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Prominent freelance says Scottish farming journalists must become more hard-nosed in hunt for news

By Hamish Mackay

January 4, 2012 | 2 min read

Prominent freelance farming writer, Andrew Arbuckle, has declared that Scottish farming journalists must be more hard-nosed in picking up good stories.

Arbuckle, writing one his regular pieces in The Scotsman, observes: “One of the most serious allegations that can be made against any self-respecting journalist is that they have ‘gone native’.

“This tag means the accused will swallow any statement made by politicians; will take as gospel the words of various farming leaders; and will even believe the claimed breeding of some prize animal.

“The problem for agricultural journalists is that we operate in a relatively small industry and those of us in Scotland now work in a small bubble with our country’s policies and problems.

“As such, we are often working with a relatively small group of people, and, since most of us do not have too many anti-social genes in our bones, we tend to want to get along with the rest of society.”

Quoting a number of examples where he feels that the Scottish farming press has fallen short in not picking up on good stories, Arbuckle points out: “Having a passive press brings dangers.

“My resolution for 2012 is to be more questioning and less accepting of the given line, and if it reduces the length of next year’s Christmas card list then that is a bonus.

“This Scottish Government has enjoyed the luxury of not having a strong opposition in Parliament and it behoves the press to continue to hold them to account lest they become smug and self-satisfied…

“…Far from going native, I feel 2012 will be a year for lifting up the stones to see what is squirming about underneath.”

There has been an increasing trend for Scottish farming journalists to take up political careers.

Two former agriculture editors of the Press and Journal, Aberdeen - Bill Howatson and Allan Wright - both now hold prominent positions in Scottish local government.

Howatson is Provost of Aberdeenshire Council and was recently appointed full-time chairman of NHS Grampian.

Wright is vice-convener of Moray District Council.

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