Among many lovely conversations with readers at the Farm Progress Show this week, one exchange has had me thinking, ever since.
He began with a statement: "You have written a couple columns about biotechnology." I confirmed that as true. He followed up with a question: "So you have to tow the party line? Or do you believe what you wrote?" I asked him to clarify and he responded, "Someone's paying you to write that? You don't really believe that, right?"
And I'll be honest: my first thought was, "Here we go." But my second, and prevailing, thought has been more along the lines of: "That's really kind of insulting."
A disclaimer: I am not insulted easily. I tend to figure people have the right to their opinions and have developed a reasonably thick skin, having done this job for several years now. We don't have to agree. The world will keep spinning.
But it's insulting to me as an agricultural journalist when someone assumes I have been paid or influenced by an advertiser. I assured the reader that if I have written something, it is darn well my own opinion, and that in 15 years at Prairie Farmer no one has ever told me what I could and could not write. Not once. Not ever. In 15 years. Actually, 15 and a half.
The problem, of course, is that it's becoming more common for people to assume that if you don't agree with them, someone must be paying you off.
That is simply bad logic. And poor debate. To assume that someone is being paid off is to assume:
1/ They are incapable of forming their own opinions;
2/ Their morals are so poor that they are willing to sell their opinion;
3/ Your own argument is so superior that it's beyond debate, sufficing to write off the disagreeing party with a simple, "You must be paid to think that."
Please understand this: when you read an opinion column in Prairie Farmer, it is solely the opinion of that editor. Not an advertiser. Not an influencer. Not someone with deep pockets. It is an opinion formed after careful study, research, experience and time.
Nobody's paying us off. Not even Monsanto. I promise.