I read a column recently that made my stomach drop, just a little.
The article, a sign-off from seasoned journalist Claudia Cattaneo, showcased not just her career spent covering the oil and gas sector, but also highlighted the current lack of in-depth, credible reporting on a controversial industry.
As I read the following, I noticed something pretty powerful:
In the early days of my assignment, the oilpatch was so eager for mainstream national media exposure that I was greeted with open arms. Likewise, there was big demand for oil and gas reporting by investors, the FP’s main audience.
During my first trips to Fort McMurray to cover the nascent oilsands sector, company executives were so proud of their operations they personally hosted tours. Oil and gas analysts were accessible and took the time to explain the nuts and bolts. Maverick CEOs couldn’t wait to tell their stories…
Canadian oil and gas companies were so technically competent, so admired because of their high environmental and ethical standards, they were sought after internationally.
Did you catch it?
If I told you to swap oilpatch references for “farming” or “agriculture” and read it again, would you say it rings pretty true for the current state of affairs?
To me, I hear the same kind of push that has led to the ground swell of the agvocacy movement, the encouragement of farmers to “tell their stories” and throw open the barn doors, so that the public can understand how their food gets grown.
That push, at least in part, is because of existing criticisms of agriculture. Many farmers will tell you they feel that farming is under intense scrutiny and pressure to change, and not always for the better. Many will also say that part of that pressure comes from an uninformed consumer who simply doesn’t understand why agriculture needs to do what it does to produce food.
Cattaneo also talks about the need for credible reporting for the sector. As someone who cringes when I read most main-stream agriculture stories, I’d say the analogy holds true on this comment as well.
Food itself is different, right? It sustains us, nourishes us, we celebrate with it. Food is inherently good. The thing is, there are those that would argue that fuel and energy is too — it’s very necessary and very personal (hello, 70 hours without power), just like food.
Is the current scrutiny of agriculture practices, valid or otherwise, inevitably going to lead to a similar vilifying of farming? Some may argue we’re already there.