An examination of factors considered by the Texas print media on the use of a resource tool
This study sought to determine the impact the CottonLink media resource guide had on the increased coverage of cotton and means of improving industry-provided media resource guides. It also sought to identify newsgathering techniques used and identify the types of articles published and desired by members of the Texas print newspaper media. The population of Texas newspapers was stratified into four groups based on geographic location and publication of cotton-related articles from September 2004 to June 2005; eight participants were drawn from each population sub-set, resulting in a sample of 32. The researcher conducted interviews with participants, using a researcher-designed telephone survey instrument. A total of 26 participants were interviewed. The majority of participants did not recall receiving the CottonLink media resource guide. Participants said they primarily gather information for articles through personal interviews, Internet resources, and the Texas Cooperative Extension. Articles about boll weevils and cotton ginning were the most frequently cited cotton articles published by sample newspapers. Information on new technology or improvements in the cotton industry was cited as the most desired cotton topic for publication. The most frequently published agricultural articles by participants included news and feature articles written by staff writers, Texas Cooperative Extension information, weather information, and meeting and conference information. The most important general news topics to participants were local news and community events, local school news, and local government topics. The most important agricultural news topics included crop harvest articles, weather information, and livestock articles. The most common means of determining article newsworthiness is through topics’ interest and impact and proximity to readers. The most frequently cited means of determining story importance was interest and impact of articles’ topics, followed by attention-grabbing, proximity, and space available. Findings revealed that participants want source contact information and localized information included in media resource guides. The most desired format for information dissemination is though the Internet, press packets or binded copy, or e-mail. Participants said media resource guides were useful because they provide useful, hard-to-access information and story ideas. They also stated media resource guides were not used because of a lack of local information. A selected sample of newspapers chose not to publish cotton-related information said this decision was due to the fact that cotton is not a locally grown crop. Most participants whose newspapers did not publish cotton-related articles from September 2004 to June 2005 said access to resources may enhance publication rates. The most frequent suggestion to improve cotton news coverage was to localize information. Recommendations resulting from this study included suggestions for formatting and distributing media resource guides, providing editors with story ideas at strategic times of the year to increase coverage, providing local source training, and additional research regarding information sources, reporting behaviors, actual determination of newsworthiness, and journalists’ abilities to effectively communicate about the science of agriculture.