October 2019 – This is the 34th anniversary of the launch of Produce Business magazine. We unveiled the first issue at the PMA convention in San Francisco back in 1985. Since that time, we have committed to publishing a report each year to our readers on the progress of this enterprise.
The world of media has changed substantially since 1985, and we have changed with it. Who knew we would publish on the Internet, do live events around the world, publish in Chinese and Spanish, as well as in our native tongue?
There is no question technology provides many advantages. Produce industry executives used to be chained to their desks because of the risk inherent in dealing with a perishable commodity. They now travel freely, confident they can be reached on their cell phones to receive photos of distressed products, talk to people with video and do whatever is necessary to execute their jobs no matter where they are.
It is also true advancements such as social media have transformed the nature of relationships. When this author was a boy, if a friend moved away, the relationship would probably wither. Today, two distant friends remain connected to each other’s lives. They see where their friend is, what he or she is doing, and they communicate back and forth. They remain friends.
In business, long-distance relationships are deeper because one sees a broader spectrum of life — where your contact is vacationing, what his kids look like, that his mother died, that his aunt is in the hospital. You see your contact’s favorite charity, when he takes his kid to visit colleges and so much you never would have known.
Some people, of course, resist this intimacy. They will accept a LinkedIn request but not a friend request on Facebook, trying to keep a separation between the personal and professional. We have not, however, found that to be typical in produce. Partly because it is still very much a family business, but also because declining a friend request is not a neutral act. Who wants to make enemies?
Of course, some stay off social media, and some have profiles but never post. The voyeurs of the social media world hope to learn what everyone is doing, but reveal nothing of themselves. It is one of those “too-clever-by-half” strategies, as relationships depend as much on giving as receiving … on sharing as part of learning.
Still technology is a tool and can have positive or negative ramifications — depending on how it is used.
On sister publication, PerishablePundit.com, I have written about C-SPAN and how transparency can actually change what you are being transparent about. So, though the old legislative process might not have been pretty, putting it on TV transforms legislators into actors. It makes it very difficult for serious work to get done.
Think of the poor kids who live in the world where their friends are constantly posting pictures of the fantastic meals they are having, the incredible activities they are engaged in, checking in from all corners of the globe — this creates a lot of pressure.
There was a study done once of people’s enjoyment following a visit to Disney World. When they interviewed families as they were leaving, the reviews were mixed. There were good times but also cranky children, tantrums and disagreements among the family. When the same families were interviewed a year later, their recollection of their trip was much more highly rated. Why? Because they had a year to look at pictures and video — and one typically doesn’t take pictures of kids having tantrums. One takes photos of happy children meeting Mickey Mouse.
Ok, that is just a vacation memory, but kids today are bombarded with a false representation of life — where everyone is portraying endless streams of happiness. Then there is the judging. All day long, in everything they do, kids get measured with “Shares” and “Likes.” Is it a surprise that The National Institute for Health points out that adolescent depression is on the rise?
It is a problem for business as well. Many companies find themselves subject to consumer criticism as alleged outrages spread on social media. Consumers have also learned that by making complaints public, they can often get a quick response. Most airlines have whole departments dedicated to consumers publicly tweeting about complaints of all sorts.
Society struggles because social media creates pressure for instantaneous responses. When The New York Times ran a piece a few weeks ago announcing a new sexual harassment complaint again Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, several Democratic candidates for president immediately called for his impeachment. Yet, shortly thereafter, it was revealed the woman, who was supposedly harassed, had no memory of the incident. But with the 24-hour news cycle, the ease of sending a tweet and the sense one has to respond instantaneously, it leads to many things said that are incorrect or regrettable.
We are lucky to share ideas in print, online and in person. But long after the Internet Age, Produce Business magazine continues to grow. Why is that? Well, we would say part of it is that the ability to think without the constraints that you have to Tweet in the next two seconds or someone will beat you to it actually produces deeper thoughts.
To advance, our industry needs more than facile answers; it needs comprehensive journalism, and we gather the opinions of more than a thousand industry experts every year. This type of journalism requires contemplation, and we spend countless hours understanding and amalgamating that expert input.
What we do here requires a commitment to doing the right thing, not just doing things right now. That has been our commitment for 34 years, and we promise more to come. pb