisingly, however, th e semantic content seemed straightforward and lacked any noticeable usage of value-base d words and phrases. Particularly notable was the absence of criticism toward any part icular person or entity. The majority of


55 articles were written very obj ectively with regard to causes and effects, whether dealing with everyday farming matters or controvers ial policy-related issues. I gained no sense of being directed toward any particular opinion during or afte r reading articles in these publications, merely a sense of having learned about some thing I had not known before reading them. My findings again agreed with Whitaker and Dyer (2000) where they noted “…little difference in the presentati on of articles (2000: 132)” between the two different types of periodicals studi ed in their analysis between the same types of media. I found with the publications I st udied, however, that the agreement was only in a very general sense. The details of the articles I reviewed here we re much greater in scope and depth when they focused on policy issues and stories of achievements by farmers. This is, of course, where the positive framing is mo st easily ascertained in the presentation of the story, but a lack of highlycharged adjectives was still not ed. The use of headlines to grab the reader’s attention is common in thes e publications as well. There were a few articles that did pose some negative prospect for the reader, for example, “Threat of cow tax spurs grassroots outcry” in the January, 2009 issue of Florida Agriculture (Basford, 2009). This suggests that some elements, for example a gripping headline, of media framing could be trained into beginning journalists at the remedial level; therefore, framing news could be seen as a behavior element in journalism as it appears to be independent of the environment a journalist work s in. Further evidence of this is in Ward (1959) where he instructs future agricultural journalists on how to bu ild a headline, “The headline is the salesman for the farm story. A poor headline loses a sale. A good one summarizes the story, compels at tention, arouses interest, lead s the farmer right into the copy (1959: 91).” He further ad vises on the use of active verbs to better ‘sell’ the story


56 and warns to avoid usage of stagnant word s and phrases (Pp. 91-92). Therefore, one must look at journalisms methodology and trai ning practices if framing were found to have harmful effects with regard to public opinion of farming and agricultural policy. Conclusions The analyses and their results yielded more shades of framing than I had suspected at the onset of this study. Th e exact role the media plays within the dissemination of certain themes encountered in the daily news, however, is difficult to understand. There is a clearly discernable na rrative when it comes to reporting farm matters by the local news outlets in Tampa Ba y, though, and I feel that the data returned from the analyses of the stories I studied is worth consideration. Through the reading of what we re classified as neutral ne ws stories, I learned that there is great deal of difference between an objective reporter and an objective news report. Apparently, by structur ing a story in such a way as to heavily quote sources, subjects, and entities an d refraining from opinion-based stat ements and overly negative or positive word usages, even a seriously biased journalist may create an objective news report. My expectations were that an insi gnificant number of neutral reports would be found, yet almost 13% of the stories consider ed were neither positively nor negatively framed. This is significant because it proves a news story can be written to inform without directing the au dience in any particular emotional direction or attempting to flush out a rash opinion. The positive class of news reports were in deed predictably ‘cut e’ and ‘folksy’ and were largely oriented toward human interest content, but were also notably diverse in


57 their subject matter. A glowing example of a positively framed news article was in the St. Petersburg Times on March 10, 2006. The headline was “Strawberry life is worth savoring (Bettendorf, 2006). The writer opened the article with the following statement: “If it’s possible to still find a patch of heaven somewhere in Hillsborough County, it might be in a strawberry field.” The story was about the Parke family strawberry farm, their business, history, and home life. Mr. Roy Parke was quoted saying, “God must have really loved strawberries because he sh aped them like hearts.” Bettendorf utilized words like “famous,” “sweet,” “luscious,” “hum ble,” and “legendary” to describe aspects of the Parke’s life in operati ng a strawberry farm. For t hose who trudge through farming life and barely make a profit, this article w ould seem to be a complete fantasization of what being a grower is all about. The article is a fine piece for el aborately describing the successes of a family-owned farming business; however, from my observations, the plush life of the Parke family that the reporter describes is definitely not the quintessential manner of existence for most farming families. In fact, the article paints a picture of a grower’s life that parallels st ories one could read about a m ovie star as it describes the large strawberry-shaped custom swimming pool at their home. Framing of this type may lead the audience to believe that being a strawb erry grower is to lead a life of affluence, thereby negating the real difficulties that most farmers must face these days to continue farming. News stories such as this one coul d even create an empathy-minimizing effect for the reader that may eventually contribute to an undesirable influence on policy. This article exemplifies the positive framing cr iteria that I outlined for this study. I would reason that due to the range of positive issues uncovered by local news interests, such as farming innovations to better partner with the environment and


58 regulatory efficiencies introduced to aid in farming profitab ility, only the low percentage of these articles found is the main obstacle to be overcome. This is a surmountable obstruction to a better informed public with regard to agriculture and would simply require better-trained journalists who would produce more culturally-competent appraisals of farm-related issues and events. As previously noted, over 63% of positively framed stories were published or broadcasted in the first 10 months of 2009. I would postulate that this may be related to the massive shift in land use that has occu rred from what the news media call the “housing crisis” and could be due to the fact that news topics about home building all seem to be negative at this point in time. Si nce local news must talk about local issues on local soil, it only stands to fi gure that farming matters would find their way into the light as housing developments are currently devoid of life. The other noteworthy component to the discoveries made in this category was that the majority of them were from news print and not television. Ther e is a pattern emerging from this study that may predict negatively framed news reports to dominate br oadcast news. This finding would be in accord with other studies of local TV news that demonstrate that this genre is particularly prone to sensationalized treatment (e.g. Krajicek 1998). There could obviously be a myriad of factors contributing to this picture as culture a nd economy appear to be in a rapidly fluctuating state relative to other st ages in our society. Generally speaking, 21.5% of 228 news stories about agriculture be ing framed in a positive sense leaves me cautiously hopeful that the trend will conti nue so as to counterbalance the overarching volume of negatively framed farm reports.


59 During the process of weighi ng news stories for their ne gativity in text, syntax, and imagery, I noticed a duality emerging as I read and viewed farm news: the farmer as victim and the farmer as villain. There appear ed to be a fair distribution of each type of article. For illustrative purposes, a couple of headlines and their companion news stories that are emblematic of this dichotomy bear mentioning here. The first was published by the St. Petersburg Times “Farms shrinking as builders reap harvest (Gray, 2005).” The article clearly spells doom for local farmers and points out that the only way a farmer could make money, in that time period, was to sell their farm. The article even quoted a source that recommended agai nst young people becoming dairy farmers. The article seemed to favor giving in to development if you were in farming. Word use in the framing of this article included the followi ng: “pressures,” “squeeze,” “lament,” “weary,” “problem,” “drowned,” “loss,” and “fru strating.” The illustration put forth by the application of terms such as these could not possibly leave the audience with a realistic opinion of agricultural practices. In fact, after reading the article several times, I felt increasingly influenced toward never beginni ng farming as a vocati on. I did not find any recommendations in articles like this for peopl e to get involved in their local farm policy processes, thereby empowering themselves to assist in the decisions affecting development. Another St. Petersburg Times article is a member of several infamous news stories about an extremely localized E. coli infection outbreak that allegedly occurred from children and a dults visiting a petting zoo at the Florida State Fair, the Florida Strawberry Festival and the Central Florida Fair. The headline was “Officials seek link in spread of kidney illness (Nguyen, 2005) .” The first line of the article reads, “Did they milk a cow? Or pet a goat? Or possibly ride a pony?


60 First, to my knowledge, the petting zoo at these events does not offer the public an opportunity to milk a live cow. Sec ondly, the pony rides have no affiliation to the petting zoo. The total number of pe ople who became ill was 15, 11 of them young children, but the article stated that more cases were expected to occur. As the headline cites, the reader would assume they all had a kidney illness. Actually, they all only had diarrhea, with some exhibiting ‘signs’ of the advanced phase of the disease known as hemolytic uremic syndrome or HUS. The ar ticle quotes the Florid a Health Secretary, John Agwunobi, in saying, “They could have eaten undercooked beef, or they may have touched animals with that particular strain of E. coli during fair-related activities such as petting goats, riding a pony, milking a cow, or racing pigs.” This statement could be a glowing example of how ignorance is foster ed by the misrepresent ation of agricultural events from the framing of news. The “raci ng of pigs” he refers to is performed by an outside entertainment vendor to the festival s. In this venue, young pigs race through a course to receive the prize of an Oreo c ookie. These shows ar e viewed by the public from bleachers where they have no direct cont act with the animals; the pigs are handled by their trainers. Therefore, a top public official assi gned a possibility of disease transmission to a scenario that woul d be highly unlikely, undoubtedly based upon misinformation. Besides, the food born vector possibility he stat es first should have created enough speculation to prevent the reporter from making what sounds like qualified statements of public health endange rment directed at these events. They are really only designed to help educate and fa miliarize the public with some elements of agriculture. Nguyen even places within the ar ticle a description of a 12-year-old girl’s sudden death following her visit to the Stra wberry Festival, but with no accompanying


61 forensic evidence to back up the speculation th at is implied by the article. The girl was found to have died from pneumonia, a fact pointed out in a later, much more benign article by the same reporter (Thalji, 2005). This story was written about over a twomonth period by this journalist in a series of articles that ar e written simply in a ‘learn-asyou-go’ fashion. This type of reporting is se verely problematic beca use not every reader gets the benefit of reading the entire series. There will likely be a significant percentage of those who will only read the first article a nd get the impression that agriculture-related events are dangerous for them and their ch ildren. The article performs quite well at framing a public health issue into a warning of possible death resul ting from visiting an agricultural festival and being near farm animal s. Never once did this or any other article about this event mention that both festival s had provided portable hand washing stations in close proximity to these animal-related activities with accomp anying high-visibility signage instructing fair goers to wash thei r hands following animal contact. The first article was two printed pages long and theref ore would have had room to tell a more complete story without slowly leaking facts over two months. These are two examples of the types of news stories that frame an agricu lturalist as victim or villain and dozens more were very similar. Considering the dominant percentage of nega tively framed news stories, this brief and largely qualitative research project may c ontain, at the very least, some inspirational value for future agricultural journalism studies. In particul ar, the fact that more than 82.3% of broadcast news stories about agricu lture were classified as negative is noteworthy. It seems likely that a negativ e framing of farm-related news is common, especially so in the realm of local popular broadcast news sources in Tampa Bay. The


62 selection of news stories for print and broadcast is commonly known to favor the spectacular and unusual rather th an the mundane issues of ever yday life. I see this trend as easily observable in the case of farm news and perhaps that is because of journalists’ lack of knowledge and awarene ss of farming culture. Implications The effects of particular forms of fram ing agricultural news by the popular and local news media are potentially severe. Wh ether an article or broadcast news story attempts to humanize or dehumanize agribusin esses and their practitioners, the audience is given information from which to form an opinion. Such opinions in turn may influence public policy. It is well estab lished that media have the most influence on opinion when audiences have few other sources of info rmation about a topic (such as personal experience). In contemporary society, few peopl e have direct contact or experience with agriculture, so news media have an obligation not only to info rm but to educate the public on how every product they nourish themselves w ith is propagated. There are pros and cons to both sustainable agriculture and indus trialized agriculture, but the news media do not appear to inform their audience effectivel y so that the public ha s the tools to make educated decisions related to farms and futu re development. Studies have shown the public to value agriculture for reasons of biodiversity, cultura l heritage, and an “intrinsically valued provider” of nut ritional goods (Hall, et al., 2004: 223).” Wimberley, Thompson, and Labao (2002) reveal through scientific surveys between 1986 and 1991, that 64% of the public showed support for government policies that help small farms. There was increased support for family farms, while 53% thought


63 that large corporate farms ge t excessive governmental benefi ts (Wimberley, et al., 2002: 23-24). This would suggest that the when the public is approached on specific issues related to agriculture, they do have issues of sustainability I mind. However, policy has traditionally favored industrialization and ma ss mechanization of farming. Therefore, news media could be the missing links between policy makers and ‘real’ public opinion, not sensationalized misrepresent ations that could presume to represent public opinion of agriculture. To emphasize the importance of the medi a’s role in disseminating news about farmers and farming, Wimberley (2002) instructs, “On top of farming’s natural and economi c risks, farms and farmers face still other social risks, which include farm resi dents’ relationships to others in their communities and society. Also, farms, fa rmers, and farming practices are judged by the larger society on such things as their benefits from government programs, environmental stewardship, food safety, and th e treatment of animals. The role of farmers in the political pro cess is also subject to the perception of others (2002:12).” People are free to seek out sources other than popular media to inform themselves about farming; however, local news media could perform a major service by filling the gap between the farm and the consumers w ith vital and objective information. The consequences for interdisciplinary approaches to farm news dissemination are significant. Journalists have an array of professionals at their disposal who are able to assist in the understanding of how farming happens. I am suggesting that Tampa Bay news reporters, writers and editors seize the opportunities for improved agricultural


64 awareness that are in close proximity to wh ere they live and work. They would benefit from attending AEDC meetings, Farm Bur eau Federation meetings, attending local agricultural events without cameras and microphones in tow and most importantly, visiting local farmers to gain that perspectiv e on how farming actually takes place. News media members might also take advantage of the knowledge of anth ropologists in local colleges and universities who have performed fi eld work in this area. Such approaches would surely contribute to disp elling bias that may be inf ecting the news narratives about farming in the Tampa Bay area. To the farmers’ advocates such as the Farm Bureau Federation and the AEDC in the Tampa Bay area, I recommend a new partners hip for their public relations activities. Anthropologists, whether as paid employees or interns gaining field experience and training, may provide valuable assistance. Anthropologists have the holistic perspective to consult on issues of public relations from several different viewpoints, specifically the local news media, their audience, the farmer s that are being represented, and the policy makers that affect everyone. I believe th e addition of a trained anthropologist would assist in disseminating accurate informa tion, and thus advancing responsible public relations and would eventually be viewed as an essential member of the process. “What society’s consumers think of agriculture a nd farming is becoming more important and strategic for those who farm (Wimberley, 2002: 7).” I further suggest that academia pay clos e attention to this dynamic between food sources and their mediated imagery. Mass communication departments across the United States, both in private and public colle ges and universities should take inventory of how well their students take advantage of interdisciplinar y study opportunities.


65 Specifically in agricultural journalism, does cu rriculum exist to furt her understanding of how to report on farming issues? As Pawlick (2001) has pointed out, the training in these areas has suffered huge losses across the worl d due to shifting emphases. However, I believe I have made a valid argument here fo r a shift back to an interest in farm journalism. I believe a step toward this c ould begin with journalism schools, agriculture schools, and social science departments cr eating a liaison position that would tie these departments together in such a way that cu rriculum analyses may contribute to better interdisciplinary opportunities being available for future professionals. This would result in improvements in the way the public is alerted to agricultural issues. For the discipline of anthropology, working inside our own communities is a much needed endeavor (Greenbaum, 2006). I cannot think of a better adventure for applied anthropologists to try than the study of farming, both past and present, in the United States of America and how the news media report on it. Across our nation, agronomy is still prevalent. Archaeologist s have made monumental advancements in supplying the public with knowledge of prehisto ric cultural activities right in their own backyards and have subsequently assisted in the cultural preser vation of discovered resources. Why not study to pr eserve sustainable agriculture in our own localities as well while advocating for better news reporting? My vision for anth ropology’s role in agriculture and its portrayal by the news is realistic. I believe interaction between farms, journalism, and anthropology is long overdue. For decades, farmers have grown accustomed to the presence of universities in th eir rural habitats in the form of extension offices. But rarely does one hear of a pplied anthropological ac tivities in farming communities, especially in those that exist on the urban edge. I believe an excellent


66 opportunity exists for anthropology to partne r with farmers and journalists in those communities. Neveu (2002) remarks, “It is impossible to understand the kind of journalism practiced on the loca l desks of regional newspa pers…without focusing closely on the relations of mutual familiarity and interdependence between journalists and their sources (2002: 56).” Anthropology will benefit by collecting data and attracting a rural demography to the discipline so as to divers ify the classrooms that much more. Farming will benefit as the data collected will be a valued resource for other disciplines, farming advocates, media, and policy makers. Suggestions for future study My current study relies on media cont ent analysis, info rmed by my own knowledge of the issues gain ed through participant-obser vation. However, a next important step would be to add an au dience analysis, to determine how real viewers/readers respond to news coverage of farming issues. A future study design, to build on the current work, would involve form al interviews and surveys (with full IRB approval) of agriculturalists, policy makers, and journalists. To achieve this, I would set up a conference room at the local Farm Bur eau office, for familiarity, and invite a minimum of 25 farm owners or their representa tives to view a series of news broadcasts about farming issues. The group members woul d be chosen randomly, but chosen in way that all commodities grown locally were represented. A survey would then be administered to the group for feedback. This survey process would th en be repeated at a more neutral location with a random sample of local residents. The surveys would be read and statistics would be calculated to weigh responses An interview with the


67 agricultural economic impact chair person from the Board of County Commissioners (B.O.C.C.) would be conducted with questi ons that were formulated to gain an understanding of how the commission gather s information necessary to make policy regarding agriculture and how they are in fluenced by local news coverage. Once analyzed, the results of the su rveys would be shared with all members of the commission. The final stage of the study would involve a directed focus group of 1-2 representatives from the AEDC, Farm Bureau, the B.O.C.C., each local newspaper (preferably an editor and reporter), and each local news station aff iliate. The interview from the B.O.C.C. would serve as the guide for the focus gr oup. The focus group would include showing examples of news stories, both broadcast and written, to the en tire group prior to any exchange of dialogue. The purpose of this study and would be to design an anthropologist liaison pos ition to connect these entities in way that may improve reporting of agricultural issues making them more informative. This in turn would hopefully influence future policies to improve conditions for farmers, consumers, and policy makers. Were it successful, this program could inspire communities nationwide and anthropology would have yet anot her demography in which to study the consequences of holism and interdisciplinary work.


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