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  • Real Pork Trust Consortium

Award-Winning Insights: Dr. Masambuka-Kanchewa's Study on Agricultural Students' Media Awareness

The 2024 Association of International Agricultural and Extension Education (AIAEE) conference, held in Orlando, Florida, from April 22nd to 25th, brought together agricultural professionals and researchers from around the world. Among the attendees were several members of the RPTC communication objective team, with some engaging in the conference's poster and oral presentation sessions. One standout presenter was Dr. Fallys Masambuka-Kanchewa, whose compelling poster presentation not only captivated the audience but also earned her the prestigious Distinguished Research Poster Award. 


Dr. Fallys Masambuka-Kanchewa standing beside her poster, titled "Communicating with Impact Using Art or Science: Examining Student Reactions to Media Portrayals of Animal Agriculture"

With contribution from her co-authors Alexa Lamm, Shuyang Qu, Michael Retallick, Catherine Sanders, and Kevan Lamm, Dr. Masambuka-Kanchewa's poster, titled "Communicating with Impact Using Art or Science: Examining Student Reactions to Media Portrayals of Animal Agriculture," delved into the exploration of agricultural students' perceptions of mainstream media's approaches in portraying the animal industry. The study was prompted by previous research indicating that mainstream media often contributes to a negative perception of U.S. agriculture. It highlighted communication as an art, showcasing how media effectively uses thought-provoking titles and disturbing images from slaughterhouses or crowded production pens to influence public opinion. This often leads to frustration among agricultural students when faced with these negative portrayals, resulting in reactive rather than proactive communication. 


The study aimed to address the limited skills among students in recognizing media tactics and to assess their ability to decipher communication approaches used in the media. The qualitative research study involved 66 undergraduate student participants who were asked to reflect on the impact of a mainstream media story on reader perceptions of the pork industry and to describe the author's approach to communication. 


Dr. Fallys Masambuka-Kanchewa's poster, titled "Communicating with Impact Using Art or Science: Examining Student Reactions to Media Portrayals of Animal Agriculture"

The findings of Dr. Masambuka-Kanchewa's study shed light on the critical need to enhance agricultural students' ability to discern fact-based information from emotionally charged messaging strategies. While most participants found the information presented in media articles valid, there were concerns about the framing of these messages. Future research could further explore if these reflections are specific to the U.S. context or if they reflect broader global trends in media literacy among agricultural students.


The feedback Dr. Masambuka-Kanchewa received from conference attendees further emphasized the importance of training students in critical and analytical skills. Many echoed the sentiment that communication should be viewed not just as an art but also as a science. One attendee expressed concern over the trend of prioritizing technical writing skills over analytical and critical thinking skills in student training.


These comments underscore the necessity of equipping agricultural students with a well-rounded skill set that includes the ability to critically analyze and evaluate information, ensuring they are prepared to face the complex challenges of the agricultural industry.


We are grateful for the generous support from the National Pork Board (NPB) in funding opportunities such as the AIAEE Conference through the RPTC project, which made our participation in this event possible.


Read more about RPTC communication team at this conference in our blog covering the full AIAEE Conference.

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