2015 Ag Media Summit participants were fortunate to have the opportunity to attend three sessions given by Jan Winburn, senior editor for enterprise at CNN Digital and a writing coach with over 30 years of experience. She has coached writers that have gone on to win awards as prestigious as the Pulitzer Prize and the Ernie Pyle Award for human interest storytelling.
Winburn’s first session focused on interviewing techniques, a topic that does not currently have much presence in educational resources for aspiring journalists. “There is not a lot of emphasis on interviewing in the journalism schools. I don’t think we talk enough about how to conduct a good interview,” Windburn said.
Her two other presentations included tips and methods to producing fresh ideas, as well as a discussion of multi-media tools and the importance of producing stories on different platforms in order to stay relevant in a world where “clickbait’ rules online media.
Winburn acknowledged “what a poor job we do in mainstream media covering agriculture.” She believes that journalists contributing to the mainstream media, many being part of the 98% of Americans who have zero involvement with farms, have trouble connecting people to the industry. “Obviously there are great connections out there, but we have to work a little harder as journalists to make the connections for the audience.” Without much direct access to the hearts, minds, integrity, and innovation of those involved in agriculture, representing them is incredibly challenging.
Winburn does not think that’s an excuse for the media to leave the industry out of the discussion on controversial topics in agriculture. “It’s incumbent on the media to represent [agriculture’s] point of view,” she said. “I think that maybe there are some failures on our part in reporting in a way that’s completely well-rounded.”
She believes there needs to be a push to put the focus on the people behind the industry. “I think when we do them successfully they’re told in a real human way. They have people at the heart of those stories, and I think we don’t work hard enough [to do that]. We’re just not working hard enough to find a way that people will really grab onto [the story].”
Listen to my interview with Windburn from the 2015 AMS here: Interview with Jan Winburn, CNN Digital