ISSN 1051-0834 ©

VOLUME 100, NO. 1


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Agricultural Communications: A National Portrait of Undergraduate Courses [PDF]
Karen J. Cannon, Annie R. Specht and Emily B. Buck
Abstract: Considerable research has been conducted regarding competencies needed by agricultural communication program graduates during the past four decades. However, no studies have considered actual program offerings. This study used a qualitative approach to analyze courses offered in agricultural communication programs in the United States. Using content analysis methods, researchers analyzed published course descriptions and discovered 21 categories among 172 courses. Most popular were writing courses, followed by courses introducing students to the major, internship courses, and writing for publication and graphic design courses. Categories with the fewest offerings included research, study abroad, and international focused courses. Findings from this analysis are consistent with previous literature noting the variety existing in agricultural communication programs at the national level. With the current growth of agricultural communication as an academic discipline and the fundamental role agricultural communicators play in sharing information about key societal issues at a time when agriculture has never been under greater pressure, this study is a first step in creating a national portrait of curricular offerings in agricultural communication programs.
Keywords: Agricultural Communications, Curriculum, Content Analysis, Course Descriptions, Qualitative Methods

Agricultural Communications: Perspectives from the Experts [PDF]
Fawn Kurtzo, Maggie Jo Hansen, K. Jill Rucker and Leslie D. Edgar
Abstract: This qualitative research study evaluates the perspectives of agricultural communications (ACOM) according to ACOM experts (N = 25) from across the United States. Respondents represented policy makers, industry leaders, educators, and researchers and averaged about 15 years of experience. However, respondents were unable to identify a consistent definition of ACOM. Skills and characteristics needed by agricultural communicators ranged from general agriculture and policy understanding to technical communications and science knowledge. Audience identification, agricultural and policy knowledge, and targeted message development and delivery were all important skills needed by ACOMRs. Agricultural communicator characteristics focused on being flexible, responsible, gaining trust, and thinking critically. Challenges, sometimes noted as barriers, ranged from knowledge area changes to division and defense and from a non-unified voice to rapid expansion of technology. The discussion of higher education institutions training generalists versus specialists is an important topic based on findings of this study. Recommendations for future ACOM focus and education are discussed.
Keywords: Agricultural Communications, Influencing Factors, Future Directions, History

Coming of Age: How JAC is Reflecting a National Research Agenda for Communications in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life Human Sciences [PDF]
Lulu Rodriguez and James F. Evans

Abstract: This study analyzed communications research trends, topics, needs, and opportunities involving agriculture, natural resources, and life and human sciences since the development of a national research agenda (NRA) in 2007. A content analysis of 23 issues of the Journal of Applied Communications (JAC) published over 7.5 years (2008 to mid-2015) examined the degree to which the articles reflected the priority research areas (PRAs), key research questions (KRQs), and priority initiatives (PIs) identified in the NRA. Findings showed a watershed period from 2011-2014 in which the journal produced an average of 18 articles per year. The first RPA (RPA A), “Enhancing decision making within the agricultural sectors of society,” received the most attention, followed by RPA B, which focused on rural-urban interactions. Within RPA A, the largest number of articles addressed the key research question, “What are the most effective ways to identify and communicate information that has economic and social value?” Under this question, the priority initiative (PI), “Analyze and strengthen the effectiveness of communications content and methods in communicating information,” garnered the most research attention. Findings showed a dearth of studies in PIs across the four RPAs, including economic returns to, and social impacts of, agricultural information; how to engage key interest groups in decision making; models of collaboration, negotiation, and conflict management; use of critical theory in analyzing agriculture and related communications; the interplay between data, information and meaning within stakeholders; information asymmetries and barriers to public participation in decision making; the mechanisms by which information is made available; if and how knowledge gains value; and ethical issues and standards. Results prompted seven suggestions for further research progress and direction.

Keywords: Agricultural Communications, Research Agendas, Research Themes, Research Needs, Journal of Applied Communications

Let's Get Theoretical: A Quantitative Content Analysis of Theories and Models Used in the Journal of Applied Communications [PDF]
Lauri M. Baker and Audrey E. H. King


Abstract: Theories and models are an important element in the progression of an academic field. This article focused on quantifying theories and models used in agricultural communication through a quantitative content analysis of the last 20 years of the Journal of Applied Communication (JAC). Specifically, the following research objectives guided this study: 1) describe characteristics (methods, number of authors) of articles in JAC, 2) identify which theories and models have been used in JAC, 3) determine how theory was used in JAC, 4) determine what characteristics predict the use of a theory or model in JAC. Researchers found 87 theories and models identified in JAC with 11 used five or more times and 19 that used between two and four times. Approximately 35% of the articles in JAC used a theory or model. Of those using a theory or model, the majority used it to inform the study, but rarely tested, created/built theory. Other results indicate the use of theory has increased in recent years and the number of authors and number of articles published. Implications for this study are a clear need for increased theoretical vigor in agricultural communication through increased focus on using theory to build on previous work in the industry.

Keywords: Journal of Applied Communications, Theory, Models, Agricultural Communication, Content Analysis


Literature Themes from Five Decades of Agricultural Communications Publications [PDF]
Bo/David Williford, Leslie D. Edgar, K. Jill Rucker and Stuart Estes


Abstract: The discipline of agricultural communications has been developing for nearly two centuries. As the discipline has adapted, professional organizations such as the American Association of `Agricultural College Editors (AAACE) and the Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Life and Human Sciences (ACE) have published literature representative of the topics and issues that have impacted the discipline through magazines and journals such as the AAACE, ACE Quarterly, and the Journal of Applied Communications (JAC). The purpose of this study was to review the literature published in AAACE, ACE Quarterly, and JAC from 1968-2015 to identify primary and secondary literature themes. There were 13 emergent themes identified. The most prolific primary theme identified was Channel Development, Use or Research while the most prolific secondary theme identified was Educating Professionals. A count of the number of articles classified as “professional development” and “research” revealed a shift in the focus in the journal outlets. In earlier years, the discipline focused mainly on professional development articles (AAACE and ACE Quarterly), but transitioned almost completely to research (JAC). This research acknowledges that the discipline has experienced significant literary shifts and provides a recommendation for further research in audience analysis of the literature coming from the journals of the discipline.

Keywords: Agricultural Communications Literature, Content Analysis, Journal of Applied Communications Research

Professional Development

The Spirit Lives On: Communication Seminars as a Surprisingly Hardy, Valuable, and Promising Heritage of NPAC [PDF]
Kerry J. Brynes and Jim Evans


Abstract: After many decades, dwindling numbers of communicators, extension personnel, and development professionals recall the National Project in Agricultural Communications (NPAC) of the 1950s and early 1960s. But around the world many professionals, scholars, and organizations can recognize the spirit and legacy of NPAC, which has had substantial impact well beyond its original national mission. NPAC became the springboard for a long-running series of communication seminars that built the capacity of foreign students, studying in the United States, to return home better able to communicate as change agents in fostering development. Seminars of NPAC also point to key ingredients for addressing urgent issues facing our nation and world today. This study addresses the origins, features, transitions, durability, and impacts of those communication seminars across nearly 60 years. The authors used historical analysis to reveal a surprising trail of service that leads to the present day and beyond. It provides new insights about how the NPAC communication training program has exerted more than 15 kinds of impact on agricultural development, on organizations at all levels throughout the world - and on individuals touched by it. The analysis highlights insightful, unpublished backstories about the communication training heritage of NPAC. It also identifies key elements of effective communication training programs and identifies opportunities for further research and practice. It could help readers identify professional development innovations the Journal of Applied Communications will advance and report during its second century.

Keywords: National Project in Agricultural Communications (NPAC), Professional Development, Communication Training, Extension Communication, Development Communication