Ethics: Walking the Fine Line

In my multimedia journalism class on Monday, we discussed the ethics of journalism. Ethics in journalism can be very hard to define and very hard to practice depending on the story and the situation. When it comes down to it…I have to ask myself, as do many other journalists, “would you publish this? Would you deal with the consequences of social media? Would you deal with the possibility of getting fired?” Many questions come to mind.

So, when it comes to making a choice, it is a very hard thing to do. You can either publish something legendary and make yourself known, or lose credibility in your work, lose your job or even be banned from the industry completely. It is honestly a personal choice. You make the call, that’s why it is your ethical decision.

In class, our professor used this picture as an example:


Would you as a journalist allow a famished child to lay there as it is prey for a vulture? The food chain is backwards and it is an incredibly moving and honest photo that captures the ideas of how many people are dying from starvation around the world. But still, as a human being, would you allow another human to be eaten by an animal? That is where I would personally draw the line.

In agriculture, there are new laws in progress to protect farms, CAFOs and different large operations from outside media that could be used against the industry. Critics call them “Ag-gag” bills. One of the group’s model bills, “The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act,” prohibits filming or taking pictures on livestock farms to “defame the facility or its owner.” Violators would be placed on a “terrorist registry.”

These undercover videos have caused immense damage to our industry over the past 5 years and will continue to be produced. However, as an agriculturalist, it makes us seem like we have something to hide.

This is where ethics plays in! On our farms and ranches, we do everything for a reason. There are many practices and jargon we use that the common public doesn’t understand and can be hard for them to take unless they know the purpose behind it. I feel like if consumers can’t come out to our farms, we should bring our farms to them. Then they would feel more comfortable with why and how we do things. Through video, we can be completely honest about these practices instead of making laws to stop others from coming in and manipulating farmers and ranchers’ situation.

I completely understand why these are in the process! We need to protect our farmers and ranchers from media which can tear down our industry. However, I feel through honesty and ethical actions we can be openly honest about why and how we do things in agriculture.

For more information about making the taping of farm cruelty a crime visit:




The famous music video parody “I’m Farming and I Grow It,” could not have peaked at a better time. 

When I first discovered the video, it only had 200,000 hits. Now, it has more than 3 million views. I admire the Peterson Brothers of Kansas for their short and sweet message that consumers easily understand. “I’ve got passion for my plants and I ain’t afraid to show it…” Now that’s something that I like to call “agvocating.”

What is agvocating? Well, it morphs from the word advocate which is defined as a person who upholds or defends a cause; supporter. Now, switch the d with a g and you get one of the biggest trends in agriculture today. It is a movement in which agriculturalists, farmers, ranchers, and many others involved in the agriculture industry can tell their story.

How can you agvocate? You can agvocate in any positive way. It’s easy. Start a blog (like me!) Tweet about your agricultural lifestyle or how you take care of your plants and animals (maybe even add a picture!) Give your friends an ag-related and informational Facebook status! You can agvocate by word of mouth. Share your stories with your friends at school, on the bus, on a plane… anywhere! Consumers want to hear what we have to say–we just need to learn to share.

Any agriculturalist, of any nature, is born with a common inborn passion for their land, animals and family. Sharing how your family farm operates is great because it is easier for consumers to relate to. (Can you say free advertising!?) But overall, making the sale isn’t what our agricultural industry is about. We aren’t trying to only make money for ourselves, but we also care immensely about what we produce, and that is a fact! (since it’s ag fact friday!)

I am honored to serve as the current president of the Missouri Junior Cattlemen’s Board of Directors and last week we hosted our 4th annual Missouri Junior Cattlemen’s Association Show-Me Beef Leadership Conference in Columbia, Mo. The MJCA board joined with about 17 attendees to share their passion for the cattle industry. Our theme for the conference was #Agvocate. This conference was in progress while  the “I’m Farming and I Grow It” YouTube parody was going viral. It was the perfect thing to show to the future of our industry how they can tell their story and agvocate when they return home.

The conference featured a trip to the Mizzou meat lab where we had the opportunity to watch how a steer was butchered into different wholesale cuts. We also had several speakers like Dr. Jim Spain, agriculturalist and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies at MU, as well as Garrett Hawkins, the Farm Bureau National Legislative Programs Director. We even had lunch at the University Club, where we were given a presentation how to prepare the food we were enjoying. Overall, it was a very successful conference for the board and the attendees.

My time at the conference led me to ponder if I was doing my job as an agvocate. I believe The Ag Lady is the best way I can share my stories with my friends and consumers. I also have a twitter @the_ag_lady where I tweet about current events in agriculture and I also share my Ag fact Fridays on there as well.

The last night of the conference, a couple board members and I gave refections before everyone was released for free time followed by lights out. Justin Vehige spoke strongly about how passionate he was for this industry and no matter how passionate as you are, there are others out there that are adamant about getting rid of your passion. Justin really hit home with me that our battle with animal activists like PETA and  HSUS won’t stop. His ideas blended with my story well–I gave my reflections about a story I had from my FFA trip to Washington Leadership Conference.

It was the day we were visiting the nation’s Capitol and we were on the Metro. At one of the stops, a couple of PETA activists got on our car and were conversing with each other. Soon enough, I found myself getting off my metro seat and going to make a conversation with them. We talked casually about what we were each doing that day. They shared they were protesting the use of cosmetics on monkeys and I shared how I was going to tour the Capitol. (Remind you, in FFA official dress!) Soon, we were talking about our mutual love for animals and I enlightened them about how I take care of my cows and what I do on my farm. They seemed very interested to hear what I had to say and wanted to hear more but unfortunately it was their stop to get off. The point of my story was to tell your story anywhere and everywhere you can to whoever will listen. However, forcing facts and numbers won’t exactly catch the ear of an unwilling stranger.

Garrett Hawkins of Missouri Farm Bureau shared three simple steps earlier that week for telling your story and how to easily connect with a consumer.

  1. Learn (I learned what the PETA activists were doing that day before I told them about my farm life)
  2. Connect (We shared a common interest with our love for animals)
  3. Share (I told them about my life at home and answered any of their questions)

These simple helpful steps will help you agvocate anywhere!

Hannah Bartholomew ended reflections with the idea to always remember where you come from and keep agriculture wherever you go. I couldn’t have thought of a better way to put my mind at ease because in the end, all you have to explain is exactly what you know and care about.


“At any given time, one of us represents all of us.” Charles Kruse

“If not me, then who? If not now, then when?-JFK