I spent most of last week in Scottsdale, Arizona, at our annual Ag Media Summit. And if you're wondering, "Who goes to Arizona in late July?" you've asked an incredibly valid question. The answer is, "We do, because we're cheap!" And it was a beautiful hotel and location, despite the 108 actual degrees, which caused plastic cups to melt next to the pool.
But we were among our friends and colleagues and we had a ball, and we also learned a lot about writing and photography and editing. We had good, hard conversations about ethics in ag journalism, and asked questions like, "Does anyone even know what sponsored content means? Or native advertising? Or independently produced?" As a farmer in the audience said, "I don't understand all this stuff, but I'm glad you all are thinking about it." Truth.
Amidst all the camaraderie and story gathering, we also handed out a few awards. The American Ag Editors Association does it every year, and we award five categories of agricultural communications: writing, photography, digital & social media, design, and marketing communications. It's pretty much like the Oscars, except without the tuxes, fancy dresses and tripping on the way to the front of the room. Also, no paparazzi or TV cameras. Or speeches. But other than that, you know, pretty much the same.
I always, always come away from that night in awe of my fellow ag editors. They are doing good work, all over the country, and every last one of them does it for the farmers they serve. I'm betting if you looked at this list, you'd recognize a lot of those winning stories and photos I'm also pretty proud of my colleagues, who took home some nice hardware for their stories across Penton Ag.
**1st place in Breaking News: Mindy Ward, Missouri Ruralist, “Governor's Beef Agenda Brings Mixed Review”
**1st place in Economics & Management: Bob Burgdorfer, Farm Futures, “Ghosts of the 1980s” (page 1, page 2, page 3) For the record, our colleagues at Farm Futures won every place in this category…who's got your econ and management bases covered?!
**1st place in Editorial Opinion: Holly Spangler (tiny voice: me!), Prairie Farmer, “Wading into the Muck: Was it worth it?” We also won every place in this category...apparently we have some strong opinions!
**1st place in Regular Column: John Vogel, American Agriculturist, “Milk is being outmuscled by fakers”
**1st place in Blogs: Holly Spangler, right here(!), for My Generation (no link needed – you're already here)
**1st place in Podcasts: Holly Spangler, here again, for “Confessions of a Farm Wife, Vol. 11: Type Awesome”
AAEA also runs Master Writer and Writer of Merit programs. You attain each by earning so many points or placings in each of the categories. To date, there are 124 Master Writers and 10 Writers of Merit. Somehow, I made it to the Writer of Merit level this year and found my name next to some pretty incredible mentors and writers. I'm still pinching myself but I will say this: anytime I can be on the same list as Mike Wilson and Pam Smith, I'll take it. Every day. And Jeanne Bernick and Jim Patrico? All day, every day.
For sure, this is a random bit of industry information for your Wednesday, but I hope you come away knowing this: there are a lot of people who do jobs like mine who work very hard to get you the very best information. Every day. Incredible writers and photographers, many of whom are former farm kids who love agriculture. They respect what you do. And if they ever call you up and ask to come to your farm? Say yes. In a heartbeat.