A word about the bulletin board

On the south wall of the AgComm office sits this bulletin board.  Formerly, it was hanging, but that will be a story for another time.

Right now, I want to give you a tour of our bulletin board.  It tells a lot about the culture of our little office and explains what makes us who we are.

Let’s start with the “Eat Clean” posters pinned in the upper left hand corner.  These prototypes just might be the crown of the bulletin board.  Since last June, we’ve diligently worked on researching for these posters and figuring out how to best communicate vegetable safety to underserved audiences.  We’re happy to say that we’re taking photos for the posters this Friday and we’re quite excited.

Going counter clock-wise, you’ll see a letter to the editor I wrote about Occupy Wall Street and Lisa’s lovely visual representation of “The Labyrinth.”

Continuing counter clock-wise, there’s a gem of a document that Lisa found about phrases commonly used in research and what they really mean.  For example, “While it has not been possible to provide definite answers to the questions” really means “An unsuccessful experiment, but I still hope to get it published.”  Suffice it so say, this has brought much laughter to the office over the past few months.

The picture of the Village  Vegetable People was printed and hung on the bulletin board when we first started the project.  For some reason, we thought they would be a fitting inspiration for us.  Don’t ask me why.  When we find ourselves bored or not knowing what to do with our time, we play with the Chinese finger trap that is pinned over the Village  Vegetable People picture.

In the office, we frequently talk about vocabulary  and punctuation (I’m not joking about this! )  That’s why there’s a defense of the Oxford Comma on the board.

The newspaper clipping served as inspiration when we initially started discussing how to effectively communicate information about vegetables—a subject that isn’t particularly interesting to many.

Starting in January, the miniseries “Downton Abbey” gained a bit of a cult following among the three females working in the office.  Every Tuesday we’d chat about what happened on Sunday’s episode, and speculate where the show might go.  Eventually, we fell prey to the “Which Downton Abbey Character Are You?” quiz and uncovered startling things about ourselves.  Abigail is Bates, Lisa is Sybil, and I am Matthew.  As Dr. Tucker didn’t participate in the Downton frenzy, we assigned him the character of Carson.  At the top of the poster is this quote from the stately Dowager Countess: “I do hope I’m interrupting something.”  A more apt commentary on our office I cannot think of.

On the topic of quotes, the last item adorning the board is a pithy little dictum from our very own Abigail Borron: “I know the wheel has already been invented.  I just think I can do better.  Just saying…”  Need I say more?

And that, reader, is the culture of our office on a bulletin board.  I hope you enjoyed the tour.



Unmasking Photo Editing

This post comes from Jessica Thayer who is a senior in Ag Comm with a minor in Art and Design.  Using her knowledge of the topic, Jessica draws attention to the power of photo editing programs in this post.

Editing photographs has been around probably as long as photography itself. With advancing technologies making it easier and cheaper, it has become common for anyone to be able to manipulate an image and it’s important for people to realize this.

Photoshop and other photo editing software are allowing people to create images from scratch and edit original photographs to a point where they’re hardly recognizable. As a senior studying agriculture communication, I have come across many controversies surrounding the ethics behind editing photographs.

I’ve found that editing photographs can be easy and fun, but I’ve also found that there is a line you cross when you edit a photograph too much. However, this line isn’t black and white and is purely determined by a person’s ethics and purpose for editing.

For example, in my art classes I can edit photographs as long as I have a creative, artistic purpose for doing such. The same can’t be said for my journalism classes, where photographs should not be edited to avoid editorializing, a term used to describe when someone shows only the part of an argument that is their opinion.

When editing images for art, I’m not trying to deceive anyone; I am merely expressing my point of view in a creative way. When reading the news, people want facts, not the writer’s point of view. That’s why I think it is unethical to alter a photograph that will be published for a news story.

The Colbert Report from Comedy Central discussed how The Economist magazine unfairly manipulated its cover photo by editing out a woman.  Click on the link below to see Colbert’s report on the issue.

Colbert Video

In its television series, The Colbert Report uses photo editing to get across their message. It’s a comedy television series, so viewers expect to see photo manipulation, where they don’t expect to see it, is from news sources.

Even though it is easy to say photo manipulation should be left out of news stories, the topic isn’t as black and white when it comes to other forms of media. Manipulated photos are published without any warning label, so it’s important that consumers recognize that every image may not be showing the truth.

Did you know that many celebrity’s photographs are edited before being released to the public? The extent of manipulation varies depending on the photo editor, but there’s no boundary as to what can be edited in a photo.

Diet.com published a two part YouTube video investigating celebrity Photoshop makeovers and discusses the negative effects photo manipulation has on girls’ self image.  Click here for part 1 and here for part 2 of more info regarding this topic.

Photo Manipulation is a growing problem in the media. It not only has negative effects on the consumers, but it also negatively affects the media publishers. After coming across many manipulated images, consumers grow untrusting of the sources and the media then loses its creditability.

So everyone out there…be aware of photo manipulation. It’s everywhere and affects everyone.  Remember, consumers should protect themselves from hidden agendas and unrealistic expectations by being aware of photo manipulation and its affects on them and their community.  Also, media producers should stray away from manipulating images in order to keep their credibility and give an accurate representation of the truth. If both parties can accomplish this then the news will be presented by the media and critiqued by the public to effectively share information across all communication channels to help our communities.

Just the bees’ knees: Some reflections on reports of a “punny” industry

To inaugurate our new series, I’d like to begin with a post written by my fellow Ag Comm. co-worker, fellow Downton Abbey fan, and the gal who introduced me to PHD Comics, Lisa Schluttenhofer.  As those of you who have previously read this blog know, Lisa is an Ag Comm. major and Spanish minor who will graduate this May. 

In several of my classes, I’ve been instructed to avoid clichés and puns “like the plague.”  However, there is an industry in which, for some reason, even the most educated journalists fall back on overused slogans, puns, and old adages.

I would like to present this nearly ubiquitous contradiction to the cliché rule:  the beekeeping industry.  Sadly, puns seem to be the only way to introduce anything related to my favorite six-legged insect.

Here is just a sampling of real leads encountered in the last few years:

“She’s the queen of her hive.”

“There is quite the buzz in the beekeeping world.”

“City residents are making a bee-line to beginning beekeeping classes.”

“It’s not a sting operation, but beekeepers are giving a honey of a deal at the local farmers market.”

Feel free to groan.

Despite the puns, beekeeping is serious business.  In fact, honeybees are responsible for pollinating nearly one-third of our daily diet, including fresh fruit, vegetables, and nuts.  Without honeybees and beekeepers, we would miss out on a meal each day.

The honeybee population has plummeted since the introduction of a small parasitic mite called Varroa destructor, and in recent years, beekeepers have reported a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder.  The media were all over that, shall we say, like “honey on a biscuit.” (Ok, I made that one up.)

These news articles introduced the American public to a relatively unknown field.  The importance of pollination and the realities of this ag industry were indeed, news to some people who realized for the first time that without honeybees, much of every consumer’s food would not be around or would be very expensive.

It’s a crucial industry, and while the puns are cute, they don’t convey the seriousness of the situation.   So, if you are beginning a career in agriculture, remember the importance of the honeybee.  For those entering the journalism field, consider the words of your first mass communication class.  Avoid the puns; report the news.  Oh, and “bee” happy!

Senior thoughts on Ag Comm

Okay, now that you’ve recovered from the sheer shock of seeing a new post on this blog, I’d like to introduce you to a series we’re doing this semester.  Yes, a series.  You’ve seen that word before on our blog. And this time, the posts have already been written and are prepared for publication.

Last fall, the seniors from our major completed their capstone course.  Over the semester, they extensively researched the communication skills of students in Purdue’s College of Agriculture and gave a presentation for faculty and staff about their findings.

In addition to their research, each student completed a piece for the department blog about communication, Purdue, agriculture, and/or the intersection of the three.

It’s my pleasure to introduce this wonderful of series of posts written by my fellow ag comm classmates.  Over the next several weeks, you’ll read about everything from how the media covers the bee keeping industry to the advantages of cooking for yourself.  You’ll gain insight into the students who comprise the ag comm program and learn a bit about agriculture and communication too!

I hope you’ll enjoy reading the thoughts of these burgeoning young men and women who are about to bid adieu to Purdue and embark on a lifetime of communicating excellently about agriculture.