Minding Ag's Business

Open for Business

Returning to the DTN team, Katie Dehlinger will help steer farm business coverage to meet readers' needs. (DTN file photo)

The farm business beat is back open for business. It's never really gone away, but now it's getting full-time attention from a familiar face.

You may recognize me from when I worked as DTN's Markets Editor several years ago, but my last name is different -- changed from Micik to Dehlinger. It's a long story, but 2016 was a big year for me: I got married, changed jobs and moved from Nebraska to Nashville, Tennessee to work on RFD-TV's daily news programs, Market Day Report and the Rural Evening News.

Switching from print reporting to television news shocked my friends, family, professors and mentors, including the one who last authored this blog. On the surface, it seemed totally off my path -- trading depth for surface-level facts, writing fewer words when I always wanted to say more, focusing on minute developments instead of the big picture.

I've always been motivated by a challenge, and RFD-TV gave me an opportunity to learn how to produce the news for television. It's a completely different style of writing, and I often joked -- even though it was completely true -- that I would hear Janet Adkison's voice in my head as I wrote the show's script. She was the one reading it on air, and it needed to sound like something she would say. It's downright strange hearing someone else's voice in your head, and it's even weirder that it's a perfectly acceptable part of day-to-day life. (For the record, I did not hear Janet's voice in the writing of this blog.)

In its own way, producing television news is like constantly putting together a puzzle, trying to find the right mix of subject matter, time, timeliness and visuals. There's never a definitive right answer, but there's a best possible combination under the circumstances.

I've grown as a writer over the past two years, and I've expanded the range of subjects I understand because I spent the better part of the past two years distilling news stories down to their core elements, deciding what's essential and what's extra.

I miss the extra. I miss reporting. I miss what Marcia Taylor always ingrained on me: Farmers want to read about what other farmers are doing. A perfect example is tax reform. At RFD-TV, we talked about what elements were changing and who's likely to pay more or less. I'm proud of our coverage. It was informative and included timely input from experts. But in the role I was in, I didn't have the time or resources to do original reporting, and I wanted know: What are farmers doing about it? Are they going to change their farms' corporate structure to take advantage of tax breaks on pass-through income? How are they adjusting their estate plans?

Marcia's death was tough for everyone in the DTN family, as I'm sure it was for all who followed and appreciated her work. Her reporting and writing hit the core of DTN and The Progressive Farmer's editorial philosophy: Help farmers make the best choices for their businesses by giving them timely, relevant information and actionable insights. For me, it's how she taught me to think about ag news stories that brings me back to DTN.

Marcia left big shoes to fill. I know I can never be Marcia, but I can try my hardest to live up to her standards of excellence and service journalism. I know there is a lot for me to learn on taxes, business and transition planning, healthcare, and much, much more. I'm excited for this challenge, and I hope you are, too, because we're in this together. If there's something you want me to cover, someone you think I should talk to, something you think I didn't get quite right or a perspective I just didn't see, let me know. I've always appreciated the feedback from DTN readers over the years, and I'm counting on it now more than ever as I go about Minding Ag's Business.

Katie Dehlinger can be reached at Katie.dehlinger@dtn.com

Follow Katie Dehlinger on Twitter @KatieD_DTN

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