Journalism has become somewhat of a criticized practice over the last 20 years. More and more citizens have reluctance to trust these sources due to malnourished journalism practices; trust, accuracy and identity are the main risks (Newman, 2014). Presenting dishonest information, underhandedness in collecting stories and corporate political agendas have plagued what was once a respected industry. Media is not currently all disregarded, however, many people take developing news stories with a grain of salt. Especially now with the evolution of blog sites and webpages, large amounts of content can be published on the Internet, unrestricted, and without any form of gatekeeping (Bakker, Patterson, 2011). This evolving technology has led to a development where more and more of the public involve themselves online and this has created an opening for a new wave of journalism; advocacy journalism.
Advocacy vs Traditional Journalism
Journalism has started to experience an exciting trend. In a world where social media dominates as the primary centre for our news intake, many of the public are using this platform to easily globalise their opinions towards a variety of issues. The simplicity of sharing a blogpost to Facebook or Twitter is hard to overlook, and this has opened the door to new forms of advocacy journalism. Advocacy journalism in itself is not a new thing thing. Writers have been advocating since the early 19th century, when ‘Freedom’s Journal’ was published, America’s first African-American owned newspaper (Wisconsinhistory.org, [online]) Now with the evolution of many different technologies, people can have their stories promoted on a more global level. Non-for profit organizations like ‘Acumen’, a company aiming to change the stigma around tackling poverty, and ‘Amnesty International’, which aims to protect peoples human rights throughout the world, both have a large following and are consistently putting out information for the public through this journalism style. Not all forms of advocacy have positive outlooks on matters. We’ve seen the effects of this globalization through radical groups like ISIS, Boko-Haram and the infamous KKK. They use news and current affairs to relate their associated values throughout the group (Schumann, 2016). Charles Dana, a 19th century editor of The Sun, once said “News is something which interests a large part of the community and which has never been brought to their attention.” The same can also be said for advocacy, successful forms of this journalism can help bring like-minded people together, regardless of the positive or negative ramifications.
This style differs from traditional journalism in many slightly different ways. It does not differ as much in the technical ability, or structure in the writing itself, but rather in how the piece is framed towards a particular audience. Forms of advocacy journalism seem to approach news from a subjective viewpoint, whereas traditional journalism publishes news in an “objective” viewpoint- whether this is entirely true or not is another question. A common public concern of the media is that this objectivity is undermined by powerful political agendas. We’ve seen in the Murdoch Press how ideologies can be subtly enforced onto the public. Parry notes that “media owners historically have enforced their political views and other preferences by installing senior editors whose careers depend on delivering a news product that fits with the owner’s prejudices” (Parry,2003). Traditional sources tend to use more official or “elite” sources in their work, which ultimately grants advantages to the powerful. Advocacy journalism includes use of elite and ordinary sources, which is shown to increase the credibility of articles about risk issues.
Advocating for the struggling farmer
Personally, I believe advocacy journalism as representing the distribution of an idea or message to reach a larger audience. This idea does not have to necessarily be socially, environmentally, or politically related, but can have a more narrow focus of any present issue. For example, the idea could be advocating for less bowling restrictions in the sport of cricket, or for more women in male-dominated job occupations, like plumbing. The specific idea is not the important aspect, it’s how passionate you are about the issue which will determine how successful your campaign is.
In my case, an issue which could affect the livelihood of those I love and respect concerns the problem of the milk crisis in Australia. This is something I feel passionate about advocating for. Growing up on a dairy farm this is something I feel really strongly about, and something I am eager to pursue and research further. The current slashing of milk prices by large companies like Fonterra and Murray Goulburn has forced some farmers to take out loans to support their livelihood and sell numbers of their stock, the assets of their survival. These circumstances have arisen after Murray Goulburn announced it would cut the price paid for milk from $6 a kilogram of milk solids to $5 a kilogram retrospectively from 1st July 2015, ultimately costing each dairy farmer an average $120,000 a year.
Dairy Farming is seemingly a diminishing industry in Australia. Setting aside the associated mental barriers of developing and maintaining a dairy farm, financially, it seems unfeasible to continue this occupation under the current state of affairs. Since the 1980’s, the amount of dairy farms in Australia has decreased from over 21,000, to a current amount of just over 6,000. This statistic looks shocking, however this is largely due to the deregulation of the dairy industry in Australia which occurred in 2000. The outcome of a deregulated market meant that processors paid less to farmers for their milk – causing a mass exodus of dairy farmers from the industry. The profit margin per litre was reduced dramatically. Those remaining were forced to increase cow numbers to maintain financial sustainability. Certainly the number of cattle per farm has increased, however this forced a shift in power towards those with larger farms, which in turn gives power back to the big corporations. Researchers studying industrialized farming are concerned with a distinct structural shift, whereby farms have become larger-scale, declined in farmer numbers, and integrated more directly into production and marketing relationships with processors through vertical or contractual integration (Drabenstott and Smith, 1996).
My goal of this research is to keep educating the public on the current issues surrounding the dairy industry, and to inform them of the effects of buying cheapened, corporate replicas of dairy products, like Coles branded cheese, or Woolworths branded milk. According to a Dairy Australia spokesperson, “Branded milk puts more money into the supply chain. That gives the option for processors to pay marginally more to farmers (Choice Magazine, 2016). I understand that while this issue is fresh in the news, the public are supporting the local farmers at present. However, From a dairy farmer’s point of view, this is most refreshing as so often the paying public don’t look at the big picture but simply at the cost of their weekly food budget. The recent support for branded milk is likely to fade in the longer term as the temptation of cheap milk is constantly being promoted by the large corporation campaigns that may eventually win the numbers back.
Realistically the Coles and Woolworth campaigns are aimed at nothing more than numbers through the checkouts and in turn their profit margins. The dairy farmer struggling to survive in a marginal profit situation forced upon them by these corporations is of little consequence to them. The outcome of this campaign is to consistently publish content, to help reiterate the support for farmers back into social media discussions, and to promote people to fully exclude, if not moderate their purchases of corporate dairy products. This will be a huge battle ahead for the farmers, although didn’t David beat Goliath?
Drabenstott, M. and T. R. Smith (1996). ‘‘The changing economy of the rural heartland’’. In Economic forces shaping the rural heartland (pp. 1–11). Kansas City, KS: Federal Reserve Bank.
Nic Newman, Future Media and Technology Controller, British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) UK
The new frontiers of Journalism: Citizen participation in the united Kingdom and the Netherlands, Tom Bakker and Chris Patterson, Political Communication in Postmodern Democracy, 2011 pp 183-199
Wisconsinhistory.org. (2016). Freedom’s Journal, the First U.S. African-American Owned Newspaper | Wisconsin Historical Society. [online] Available at: http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Content.aspx?dsNav=N:4294963828-4294963805&dsRecordDetails=R:CS4415 [Accessed 16 Aug. 2016].
Schumann, S. (2016). [online] Theconversation.com. Available at: http://theconversation.com/heres-how-radical-groups-like-islamic-state-use-social-media-to-attract-recruits-58014 [Accessed 23 Aug. 2016].
Parry, Robert. (2003). “Price of the ‘Liberal Media’ Myth.” Consortium News. Retrieved online from http://www.consortiumnews.com/2002/123102a.html. [Accessed 23 Aug. 2016].