Critical article gives Farm Aid chance to clarify work

CHICAGO: Farm Aid was on the receiving end of some negative exposure when the Chicago Tribune published an article on September 17 that scrutinized the charitable organization's level of financial donations to family farmers.

CHICAGO: Farm Aid was on the receiving end of some negative exposure when the Chicago Tribune published an article on September 17 that scrutinized the charitable organization's level of financial donations to family farmers.

But the organization does not believe the article's message will have any long-term impact on its reputation.  Instead, Farm Aid associate director Glenda Yoder says the article presented an opportunity to further clarify the impact of the dollars that the 20-year-old organization raises and spends for farmers.

"In many ways, it was a unifying event and a strengthening event to have a misleading story presented on the day before the show. People rallied and defended Farm Aid." 

The day before the annual charity concert in Tinley Park, IL, the Tribune reported that  the organization gave away less than 28% of its 2004 revenue.

The article was picked up by the Associated Press and other news organizations. About a week after the concert, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly used the Tribune article to argue that there exists a disconnect between the public perception of Farm Aid and what the organization actually does. 

Farm Aid cofounder Neil Young criticized the Tribune article at a press conference the day of the September 18 concert, arguing that the organization does not purely raise money to give to farmers.  

Farm Aid spent $908,940 of its 2004 revenue - or 76% - on programs, including grants, to help farmers.  Farm Aid worked closely with Vanguard Communications, its DC-based PR firm, as soon as the Tribune article appeared.

"They were very involved in helping us put out the message immediately," Yoder said. Farm Aid quickly issued a press release and then used the next day's press conference to dispute the article and also talk about the work of Farm Aid during its first 20 years.

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