Monday, April 26, 2010

Journalism Ethics Out the Window

When did ethics, fact checking, and overall good reporting become optional? "The Problem with Factory Farms", written by Claire Suddath, both shocked and horrified me; however, it was not the content but her journalism--or lack thereof. Her interview of David Kirby was biased, contained as many comments as questions, and she never once challenged any information--even false. This article was clearly the work of an activist, not a journalist.

The article claimed, "The farmer can't even eat his or her own animals." In reality, yes we can. In fact, we have a pig, which we hand picked out of our own barn, resting comfortably in delicious pieces in our freezer. Kirby also criticizes companies because they "tell them [the farmers] exactly how to build the farm, what to grow, and what to feed." For one, we choose how to build our farm, the company only provides blue prints for the buildings. This is handy since none of us are building engineers. We have never been told what to grow and the feed is provided by the company to insure optimum nutrition during the different stages of growth. In addition, Kirby's definition of a CAFO is severely lacking; however, Suddath does nothing to correct him or even follow up on the issue.

Another point this article made that shocked me was Kirby's views on manure. "It has nowhere to go." He claims, "You don't have enough land to absorb their waste." I am sure if Suddath or Kirby consulted the Department of Natural Resources, they would find such claims to be false. In fact, DNR will not issue a permit if the farmer does not have a manure management plan in place and land enough to apply it. This article also claimed that "this kind of stuff" is not regulated. Please visit the Missouri DNR website and you will quickly find just how regulated "this kind of stuff" really is.

Finally, as my rant lingers on, I must comment on Kirby's closing statements. "There's no farm house on a factory farm..." and his claim that the pigs in a CAFO sound like "kid's being tortured...all night long." Not only does our family live only a few hundred yards from our barns but we have never had any problems with the sounds of "kid's being tortured." Of course, pigs squeal and make noise but, like any other animal, they eventually settle down and most pigs even snore. We farm land, we raise pigs with concern for their health along with the environment's, we live on the farm close to the barns, all the above mentioned are things Kirby and Suddath claim don't exist with CAFOs. Yet another misconception.

Bottom line, this kind of reporting, especially by major periodicals such as Time, is dangerous to agriculture, farmers, and the economy. Spreading misconceptions to consumers is both irresponsible and just bad reporting. I for one am sending an email to Time magazine to complain about this biased, misleading article. If you care about agriculture and maintaining affordable food in this country, I urge you to do the same. Email the Editor at


  1. I have a paper about journalism ethics due so where do I start?

  2. @Silver MLM--As far as actual journalism ethics go, i.e. real world journalism, common sense is the best place to start. However, if it is resources you need for an assignment I would start with Reporting for the Media by John R. Bender, ISBN # 9780195337433. If you can grab this book from your local library (or purchase a cheap used one) it has a section on ethics.

    As far as online resources go: -- This site has a list of articles written about this subject. It has a link to the First Amendment Handbook and articles from The Pew Center for Civic Journalism among many, many others. It is a great place to start your ethics journey. Hopefully I have been of some help. Good luck on your paper and thank you for visiting The Bacon Blogger.