Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Media training workshop will help prepare ag community

Near the end of May, a media training workshop is being held in Portland to help people in the ag community understand the media better but also prepare them for doing interviews.

The idea first was suggested last November, and eagerly embraced even by those who quite regularly are interviewed by journalists. Everyone felt you can never get enough training in this area of communication. Sometimes agricultural groups or even individual farmers just want to get their message out, to educate consumers or perhaps influence more positive legislation, image or buying habits.

In today's media environment, sources are pressured to be even more focused, succinct and prepared to give articulate messages within a few seconds. Often these are made to jouralists with threatening deadlines and little background in agriculture.

The workshop will give tips on how to handle these interviews.

Sometimes people find themselves in a crisis management situation — some disaster has struck their industry. It could be BSE, Sudden Oak Death, E. Coli, animal rights abuses or some other unwanted event that throws the spotlight on someone when it might be least expected.

The workshop will provide advice and training on what to do, and also allow people to share anecdotes of things that have happened to them so they can share their collective wisdom on maybe how to handle things differently in the future.

Another part of the workshop will be about the changing technology: Journalists carry new tools, and even print reporters may be using digital cameras, digital audio taperecorders and small camcorders — and be posting stories/audio/video within hours, if not minutes, after an interview.

The workshop will give people a taste of what it's like to face a big TV camera, but also the little camcorders that allow such easy transfer to websites such as YouTube.

Last week, a few people got a taste of this at Oregon Board of Agriculture meeting in Portland.

I carried in our new small camcorder and the digital taperecorder and taped some of what was being presented to the board.

At first some people were unnerved by a little camera on a tripod. They probably would be even more nervous if they thought I might use this as part of the workshop coming up.

But perhaps even more unnerving is realizing the power these new tools — and the changing technology of communication — have and how quickly messages can get out.

I taped an interview with Tammy Dennee of the Oregon Wheat Growers League and posted a few video clips online early Friday morning on YouTube.

By noon today, four days later, one of the videos has had more than 26,000 views. A second clip has more than 900 views.

Welcome to the power of YouTube. It can be very powerful.

But also think of what can be done by those who learn to harness the power.

That is the goal of the media training workshop: Know what can be done with technology, understand the media better, and be prepared to get the right message of agriculture out to audiences.

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