Well-known D.C.-based agriculture reporter Philip Brasher was recently let go by the Des Moines Register. His reporting also often appeared in USA Today; both papers are owned by the parent company Gannett. The loss is a reflection of the climate in journalism today, in which most mainstream media is forced to make cutbacks to editorial and reporting staff due to losses in advertising revenue. But here is why you should really be concerned about the future of food and agriculture policy in this country.
Journalism is necessary to inform the public and maintain our democracy. The agriculture beat was once an important area of coverage at all major outlets, delivering information about rural areas as well as policymaking on food in Washington. But the “agriculture beat” has been dying a slow death for five decades.
As I have written before, this issue area is currently evolving to engage consumers about where their food is coming from. Food-focused stories often go viral on the internet, and even win Pulitzer prizes. Unfortunately, while there is a growing hungry readership for this reporting, editors haven’t all made that connection. Agriculture reporting has often been the first to get the axe during these times of austerity, and most major outlets have yet to dedicate anyone to the consumer-oriented food policy beat.