Behind the Scenes: How Monsanto Works with the Media

By Sara Miller 
Global Communications Lead
Twitter:
@SaraMillerSTL

In my seven years as a corporate communications professional at Monsanto, I have had the pleasure of working with reporters from all over the world. While challenging at times, I value the opportunity to share our story and connect journalists with people who work for Monsanto, and our farmer customers.

The vast majority of reporters have been fair, even-handed and committed to getting the story right — giving readers the opportunity to learn and to make judgments for themselves. Some of those professional reporters have disagreed with us on key issues, but their main priority has been to provide objective, factual information. We respect and appreciate that approach, and we continue to build relationships with media as we work to share our perspective.

That’s why an interview such as this one — given by former journalist Carey Gillam, who reported on our business is more than disappointing — it’s simply frustrating. She is a former reporter who left her career and became a paid employee of an anti-GMO activist organization, funded by the organic food industry. Ms. Gillam asserts that she came under pressure from our company about her coverage when she was still a journalist, and specifically that we would accuse her of being biased. Well, honestly, we did think she was biased. And, we did have conversations with her editors. And, we did check her stories for factual accuracy. The fact that she went directly from being a supposedly objective agriculture reporter to working at an anti-GMO organization suggests that we probably weren’t too far off in our conclusion.

We work with reporters every single day to share our perspective and help them get connected on the topics they’re interested in. We, just like any other communications team at any other company, understand that reporters have a genuine interest in delivering factual and balanced reports that include multiple and diverse points of view.

And, where that’s not been the case, we have asked media outlets to clarify or correct a misstatement or factual error. When those situations have occurred, media outlets are typically happy to make changes in pursuit of accuracy and in service to their audience.

Because Ms. Gillam is no longer a working journalist, we are not in a position to respond to inquiries she makes as if she were a journalist. She is now working for an organization that is interested in advocating for a very specific point of view. And while we respect her tenacity to argue against science and the opportunities technology holds for farmers, we also very much disagree with this perspective.

We believe in the work we do at Monsanto, including corporate communications. Equally important is the role the news media plays in helping consumers learn more about our role in food and agriculture. That’s why every day the Monsanto media relations team:

  • Provides journalists with accurate information
  • Addresses tough questions about the challenges we are working to address
  • Responds in a timely way to inquiries from news media outlets
  • Encourages dialogue between journalists and Monsanto leadership
  • Gives access to information and experts on a myriad of topics
  • Seeks to correct misinformation about our company and make sure that Monsanto’s point of view or those of our farmer customers are included in media coverage

It’s unfortunate that any reporter would ever feel pressure from Monsanto to change their reporting style. But we also want to be clear: there are a lot of misleading claims out there about us and what we do, and we won’t apologize for trying to change or correct them. We champion a media landscape in which news outlets have access to company information and reliable sources, and where reporters have the freedom to write with journalistic hallmarks: fairness, accuracy and balance.

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