Anna Jones, a journalist and fifth generation upland farmer, will study the coverage of Farming Issues in the News Mediain 2016
I come from an upland farm on the beautiful Welsh-Shropshire border, and a long line of farmers - at least five generations. We have 300 breeding ewes and a small suckler herd on about 200 acres, which is part-owned and part-tenanted. I very much belong to the borderlands, with the Shropshire plains to the east and the Berwyn Mountains to our west. Despite living on the English side of the border, I went to school in Wales, learnt Welsh up to GCSE level and joined Montgomeryshire Young Farmers.
My childhood memories are of bottle feeding lambs, pushing sheep down the race, riding in the stock lorry with Dad and getting told off for climbing on the bales. Family life revolved around farming but I never considered it as a career. From a very young age, probably around 13 or 14, I knew I wanted to be a journalist. I did my first bit of work experience on the local newspaper and, during my A Levels, had a Saturday job at BBC Radio Shropshire.
I went on to study Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, producing a documentary about Foot and Mouth for my final assignment. It was an early indication that farming would feature heavily in my media career.
I was a newspaper reporter in North Wales and the West Midlands before joining the BBC as a researcher on Countryfile in 2006. I worked my way up to director level and, in 2013, hopped across to Farming Today on BBC Radio 4. It was here that my interest in farming deepened, as I grew to understand the ins and outs of the industry and my place within in it. I felt drawn back to my roots and started taking a keener interest in the business at home. My Scholarship is aimed at bridging my two worlds – farming and journalism.
When I’m not focusing on either of those things, you’ll most likely find me outdoors. I enjoy long walks in the countryside and (not so long) runs in the city of Bristol, where I live and work. I’m building up to my first 10k! I’m a sociable soul and my favourite way to relax is simply spending time with friends and family.
I feel very lucky to have two sponsors which will make myScholarship possible – The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society and The Trehane Trust. I am incredibly grateful to them, and the Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust, for this life-changing opportunity.
Study topic: Help or Hinder? Coverage of Farming Issues in the News Media.
There is a saying that goes: “There is no such thing as bad publicity," but I wonder how many farmers would agree with it. Here in the UK, there seems to be a feeling that farming is somehow ‘disconnected’ from a largely urban population and, therefore, a largely urban media. It is a criticism I have heard from people I’ve interviewed, and even my own family. But I also see the pressures on the other side of the fence. If our duty as journalists is to serve our audiences, shouldn't the prevalence of farming stories be proportionate to the rural audience? We are an urbanised nation and most people are 'townies'. How much, then, does that influence the media's approach to farming? And would it make any difference if the industry carried more clout, politically and economically, or if the rural audience was larger?
My Scholarship is aimed at answering those questions. By travelling to a diverse mix of countries - some heavily urbanised, others dominated by farming - I will examine the coverage of major agricultural stories in newspapers, radio and television news. First, to see how they compare and, secondly, whether lessons can be learned from how farmers interact with journalists, and vice versa, elsewhere in the world.