In Pursuit of Fair and Balanced Communications, Part II

Larry Sailer is constantly connected to ag news and market information via his smartphone, iPad, office laptop and piles of newspapers at home near Iowa Falls. Photo Courtesy of IFT Photo by Zoe Martin

Last week I shared with you my Pursuit of Fair and Balanced Communications,  but I didn’t have enough space to go into detail about my experience trying to “speak up for agriculture” as a panelist on live television.  Let’s begin by setting the stage, so to speak…

Mike Haley, one of the founders of AgChat, asked me to appear on a live panel hosted by the Huffington PostSince AgChat’s mission is to empower farmers and ranchers to connect communities through social media platforms, I have no doubt that Mike believed this panel would represent both sides of the issue.  Panelists were supposed to include a person from the American Meat Institute, another hog farmer in addition to me, a food blogger from California, and an animal rights activist.

Nothing went according to plan from the start.  When I arrived on the campus of Iowa State University that Tuesday morning (July 31) for the live news feed, IT pros worked diligently to get me connected.  The live video feed kept dropping, so the show’s producer told me via the telephone that our panel discussion would take place as audio only.

The next thing I know – without any introduction at all – the panel “discussion” got underway.  Someone with an English accent started talking about pigs being tortured, and then the foodie blogger chimed in with similar opinions.  Then without any setup, I was introduced as a hog farmer and asked to explain how I raise pigs.  I explained that animals today are raised in environmentally-controlled buildings that keep them safe from harsh weather like we experience during cold Iowa winters and excessively hot summers.

So far so good, right?  Wrong!  Although I couldn’t see it, I could hear a video playing that was narrated by Bob Barker.  (Apparently, the video feed was working for everyone else but me.)  Very eerie sounding music was playing in the background as horror stories of animal abuse were shared.

After the video ended, the animal rights person and the foodie blogger proceeded to tell everyone how horrible these pigs were treated. I wanted to interrupt their one-sided conversation and explain that no farmer or rancher condones abuse or neglect.  But, the other two guests never stopped talking!  When I tried to talk, I realized they could not hear me.  My microphone had been muted.

This so-called “panel discussion” ended without any discussion.  I don’t know what happened to the other hog producer or representative from the Meat Board Institute.  This Huffington Post “panel” was nothing more than a platform for animal rightists to broadcast their video.

While I knew about the leanings of Huffington Post before agreeing to be a guest, I felt it was worth the risk because I try very hard to communicate (and that includes listening) with anyone who’s interested in how I farm.  I’m not sure if my participation ended up hurting my cause in this case, but I’m not giving up!  The experience only made me more determined to share my message.

Next week is another busy week with speaking engagements.  I’ll be attending the Iowa State Fair on Thursday, Aug. 16.  Come visit me on the fairgrounds in Farm Bureau Park between 8 a.m. and noon.  I’ll also be speaking in Ames on Friday, Aug. 17, during AgIowa State of Now Mini-Conference at the Scheman Building.  Tickets are available, and I hope to see you there!