Ag Journalism: Where agriculture, technology and editing meet
By Shelby Cammack
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Fresh out of high school, Tyler Harris knew he wanted to focus on journalism at the University of Iowa.
Harris grew up on his family farm in southwest Iowa where they grew corn and soybeans while also raising beef cattle.
When Harris was a sophomore at the university, he was introduced to agricultural journalism by influential mentor, Ted Gutsche.
In college, Harris enjoyed spending time in rural towns and on the farm — more so than he did reporting on urban issues.
“It was my way of holding onto who I was, going out onto the farm and interviewing farmers,” Harris said, “and that’s something I fell in love with immediately.”
Harris graduated in 2012 and took an internship with Wallaces Farmer magazine. There, he was able to experience and report on the effects of the severe drought on the agriculture industry.
After his internship, Harris joined the Penton Agriculture team, the parent company to multiple publications including Wallaces Farmer, Nebraska Farmer, BEEF Magazine, Farm Futures and many others.
Harris worked as a field editor, covering stories across much of Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska. In 2015, Tyler became the editor of the Nebraska Farmer magazine.
Nebraska Farmer has traditionally been a print publication. The newest challenge has been finding a way to covert stories to a digital format to make them more user-friendly; how can information be broken down in a way that’s more understandable. Harris sees photos as a big piece of this puzzle.
Since he became editor, Harris has adapted a new model with the organization. Expansions into social media like Facebook has allowed content from the Nebraska Farmer magazine to reach people who don’t live on a farm or ranch but still have a personal connection with agriculture that resonates. The use of GoPro cameras and drones have allowed Harris to share videos of harvest and other agricultural processes.
Harris created a podcast series for Nebraska Farmer focused on crops. Topics throughout the growing season including nitrogen management, water management and hybrid selection.
From this new platform, Harris is looking for a different way to get information to people. He’s targeted drivers and YouTube subscribers.
“With the period we are at in agriculture, it seems like there is something new coming down the line each week,” Harris said.”You have a front row seat and get to see all the new technology, cover the new product launches and visit with the growers that will be using the products.”
Harris advises young people interested in the field to go into everything with an open mind and be willing to learn something new.
“In the new age of agriculture, everything is changing,” he said, “there will be people bringing in new ideas, you’re going to learn about a lot.”