Thursday, December 7, 2023

Marking 20 years of Farmers Weekly ‘doing it for farmers’

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Farmers Weekly was launched as a rural publication in September of 2003 by Dean Williamson and Tony Leggett.
Looking back on the launch, it seems that while some things change, others remain the same, Farmers Weekly managing editor Bryan Gibson says.
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Twenty years ago I was at journalism school, a wide-eyed apprentice despite being one of the older students at 29.

The Rugby World Cup was being held in Australia and I had a week’s placement in the sports department at what was then the Dominion Post.

Jim Kayes was at the Cup so I sat at his desk, being schooled in the craft by Peter Bidwell, Toby Robson and Jonathan Millmow.

It was a great learning experience and over the past two decades so much has changed for me.

While Australia was breaking Kiwi hearts at the RWC, something else was happening.

Farmers Weekly was launched as a rural publication in September of 2003 by Dean Williamson and Tony Leggett.

Looking back on the launch, it seems that while some things change, others remain the same.

The Farmers Weekly ethos was to provide farmers with clear, balanced news about the agribusiness world so that they might have the information needed to make sound business decisions.

That’s still the mantra will live by today.

I’ve been lucky enough to lead the Farmers Weekly editorial team for almost half of its life.

I was fortunate to inherit an experienced team that helped me learn the ropes and grow as a person and a journalist.

There have been many changes along the way, of mastheads, ownership, content delivery channels – but one thing has never changed.

We will always hold power to account, seek out the stories that matter to readers and advocate for them.

Sometimes that work can be a challenging read, because we always look at a specific issue with a wide-angle lens. We don’t just ask what something means to our rural communities but also what it might mean for the rest of New Zealand and the global markets we depend upon.

What never wavers is our commitment to tackling issues with curiosity and without anger or preconceived ideas.

Farmers Weekly is what it is because of the people. 

Dean and Cushla Williamson’s circle-back to the company after leaving it for a time seems like something from a story, but in some ways they never left because the spirit of what they started never left. Since 2018, thankfully, they’ve been back to inspire us to do even better work.

The news team that includes Hugh Stringleman, Richard Rennie, Gerald Piddock, Neal Wallace, Annette Scott and Craig Page is the most experienced and respected in our industry.

The wider team that makes the Farmers Weekly engine run each day is inspiring in its dedication.

Looking back over some old editions recently it was interesting to see that, while farming has changed a lot in the past 20 years, many things are just the same.

There’s another Rugby World Cup to enjoy soon, this time in France.

New Zealand has won two more titles since that 2003 edition of the contest.

But while the All Blacks have a proud tradition and ethos to drive them, they know success is about turning up to do the work every day.

It’s the same here at Farmers Weekly. Each week we say goodbye to one edition and turn our attention to the next.

To our readers, advertisers, contributors and supporters – thank you for taking an interest in what we do.

Because at the end of the day, we do it for you, the farmers of New Zealand.

Another milestone to celebrate

NewsGuard is a US-based outfit that’s running the rule over online news sources in Australia and New Zealand.

From the start Farmers Weekly has had an online presence as well, and this year our website,, received a perfect credibility score from a top international news rating system.

NewsGuard awards the High Credibility 100% score to sites whose reporting is credible and transparent, based on nine apolitical criteria.

These include “Does not repeatedly publish false content”, “Gathers and presents information responsibly” and “Handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly”.

Farmers Weekly digital editor Carmelita Mentor-Fredericks said that in an age when “it’s getting harder and harder for the public to differentiate between fake news and credible sources, having an organisation like NewsGuard hold the media accountable provides the public with a tool to separate the wheat from the chaff”. 

“Farmers Weekly will always endeavour to uphold these standards,” she said.

Farmers Weekly managing editor Bryan Gibson said the newspaper’s goal “is to provide farmers with the best information we can, so they can make the best decisions for their businesses. Media is a rough and tumble game sometimes but at Farmers Weekly we focus on the simple things – verifying claims and facts, holding power to account and advocating for our audience.”

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