Agricultural Communications I (EDRD 3050)
University of Guelph, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development (Ontario Agricultural College)
Class meets Mondays, 7-10 p.m. in Rozanski 108
Instructor: Prof. Owen Roberts
Phone: 519-824-4120 Ext. 58278
Office: Room 445 University Centre
Office hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesdays; other times by appointment
About Agricultural Communications I (EDRD 3050)
This course focuses on developing an understanding and ability to apply practical and effective agricultural communication techniques through regular writing exercises and related activities, such as public speaking and blogging. Special emphasis is given to issues important to the agri-food sector.
Course content and delivery reflects the realities of the agricultural news and communications business, especially adherence to deadlines. Students will carry out timely assignments, including citizen journalism exercises, agricultural-based news writing and speech preparation for the Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture (http://www.cysa-joca.ca/english/) competition.
Why are communication skills important?
We live in a world where strong communication skills are highly valued. For example, corporate recruiters say that they value communications skills ahead of teamwork, technical knowledge, and leadership in their assessment of MBA graduates for mid-level jobs. A survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) found that recruiters rated communication skills above managerial abilities by a 2-to-1 margin. Other research has found similar results: a York University survey of 845 executives identified leadership and communication as the two most important management competencies. This focus on communication skills is the result of changes in the business environment. A more diverse workforce requires clear, accurate language; moreover, leaders at various levels must be able to effectively share information with their peers across the organization. Recruiters also say that students who impress on paper often lack the interpersonal communication skills they need to succeed in business, leaving business schools to develop innovative ways to include communications as part of their curriculum. (source: Globe and Mail, Academia Top 10, August 28, 2014).
What is agricultural communications?
As a field of teaching, research and practice, agricultural communications seeks to support and improve human interaction and decision making related to agriculture, broadly defined. With special traditions and strengths in journalism and mass communications, it partners with other social sciences, including school-based interests of agricultural education and non-formal education endeavours, such as extension services. Communication interests range across all levels, settings and means of communicating – intrapersonal, interpersonal, group and mass. Agricultural interests include all subject areas related to the complex global enterprises of food, feed, fibre, bio-based energy, genomics, natural resources management and rural development. Agricultural dimensions also span all participants in, and stages of, the food enterprise of societies, from agricultural research, policies, finance and production to food safety and security, consumption, nutrition and health and human well-being. The concept of agricultural knowledge management serves as the framework for an integrated, comprehensive research agenda in agricultural communications. (source: First edition, National Research Agenda, Agricultural Education and Communication , page 9)
Course format and student evaluation
This course has three assignments with several deadlines.
Assignment 1 — Speech writing and delivery, 30 per cent
Assignment 2 — Agricultural news story, 25 per cent
Assignment 3 — Citizen journalism, 45 per cent
Total — 100 per cent
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Course evaluation will be online.
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Assignment 1 — Speech writing and delivery (30 per cent). Students will work independently on a speech 5-7 minutes in length. The speeches will be delivered in class and judged by an expert panel, which will pick the top six speeches. Those students will be offered the opportunity to take part in the Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture (CYSA) competition at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto on November 8, 2014, by having their competition entrance fees ($40) waived, courtesy of the Ontario Agricultural College Alumni Association. All other students who meet the competition requirements are also welcome to take part, but will not have their entrance fees waived.
Students’ speech topics will be those established by the CYSA organizing committee for the 2014 competition:
- I am a Canadian farmer and this is my success story
- Why succession planning is crucial to the future of Canadian agriculture
- As stewards of the land, can Canadian farmers do more?
- Why social media is an opportunity farmers cannot ignore
- Why I am choosing a career in agriculture
Marking scheme for speeches:
Content – 20 per cent
Delivery – 10 per cent
See rules (including thanking- and introducing requirements) at http://www.cysa-joca.ca/english/rules.php. Pay particular attention to the senior competition score sheet.
Assignment 2 — Agricultural news story (25 per cent). Students will write a 350-500 word news story, in journalistic style. Topics will be chosen in consultation with the instructor. Students are welcome to suggest story topics and ideas.
Theme: Leadership in Rural Ontario
1. 350-500 word news story
2. Worth 25 per cent
3. Topics chosen in consultation with the instructor; must have some news value and element of immediacy.
To highlight how the agricultural sector is demonstrating leadership in rural Ontario
Stories can be based on leadership examples anywhere in rural Ontario…on farms, in communities, in businesses, in institutions, etc.
1. Week of November 10 – story ideas due (5 marks); MUST INCLUDE 5s and W
2. Week of November 17 – lead, nut, quote due (5 marks)
3. Week of November 24 – first drafts due (5 marks)
4. Week of December 1 – final drafts due (10 marks)
1. Journalistic style (inverted pyramid) using CP-style language
2. Must be based on at least one interview
3. Stories will be published on farms.com
Assignment 3 — Citizen journalism (45 per cent). Students will use the web logging (i.e. “blogging”) platform WordPress (access at www.wordpress.com) to create a blog designed to promote discussion on agricultural topics. Students are to approach this assignment as citizen journalists, and regard the blogs as a medium for raising relevant agri-food news and issues. Eight 250-300 word entries – one per week, starting the week of October 6, 2014 – are required, along with tweets announcing new posts. Use Canadian Press style for entries.
Each blog entry should be three paragraphs. Each paragraph should be 80-90 words long.
Follow this format:
- Paragraph one: introduce the issue, address the “what.” For readers this may be the most important paragraph, especially if you are writing about agri-food technology — a report by the Council of Canadian Academies says only about 40 per cent of Canadians have sufficient knowledge to grasp basic concepts and understand media coverage of science. (source: www.scienceadvice.ca)
- Paragraph two: explain what’s new with the issue (this is the news, the objective part, the “so what”)
- Paragraph three: state your opinion about the issue (this is your commentary, the subjective part, the “now what”)
1. Sunday, October 12 (set up your blog and email me the URL)
2. Sunday, October 19
3. Sunday, October 26
4. Sunday, November 2
5. Sunday, November 9
6. Sunday, November 16
7. Sunday, November 23
8. Sunday, November 30
Marking scheme for citizen journalism exercise:
Content – 45 per cent (eight entries, five per cent each) based on
Post your entry anytime during the week. Deadline is 6 p.m. on the date the postings are due. Late entries will not be marked.
You are being marked solely on content, but you are welcome to increase interest and readership by enhancing your blog with visuals (photos, graphics, videos, etc.).
Recommended reading and viewing
1. The Globe and Mail (www.theglobeandmail.com)
2. The Toronto Star (www.thestar.com)
3. Ontario Farmer (www.ontariofarmer.com)
4. Better Farming (http://www.betterfarming.com/homepage)
5. Guelph Mercury (www.guelphmercury.com)
6. CBC radio and television (www.cbc.ca)
7. Agricultural Communications Documentation Center (http://www.library.illinois.edu/funkaces/acdc)
Fundamental writing help:
Writing Services at U of G Library (http://www.lib.uoguelph.ca/assistance/writing_services//)
1. Canadian Press Stylebook (http://www.thecanadianpress.com/books.aspx?id=182)
2. Oxford Concise Dictionary (www.askoxford.com)
3. Online Writing Laboratory at Purdue University (http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/)
1. Learn from the best: Tips from Toastmasters.
2. A wealth of resources about giving a speech, along with presentation skills.
3. Public speaking tips from MIT’s undergraduate research opportunities program.
1. A primer on citizen journalism from Wikipedia.
2. A marketer discusses challenges and opportunities about blogging…
3. …and then talks about how to write “killer” blog posts
4. What makes a good blog?
5. From a UK student journalist: How journalism students can get involved in citizen journalism.
6. Assessing your blog traffic
- log in to wordpress
- locate the bar at the top and click on ‘my dashboard’
- scroll down the page a bit and on the right hand side there should be a box titled ‘stats’ and in it a graph
- move your mouse over the circles on the graph to see how many views you’re getting
1. Editing out jargon and creating clarity.
2. One of the best all-around journalism sites anywhere: http://journalistexpress.com/
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Specific learning outcomes
When the course concludes, students will be able to:
1. Write and deliver a 5-7 minute speech for a general adult audience, on an important agricultural topic.
2. Differentiate by example between subjective journalism (i.e. citizen journalism) and objective news writing.
3. Write a 300-word news story and understand the inverted pyramid writing style for news.
4. Create a web log (i.e. a “blog”) and engage in citizen journalism on relevant agricultural issues and topics.
5. Apply Canadian Press style to journalistic writing.
|Schedule of activities|
|Agricultural Communications I|
|1||September 8||Course introduction|
||Public speaking workshop. Guest speaker Christina Crowley-Arklie, past in-class finalist and national CYSA senior division winner
|3||September 22||Rehearsal:In-class speak-offs for Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture competition|
||In-class speak-offs for Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture competition|
||Introduction to blogging, news writing and news release writing
|6||October 13||Thanksgiving (no class)
|7||October 20||Blogging — first post reviews
||Assignment #2 introduction
||Story ideas due; difficult spelling exercise
|11||Week of November 17
||Lead, nut, quote due|
|12||Week of November 24
||First draft due|
|13||Week of December 1
||Final draft due
Communicating by e-mail and the class listserv
As per university regulations, all students are required to check their <uoguelph.ca> e-mail account regularly: e-mail is the official route of communication between the University and its students.
Class announcements will be posted on the email listserv AGCOMNET. Class members are subscribed through their uoguelph.ca email accounts.
To use agcomnet, type email@example.com in the “to” field, type in your message, send, and all your classmates (as well as your professor) receive your message.
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The academic misconduct policy is detailed in the undergraduate calendar:
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Recording of materials
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Copies of out-of-class assignments
Keep paper and/or other reliable back-up copies of all out-of-class assignments: you may be asked to resubmit work at any time.