Television Journalists' Viewpoints on Agricultural Stories and Sources in Texas



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Agricultural sources have been struggling to have their messages heard on television news media. News stories about agriculture often contain sources that are not as well-prepared to answer questions about agriculture as particular organizations, leaving those organizations asking why.

Through the lens of gatekeeping theory (Shoemaker & Vos, 2009) and source credibility theory (Hovland & Weiss, 1951) a qualitative study was conducted to determine thoughts on agricultural story presentation and the sources used by individuals in the news media to prepare agricultural stories. A basic interpretive qualitative method was selected, and interviews were conducted to obtain data.

Fifteen respondents from four Texas television markets, two large and two small, were interviewed and data was collected. The data found that newsworthiness of agricultural stories depended on market size, with larger markets airing agricultural stories only when highly newsworthy events occurred, and smaller markets being more willing to run agricultural stories due to the presence of the agriculture industry in their communities. In addition, observations regarding a selected list of sources found that, while opinions on source credibility varied from person to person, governmental sources were considered more credible in general, with commodity groups, corporations, and interest groups being less credible in a general sense.

Conclusions were drawn that familiarity and acquaintanceship play a large role in the selection of sources by reporters, and recommendations were made that agricultural organizations strive to cultivate these relationships to allow for better informational transfer.