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Attn. Radio: Being Present Is What It Is All About

NAFB Vice President Jeff Nalley offered up some timely advice at annual Washington Watch event

This is one in a series of occasional commentaries produced through the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. The author is a farm broadcaster and supervising editor at the Iowa Agribusiness Radio Network.

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, it is easy to get caught up in what we must do and what we forgot to do. We focus so much of our efforts on what the future brings and how the past measured up to our expectations that we forget about the most important time we face: the present.

Dustin Hoffmann

The present is the only time frame we have any control over. We cannot go into the past to correct any mistakes, and we cannot alter the future until it arrives.

“Being present” was a piece of advice that NAFB Vice President Jeff Nalley offered the Washington Watch 2023 attendees at the start of our annual event in April in our nation’s capital. While it was meant to keep our new reporters focused on being active listeners, the advice took on a different form altogether. 

Being present isn’t just about focusing on your interviewee; it also is about the simplest thing we can do as reporters: show up. 

Of the more than 175 members we currently have in the NAFB Broadcast Council (BC), we had somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 broadcasters attend this year’s Washington Watch. As always, we had a great Issues Forum. We all enjoyed the chance to talk policy with Congressional ag leaders, cabinet members and United States Department of Agriculture staffers. We also took the issue of our very futures — the terrestrial AM radio issue in cars — and laid it at the feet of the Federal Communications Commission. 

All in all, once again, it was a great experience this year. 

To note, what could be a great event was a little overshadowed by a small turnout. We had only a small percentage of our BC membership in attendance when the issues we are facing are the most important to not only our listeners but to the very offices, stations and networks at which we work.

However, those networks that were in attendance, like AgriPulse, Agriculture on America and RFD-TV — in addition to the NAFB News Service offerings — all deliver messages to a national audience, and it’s great to have them and regional coverage from participating stations all in the mix.  

[Related: “Help Farm Radio Fight for Radio“]

I also want to thank the numerous sponsors and members of the NAFB Allied Industry Council who stepped up and made sure we had everything we needed to make this event a great success. I also want to thank those BC members who were in attendance and also to those who support the event, even if they only were there with us in spirit for 2023. 

Washington Watch 2023 attendees with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. (Photo credit: Dustin Hoffmann)

My next message is to those members of the Management Sales Council folks who put so much effort into marketing our products in our area. Are you sending your broadcasters to events like Washington Watch? If you aren’t, why not? 

I’d challenge you to look at your budgets for next year and include dollars to send at least one of your broadcasters to Washington Watch.  

The quality content and insight your broadcaster will receive from an event like this is certainly worth more than the price of admission. Getting policy information and insight straight from the horses’ mouths should be something your audience wants to hear, your company wants to publish and your sponsors want to support. Not only are they learning about ag topics on a national stage, but they also have the chance to interact with their state delegations, as well. 

What I will also address is that we are right now in a time when the very futures of our companies, stations and networks are at risk. Automakers suddenly feel the need to do away with AM radio receivers in many of their vehicles. It started as a small segment last fall and has really grown. NAFB Past President Brian Winnekins talked to many of us at the 2022 NAFB Convention in Kansas City last fall, and many of us may have thought it was something to keep an eye on, but we weren’t sure how far it would go. Well, in just a few short months, the things Brian told us are starting to progress rapidly. Not only is AM radio in danger, but FM radio could follow. If you are concerned with what this could mean for your livelihood, you need to keep your eyes and ears open to what you hear from other NAFB members and our association itself. 

This is why broadcasters need to “be present,” not only via the questions we ask but in-person, too. Whether it is the next Farm Bill, WOTUS, E15, price discovery or the future of AM radios in vehicles, now is the time to show a strong front. Now is the time to ask the tough questions. Now is definitely the time to be face to face with those who have the future of agriculture and farm broadcasting in the palms of their hands.

[Read More Guest Commentaries Here]