Reporting and reading: surveys on the perception of journalistic coverage of food safety in print and online

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Virginia Tech

The burden of effective communication is carried by journalists whose professionalism and credibility rest on how fairly and accurately topics are conveyed. There are advantages and limitations—in all media—toward these pursuits, and appropriate and constructive feedback is essential to furthering their successes. Bias has no place in good journalism, yet bias is nearly inseparable from the nature of journalism, a profession that draws on the experience, education, and understanding of the reporters and editors who create the content. Journalists are forced into a wedge of appealing to experts in the field, who can easily assess mistakes and find faults on many levels, with appealing to a public that can be undereducated, politically motivated, or simply scared and protective of their loved ones. For this reason, news articles can be looked at uniquely based on the background of the reader, and it is challenging to find a commonality to appeal to everyone. Surveys were distributed to two audiences—fifteen questions to journalists and fourteen questions to food-safety academics—to find where common ground can be reached and where improvements can be made in the quality of food-safety journalism. The questions are aimed at embracing each individual’s bias so as to learn how to journalists can better suppress it in future news coverage. Both groups highlighted the need for better communication and sourcing so as to understand the material and to present accurate and thorough reporting to the public. Closing the knowledge void was a priority for respondents in both surveys.

food safety, reporting, journalism, public perception, agriculture communication