Donna Vestal, (left) Harvest's editor, and Brant Houston with the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, present a seminar on collaboration at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
Farmers like to say that most people think they get their food from the grocery store.
That’s a bit of an overstatement, of course, but they are understandably frustrated by the public’s lack of awareness on food issues.
So that’s where we come in. Harvest Public Media was created as a public radio collaboration by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting about three years ago to focus in-depth coverage on issues of food, fuel and field.
We came along at an opportune time – more and more newspapers had given up on ag reporting as they sliced and diced their staffs into smaller numbers, thanks to the print meltdown. As much as I have hated watching newspapers dry up, I have to acknowledge that we now have a wide open beat with incredible stories to cover.
We focused on that opportunity this week during a trip to Columbia, Mo. Our entire team showed up – Frank Morris, executive supervisor; Donna Vestal, our editor; Jeremy Bernfeld, our multimedia editor; Abbie Swanson, our Columbia reporter; Grant Gerlock, our Nebraska reporter; and Amy Mayer, our Iowa reporter. We were also joined by our two new partners, KUNC, of Greeley, Colo., and WUIS, of Springfield, Ill.
We also met up with Mike McGraw, a Kansas City Star reporter who was behind our collaboration with his newspaper on our series “America’s Big Beef.” Mike spent a year investigating the beef industry, and his report, “Beef’s Raw Edges” outlined a market dominated by four big packers who are creating a new product that has had some safety issues. If you haven’t already, take some time to read Mike’s report – you will learn a lot about that hamburger or steak coming off your grill.
Our reporters loved meeting Mike – he’s an old-school guy who describes getting hard-to-find documents as feeling like Christmas morning, true gifts falling into his hands. He gave our reporters tips on digging into lawsuits, databases and government documents to give our stories sharp investigative angles.
Just as Mike collaborated with us, we are now happy to report that we are teaming up with theMidwest Center for Investigative Reporting, an Illinois-based independent news-gathering group devoted to looking at issues in the Midwest with a focus on agribusiness.
"With daily newspapers concentrating more on urban audiences and pulling out of the daily agriculture beat, it's a great for other organizations, such as Harvest and the Midwest Center to fill that void,” Mike said. “People want to know where their food comes from."
The center is well aware of the media landscape – check out their post on how newspapers do a poor job of reporting on the ag industry.
What can you expect from these collaborations? More thorough reporting on the issues you care about – genetically-modified food, plants as fuel, food safety, industry regulation, rural communities, and much more.
But we also want to know what you’d like to see covered. Click here to respond to our query on what issues are important to you and make suggestions on what we should be doing.
Harvest Public Media was born as a collaboration and we are evolving into an ever-larger collaboration. What we need now is you. Please respond to our query and speak you mind about how the ag industry should be covered.