In journalism, the reporter should never be part of the story. But that’s a hard goal when it comes to saying goodbye.
After more than eight years of serving as an editor here at WLJ, I will be moving on. Though I am leaving, I won’t leave behind what those in ranching community—readers who have called to chat, tour members talking shop, industry sources and university experts—have taught me.
Though there are many more, three main lessons stand out:
1. All stories have a long history.
Just like your multi-generational ranches, every single story is not a standalone event, but instead the result of years of history. There have been some stories I have worked on—the Bundy standoffs, the Hammond cases, the fights over the checkoff, the ongoing battle over WOTUS, the Hage cases, and so many more—that have spanned decades. Several of those stories have been around for longer than I have.
Reporting on long-running stories can be a daunting challenge, but those histories aren’t just a part of a story; they ARE the story. They cannot be separated.
This lesson has served me well in explaining details of the beef industry to friends and strangers alike. When they are confused about something, telling them how and why that practice came to be helps them understand.
2. Being outcome focused gets things done.
It’s not news that the ranching community doesn’t always get along with other communities. Sometimes, it doesn’t even get along with itself. Still, ranchers have taught me that a broad, outcome-based outlook is where progress is made. I have seen this in the gains that have been and are being made in issues like wildlife management, range improvements, and feral horses to name a few.
The lesson to focus on broad goals rather than the details of “how?” to achieve them is one everyone should learn.
3. You can—and must—always improve.
Neither ranchers nor journalists can afford to be perfectionists. Once that calf is born, your genetic choices are set in stone for that year. Similarly, once a paper has gone to press, it’s printed and done. You can try to fix problems after the fact—corrections can be run and problem calves can be doctored—but, in general, all you can do is know for the future and do better next time.
Similarly, you can’t ever rest on laurels. Last decade’s top genetics will be this decade’s mediocrity. Last year’s award-winning article will only collect dust and get further out of date and be useless to today’s readers.
Growth, improvement, and change are a must. If you stagnate, you will get left behind.
Thank you all for your part in teaching me these things. I will take these and all the other lessons with me into the future. I will use them to better tell the story of agriculture to those who don’t know or don’t understand what you do.
When I came to the world of agriculture, I was just a suburban kid who didn’t know about what you do. I got glimpses of modern agriculture by tagging along with my dad, a life-long dairy journalist, to the big California dairies.
These glimpses showed me that what most people “knew” about modern ag was flat out wrong. Maybe even lies. And that disinformation could not stand. But I knew farmers and ranchers are busy, so I figured I could help communicate the truth of modern agriculture to people. Like many young people, I got fired up to “tell the story of agriculture.”
Pete gave me a chance to do that by taking a chance on me and hiring me green out of college. He taught me the intricacies of the cattle markets and the industry. He literally taught me the language of the markets, among so many other things, and for that I thank him in particular.
Though this is the last paper that will have my name in the masthead, this will not be the last time I write about, for, and on behalf of ranchers and agriculture. While I will no longer be part of WLJ’s story, it and the ranching community it serves will always be part of mine.
Thank you. — KERRY HALLADAY