Not the Bee-All and End All

 Environment Assessment: The Final Product

So here’s my radio piece on what effect certain pesticides have had on a Cornish apiary:

Considering the tumultuous time I had securing the all important interview, the edit went surprisingly smoothly and Audition did as it was told. Luckily for me, I had lots of good quotes to work with and I think I managed to put across the interviewee’s concerns quite strongly by using some of the statistics he mentioned, and clips containing dramatic words.

During the edit I noticed a couple of clicking noises from my mic cable, but they appeared when nobody was speaking so I was able to cut them out without a trace. I challenge anyone to guess where they were!

My choice of location – one of the university’s digilabs – although quiet, was a little echoey, but there really was nothing I could do about that. I purposely chose to record the interview there, and avoided using wildtrack behind the voice, to give the illusion that we were staging our talk inside a real radio studio. In this case I think it was fairly effective.

My only gripe is that my course requires me to upload my piece in MP3 format. Compared to the WAV version I listened to during the editing process, there’s a notable degradation in the sound quality for only a marginal difference in the file size.

And you’ll be glad to hear hive finished with the bee puns.


A series of unfortunate events

The interview

Well, ahem…I’ll start with what went wrong.

I’d initially arranged to meet Bernie Doeser from the West Cornwall Beekeepers Association at the university’s Tremough campus, but at the last minute he fell ill with flu, and emailed from his sickbed to say he couldn’t make it.

I couldn’t bee-lieve it!

Poor Bernie was very apologetic and even offered to meet me the following week, but by that point my deadline would have passed so I had to very quickly think of a back-up plan.

I contacted several other members of the same organisation, but each person had a different reason for not being able to speak to me: “stuck in Ireland,” “too busy,” “it’s not being recorded, is it?” You get the idea.

With three days to go and my deadline looming large, I started to consider the possibility that I may have to find a new story altogether.

I tentatively looked into a story about nuclear missiles being moved from Scotland to Falmouth, and contacted Jeremy Edwards from Falmouth’s Chamber of Commerce. He’d previously told the local media that this would be a ‘positive move for Cornwall’, but he refused to speak to me on the grounds that he had nothing more to say.

What went right?

While at a local bar (I most definitely wasn’t trying to drown my sorrows,) I received a text message from Matt Pitt, a beekeeper who incidentally used to keep a hive at Tremough. He said he’d be happy to talk and would meet me on campus the following day.

We agreed on the Upper Stannery as a venue, but whilst waiting for him I decided there was far too much background noise which could prove distracting for both of us and detract from the severity of the subject matter. I certainly didn’t want my interview to sound like I’d just found a bloke in a pub and decided to ask him a few questions on the spot.

I settled for a digilab in the Media Centre, which I think made for a more convincing ‘radio studio’ environment.

The interview went far better than I could have hoped for. Matt was incredibly courteous, giving me some great quotes and fantastic information about the effects certain pesticides have on honey bees.

He also brought along several articles about the subject and chatted for a little while after I’d stopped recording. At one point I asked if he thought of his bees as pets: he said they were more like his children!

The only problem I encountered during the interview was with my M-Audio, which for some reason had decided it wasn’t important for me to hear my interview during recording. The headphones were useless and I had to set my levels by sight. Fortunately the sound came out pretty clear, but I credit that mainly to my interviewee’s voice and my choice of location.

Environmental Assessment – Choosing a topic

The task is to produce a radio package about an environmental issue in Cornwall. All the usual criteria apply: adding the necessary cues, ensuring the story is relevant to our target audience, and making sure that audio levels remain consistent.

The environment is a big topic – particularly in a county like Cornwall, which is about as rich a source as you can get when it comes to finding stories about animals, the sea, farming…the list goes on. But in a way, that’s a problem in itself. Where do I start?

The plight of the bumblebee:

How chronic exposure to two widely-used pesticides in farming kills worker bees and reduces their ability to forage for food.

As you know, both wildlife and agriculture are important issues in the county, meaning this story could be approached from many different angles and may attract the attention of environmentalists and farmers alike. Indeed, just yesterday, the Guardian’s Damian Carrington posted an article on his environment blog about a recent study highlighting that some pesticides have very damaging effects on bees. This, he says, could have a detrimental effect on UK food crops, right the way down the chain to what we put on our plates.

But perhaps one could take a different approach and look to Cornish farmers for their point of view: is it crucial to use neonicotinoids and pyrethroids – two harmful pesticides for bees – on crops? What would happen if these pesticides were no longer used? And is there a safer alternative?

The Interview

By interviewing a local bee expert and director of a charity set up to get the issue recognised, I hope to discover how the reported widespread decline of bees could have serious consequences for the global ecosystem, and whether enough is being done to address the ongoing situation. And if not, why?

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