REDWOOD FALLS - Representatives from newspapers, TV and the Internet told farmers how to better tell their stories at Farmfest near Redwood Falls on Wednesday.
Don Davis, Capitol bureau reporter with the Forum press service, told farmers the best way to get their story told is to let reporters know they have a story.
"Farmers don't do a good job of communicating what [they] think should be done," he said. "I will get calls from PETA, real nice people saying, 'We are having an event." I never get calls like that from farmers."
Boyd Huppert, a reporter with KARE-11 news, agreed, saying, "If you have a message to get out, call me, email me, tweet me. My main objective when I get to work in the morning is to find something interesting to report about."
The journalists also had some specific advice for how to make the biggest impact with the non-farming public.
"Make it as easy as possible to find the two things reporters are looking for," Huppert said. "We are looking for an expert and a 'real person' to connect that issue to."
Lori Sturdevant, editorial writer and columnist at the Star Tribune, told ag producers to connect their issue with larger issues to reach a broader audience.
"Couch the conversation in common language," she said. "Common values [like] food safety is top on that list, environmental concern, water and land quality."
The panel was unified in its message to create relationships with news organizations, so that when news breaks and a reporter needs to talk to someone fast, he knows who to go to in a hurry.
"There are not many editors or news reporters with a rural background," Davis noted. "Take more responsibility for how you are perceived out there."
Huppert said he is the only one in his newsroom with an ag background.
"There is a general lack of knowledge of ag issues in newsrooms," he said. "I am always telling people in the newsroom there is a difference between feed corn and sweet corn, and that a grain bin and a silo are different."
As urban and rural lifestyles continue to diverge, with each side understanding each other less and less, many farmers have become angry with coverage of anti-farming groups, or with use of terms like "factory farms."
Davis told the audience to stop telling its story to people who already know it; it is everyone else who needs to hear it.
Bill Zucker, a representative of the farming community on the panel, works with the Farmers and Ranchers alliance. He told the audience not to be shy about its work.
"Consumers don't know all the things you are doing, they don't know the technology you have or all the things you are doing to improve the impact on the environment," he said.