Olivia wants to close the gap

Olivia Cooper is a freelance journalist and PR consultant specialising in the rural and agricultural sectors. She is also deputy chairperson of the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists (BGAJ).

She lives in the countryside in Devon with 13-year-old twins and two dogs.

“I was over the moon, when I received the bursary,” she says. “Since I joined the BGAJ council I have realised how important travelling and forging closer links with ag journalists around the globe is. But I also feel passionately that we should have stronger links between mainstream and agricultural press, which is why I wanted to use this scholarship.”

Olivia will be travelling to the International Journalism Festival in Perugia in April and attend a week-long conference with seminars on every topic – not just agriculture. She is hoping to bring back some ideas on how ag journalists can work more closely together with mainstream journalists, and hope to be able to put on a similar event in the United Kingdom.

“There is a huge gap between mainstream journalism and ag journalism. And it really reflects the fact that the British public no longer identify with farming issues, so mainstream media no longer report on it – unless there’s a bad news story.” Olivia reflects.

“There is a tremendous lack of understanding, so when farming stories are covered, they often lack balance and accuracy”.

Since the public rely on mainstream media to form their opinions, Olivia thinks it is essential that they are given the right information, otherwise it entrenches bias.

“Extremist groups, such as vegan, animal rights, etc. are given a huge amount of coverage in the United Kingdom, so it’s important for agriculture to be able to fight its corner.”

The other two IFAJ members who got bursaries are Pulack Ghatack from Bangladesh and Maia Mamulashvili from Georgia.

Pulack will study the feminization process in agriculture with a focus on selected Asian countries with strong traditions of religion-based laws. His reports will be published in the Daily Observer of Bangladesh and on the Bangladesh guild, BAJAF.

Maia is going to study free media principles and agricultural journalism in Eastern Europe. She plans to conduct interviews with journalists in media organizations, freelancers and representatives of organizations from a country similar to Georgia. A special directive document on the existing free media standards will be distributed to agricultural journalists and posted on the website of the Association of Georgian Agricultural Journalists.

More details about the award winners and their programs can be found on ifaj.org

Olivia Cooper of Great Britain, one of 3 winners of the IFAJ-Caterpillar Development Bursary.