Austrian guild and IFAJ president think outside the box

IFAJ well positioned to help feed journalist’ hunger for knowledge

By Bianca Blasl
Member, Austrian Association of Agrarian Journalists & Communicators

As part of the annual Eco-Social Forum winter conference in Vienna, Austria, the VAÖ and forum organizers invited IFAJ president Owen Roberts to make a presentation on the theme “Thinking outside the box – taking action to better report on climate change.”

In his presentation, Roberts described the changing framework for agriculture and for agricultural journalism. He said now, with trade growing and becoming increasingly global, agricultural journalists have more in common than ever and can work together to share meaningful information…if indeed they know each other.

That’s where IFAJ comes in. During the discussion, Roberts said global contacts help feed journalists’ hunger for knowledge and help find the truth in a global culture that is increasingly complex and full of misinformation, fake news and questionable experts.

“IFAJ has decided to not complain about the state of agriculture and communication, but instead to do something about it,” he says. “We changed our constitution to be more open to journalists around the world and try to unite as many of us as possible, from established guilds and guilds yet to form. Our meeting here in Vienna is a perfect opportunity to discuss the challenges we face, changes that are coming about and what can be learned from them,” he said.

Later, Roberts met with members of the Austrian guild to describe programs IFAJ has implemented to help members develop professionally. He praised the Austrian guild for being so active in Europe and internationally, and for supporting the many young journalists who have taken part in the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders and Agricultural Journalism program.

He called on the Austrian guild to be leaders and support others reporting on challenging topics such as climate change, the conference theme.

“Let us help those journalists who have no agricultural background to expand their knowledge of agriculture in order to be able to report credibly on the sector and emerging issues such as climate change,” he said. “Let’s improve the journalistic skills of people with an agricultural background to give them the tools to report competently on the sector.”

There was agreement amongst those present that farmers are increasingly exposed to the scrutiny of the public – and sometimes put themselves out there through social media. Roberts said this is likely to increase, as people are more and more interested in where their food comes from.

“We too as agricultural journalists can use this interest to tell the story of agriculture,” he said. “People want answers. It’s an opportunity for agricultural journalists and communicators to broaden their horizons and be able to report to farmers and consumers, or the government or to the business world. Knowledge needs to be mobilized inside and outside of agriculture.”

The presentation documents and further details on the Communication Conference can be found here.

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Members of the Austrian guild of agricultural journalists and communicators meet for a social discussion after IFAJ president Owen Robert’s presentation to the annual Eco-Social Forum in Vienna, Austria
Stephan Nimmervoll, Austrian guild representative to the IFAJ executive committee, and Owen Roberts, IFAJ President, exchange viewpoints on mobilizing knowledge about agriculture for both farming and non-farming audiences.