UNL graduate redefines agricultural journalism
By Alex Wach
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Whether it was visiting his grandparents’ farms near Dodge, Neb., or being active in his local 4-H club, Kurtis Harms has been involved in agriculture for a long time.
He also was on his high school journalism yearbook staff. And at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Harms found he could combine these interests by majoring in agricultural journalism.
In 2003, Harms began attending UNL, focusing on broadcasting production/public relations within his agricultural journalism major. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 2007 and a master’s degree in journalism and communications in 2008.
In college, Harms held a summer internship with the Market Journal television program, which airs weekly on the Nebraska Education Television network. The program features information about agricultural business decisions and helps agricultural producers increase their profits.
Now, Harms is the executive producer of Market Journal and has helped expand the program to a younger audience with increased technology. Along with the television program, Market Journal airs online and includes a YouTube channel, podcast, Twitter account and iPhone app. Along with producing the program, Harms also teaches and advises agricultural journalism students.
A typical week for Harms is deadline-oriented. On Mondays, he meets with Jeff Wilkerson, the host of Market Journal, and discuss possible topics for the upcoming program. Interviews are scheduled and the team may even travel across the state to gather video footage or visit an agricultural site.
After the content for the program is collected, Thursdays are dedicated to editing and organizing the show. The show is usually completed by Friday, when it is sent to NET television, online and social media.
One of Harms favorite parts of his job is the travel.
“I really like the variability of my job because it allows me to work around the state of Nebraska and around the world,” he said. “I’m not locked up in an office or cubicle all day doing the same work — something I was worried about when I first became interested in journalism.”
Market Journal has taken Harms to agricultural sites and conferences in Seattle, Las Vegas, New Orleans and New York. He also has traveled to South Africa and China to gather footage for the program.
“The only downside to traveling is having to produce two shows in a week to make up for the time that our team is gone,” he said.
Much of Harms’s advice for journalists comes from his own experiences.
“Find what you like to do, and find those people who are good at it,” he said. “That way you’ll know if you have that same interest and passion that they share.”
In high school, Harms had shadowing experiences involving print journalism that he did not enjoy, and it helped him discover his interest in broadcast journalism.
“Even if a shadowing experience doesn’t work out how you’d like, it helps you network and connect with those that you may never have met,” he said.
He also encourages students to research and learn about whoever is their employer before they arrive for the first day on the job.
“I learned a lot about Market Journal before I began interning there, and it helped me know what my work would consist of,” Harms said. “That early connection encouraged me to learn even more and helped me become the producer that I am today.”