Editors' Notebook

In Search of Truth

Greg D Horstmeier
By  Greg D Horstmeier , DTN Editor-in-Chief
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"Just print the truth," a long-time DTN subscriber admonished into my ear recently. This wasn't the first time I'd heard or seen that comment, or something similar, of late.

"Well, of course we'll print the truth," I replied. That's what DTN subscribers, in particular, pay us for. DTN's business model, paid subscriptions, was designed to create an environment where the content is as free from outside forces as possible.

I have reflected on that conversation a lot lately as I see and hear varying thoughts on what "the truth" is, particularly when related to the recent election and ongoing political actions.

The issue of "the truth" came to mind once again as we pulled together the data for our most recent DTN/The Progressive Farmer Agricultural Confidence Index survey. You've seen that story in our Top Stories slots on various DTN platforms.

As you'll likely take from reading that story, pollsters and pundits are amazed at the level of anticipation for things to get demonstrably better for farmers in the year ahead. The only thing any observers can hang farm-country's optimism on is President-elect Donald Trump.

While it's great to see optimism, it does give those of us trying to find "the truth" a bit of pause, honestly. We'll continue to cast a critical eye to all things, including the incoming administration. That's no different than any other time. With so much anticipation out there this time, however, and with the emotion some have surrounding that anticipation, it does increase the calls and comments from readers who sometimes feel we're siding with the "sore losers" from non-Trump circles when that critical eye points out items that could potentially be bad for agriculture.

Many of those comments include some version of guidance given by a North Dakota farmer, state representative and Trump supporter Mike Brandenburg, to "wait and see." Certainly, "truth" is a lot clearer in hindsight, and we hope for nothing less than history showing that the farm economies and conditions improve in the coming months and years.

In the meantime, arriving at something even close to resembling the truth with this president-elect can be a challenge for journalists both in and out of agriculture. Reporters report what people say. They especially report, with little effort for analysis or "truthing," things said (or these days, tweeted) by the person known as POTUS, or the individual about to become that person. A deference to presidential utterances comes naturally with the job. The phrase "the president alleges" just doesn't roll off the tongue or the fingers.

But Trump, the individual, is well-known for his penchant to say things, even things shown to be outright lies, simply for effect. Some of his supporters admire that, noting it's Trump "speaking his mind, not being afraid to say what others are thinking." While it may be true that is what he does -- speak his mind -- it does not, unfortunately, make what's on his mind necessarily true.

So journalists, including yours truly, will likely struggle to come to grips with reconciling what is said versus what to say about what is said.

We'll continue to report what we see and learn, regardless of whose version of "the truth" that knowledge seems, at the time, to fall under. We'll focus that information on what it means to farmers. That's what you pay us for.

And, as always, we'll gladly accept and discuss those calls and emails when readers feel compelled to reach out to us.

Greg Horstmeier can be reached at greg.horstmeier@dtn.com



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