How farming can butter up journalists

The past few weeks have been very quiet in Farmers Weekly Towers. At one point, there were so few people in the office that I was worried I’d got confused and accidentally come to work on a Sunday.

The supply of serious news always tail off during the summer months thanks to the end of the parliamentary session and people swanning off on holidays. However, in agriculture the ‘August effect’ is always compounded by the fact that farmers are too busy harvesting to bother ringing to tell us what DEFRA’s done to annoy them this week.

But while the good journos of FW are left with slightly sweaty palms as we try to dig out a collection of worthy stories to fill our news section, for the national media agriculture is a rich source of summer-time stories.

As I type, ‘Silly cow’s head stuck in a ladder‘ is number three on BBC online’s most-read list, while the tale of Yvonne the Bavarian cow’s rescue mission has appeared on so many news sites that I’ve lost count.

Cow in ladder

Alongside those I’ve read dreadful puns about mushrooms the size of babies, animal rights protesters hanging signs on cow sculptures and bovine pedometers.

Last year I was interviewed by a journalist in America about the prominence of farming stories during the so-called ‘silly season’. She wanted to know why agriculture was the go-to subject for desperate journalists¬† and tried to steer me towards saying it was due to city-centric media types finding farming so alien and ridiculous that they looked to the industry as a sure-fire source of comedic stories.

If I’m honest I don’t know what the answer is, but if I was a farming organisation I’d make sure I held onto my best press releases until July or August to improve my chances of¬† bagging some media coverage (rural insurers NFU Mutual did a good job of this last week).

Bonkers, quirky stories are always going to appeal to journalists on under-staffed news desks during the holiday season. But as a journalist who is currently cringing at having written up the tale of Yvonne the Bavarian cow herself, I know I’d much prefer to be writing a worthy story.

Anyway, I’d love to hang around and debate this some more, but I need to crack on. This story about a cow made of butter standing to be US president won’t write itself…

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