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  • Writer's picturePatrick Dawkins

Editorial – New Zealand Beekeeping’s Taste of Modern Media

May 15, 6.29pm, and my cell phone pinged with a text message ‘Paddy and Laura. I hope you are ok with the latest bee-honey drama.’ I immediately knew to what my concerned compatriot would be referring, with news of Springbank Honey’s big burn-off having garnered media attention in the last 24 hours. I didn’t know, but would soon learn, that it had just led the 6 o’clock news where it was said by that most trustworthy of talking heads, Mike McRoberts, that large amounts of “honey” had been destroyed.

Patrick Dawkins, editor.

I got my fast thumb out and tapped a reply to our concerned former parish Priest – who despite having moved out of town was continuing to keep a close eye on his extended flock! – to explain that we would be fine and that we had recently burned three hives of our own, to prevent more wide-spread destruction in ours or others’ beekeeping enterprises.

The next day I spoke to a person whose opinion I much value who posed the question, “what if the AFB Management Agency decide they don’t like something you write and come after you?”, giving me pause to think about the rules in place. Laws need to be watertight to prevent improper use of powers, whether we believe the personal currently with those powers are capable of wielding them in an inappropriate manner or not. With that in mind, if the legal action which Steve Brown is promising comes to fruition, it will be interesting to see if the courts decide there is a loophole which needs tightening in our current AFB rules, or not.

Then there’s the court of public opinion, and hasn’t this latest incident with AFB, spore testing, and orders to destroy beekeeping equipment been intriguing in that regard.

Stories with such a negative angle are not enjoyable to write for me, but I thought it was important to cover the Springbank Honey story by not just laying out the opinions of both Brown (who I thank for taking the time to speak his part to me) and the Agency (who I also thank for their cooperation and timely response to requests), but by also seeking to corroborate claims made. And that’s where it gets difficult, really it is up to Springbank Honey to back up what they are saying with something more than their own – perhaps understandably – emotional response. Without further information, it appears they have actually destroyed more equipment than what they were ordered to do, then used that as a tool to further promote their agenda.

I have heard beekeepers express concern over the ability for one person or business to control a narrative on such a large scale, which they believe to be not only false, but potentially very damaging to their livelihoods. To me, that’s modern media and our own media consumption habits coming back to bite us. We know many forms of traditionally mainstream news reporting are struggling – and in a past life I have witnessed firsthand the degradation of a newsroom as the money ran out. Basically, we spend more of our time on social media, and less time consuming what were once well-researched news outlets. Thus, a coordinated social media campaign by people with the time and skills to implement it, can be very effective in putting a completely unfiltered message out into the world.

So, if you don’t like it, what’s the answer? Well, I never said I had one! But the old traditional and trusted ‘mastheads’ did, and maybe still can, serve as an information filter that a reader can learn, over time, to trust. That’s why I started Apiarist’s Advocate – my attempt to filter “news, views and promotions” to our industry’s little corner of the world, and to give full transparency over who is behind the messages being delivered. The same can’t be said of social media and online forums, where anyone can create an account with any name.

So, if you appreciate the effort a publication is making to improve the quality of discussion, do what you can to support them – and these days the best thing might just be sharing properly researched stories on social media, rather than by going off half-cocked in the comments yourself. The way algorithms work, you are actually just adding fuel to the fire of misinformation if you’re not careful.

From the perspective of Apiarist’s Advocate, if you don’t like what we are doing, tune out, don’t share any of the stories, and don’t support our advertisers. If you do like our small contribution to this large world, tell fellow beekeepers about us and how they can subscribe for free, follow us on social media platforms, share our content any way you feel comfortable – there’s links to every individual story via our website, and the eMagazine pages all print well onto A4.

But most importantly … support our advertisers! Some of them have provided you this free and independent source of information continuously for almost five years.

And, as always, keep in touch – we welcome any feedback (positive or negative) and also any news-tips or story ideas.



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