Page last updated at 10:45 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2008 11:45 UK

Reporting international news

The Crossing Continents team
Crossing Continents is BBC Radio 4's award-winning foreign affairs documentary series
It can be heard at 11am on Thursdays and 8.30pm on Mondays
News can be local, national or international. But an international story doesn't have to be as remote as the country from which it originates.

BBC radio reporters at Crossing Continents specialise in adding a local feel to international stories.

Producer Emma Rippon says: "We go behind the headlines to cover international stories and issues that are being talked about in homes and on street corners from Barcelona to Bolivia.

For example, we recorded an audio diary of a South African teenager living with Aids and investigated why the Eurovision Song Contest was causing so much conflict in the Balkan countries."

Emma shares her tips on finding, gathering, writing, assembling and broadcasting international news.

Finding international news

When you are looking for an international story to cover, you will come across many different types.

There are two kinds of news your research will uncover.

Researching news on Crossing Continents
Researching news on Crossing Continents

The first is a major international story, which is already in the news e.g. the latest from Iraq or a recent earthquake and the second is a human interest story that hasn't made the headlines in the UK.

Crossing Continents look for the second kind - issues which really matter to individuals or a community in another part of the world.

Have a look at our Crossing Continents website for a flavour of the kind of stories we cover.

Whichever kind of international news you choose, think about how ordinary people are affected and, wherever possible, tell the story through their eyes.

Gathering international news

There are so many ways of gathering information about international stories that you don't even need to leave the country.

Why not interview some of these people and organisations?

People at school

Talk to your classmates, other students and staff at your school. They may have their own international stories.

Speaking to the boy in Lebanon
Speaking to the boy in Lebanon

For example, a British pupil who went on holiday to visit his grandmother in Lebanon, became caught up in the conflict which broke out in July 2006.

His story was reported on CBBC Newsround. Journalists spoke to his sister and parents, his headmaster and eventually managed to record a telephone interview with the boy himself.

Your twin school or town

Maybe your school is twinned with a school abroad or perhaps your town is twinned with one overseas.

Find out what is happening in your twinned community. It could make an interesting news story.

To find out more about school twinning, visit the BBC's World Class project.


Why not contact a local charity or a nearby branch of an international charity such as Oxfam or Save the Children.

They might be able to tell you about a new campaign they are launching which could give you an exclusive story.

They might even have some audio or video material you can use.

Community groups

Many towns across the country have large immigrant communities - some recent and some long established.

Local community groups may be organising festivals or have interesting links with their home country which could make a story.

For example, when the Pakistan earthquake struck in 2005, the British Pakistani community rallied around collecting aid for those who had lost their homes.

Even though it's months since this tragedy, there may still be aid work going on in your area which would make an interesting report.

People on holiday

And finally, when you go on holiday, keep your eyes peeled for potential stories. A good journalist is never off duty.

Writing a colourful script

When we write about events abroad, we think very carefully about the radio script.

Ideally we want to transport the listener from their kitchen or car to the streets of Mumbai or halfway up a mountain in Pakistan.

Portable recording equipment
Listen to these colourful descriptions. Can you tell which is read from a script and which is from notes?

The way we do that is by describing the places we visit and the people we meet, so the listener gets a mental picture.

A reporter will describe for example, where they are standing, what's going on, the atmosphere, the smells, what people look like and how they are behaving.

Some reporters read from a script they have written. They practise speaking the story aloud before putting pen to paper, to make sure it sounds natural.

Other reporters like to "ad lib" or talk from notes they have made, rather than writing out a script word-for-word.

Assembling international news

To help build up a sound picture of a place or event, the Crossing Continents team record extra sounds, which are added when the report is being assembled in an edit suite.

Traffic in Delhi
Listen to these sounds. Imagine a news story which might feature one of the sounds. Can you think of a news event featuring all three?

For example, if you're reporting on a sporting event you might record the sound of the crowd cheering and chanting, the whistle being blown or a goal being scored.

If you're reporting the opening of a new Turkish restaurant, you'd record lots of chopping and sizzling, the chef barking orders at the staff, the sound of people eating in the restaurant, corks popping and cash registers calculating the bill.

When you come to assemble or edit your story, you can use the sounds you gathered to paint a sound picture for your audience.

Gathering background sounds of all types is a valuable tip that lends flavour to your final report.

Broadcasting international news

Reporting international news means that you have to get used to saying some tricky foreign names.

During a broadcast or recording, it helps the presenter or reporter to write out difficult names as they sound.

Sven-Goran Eriksson

Here are some examples.

  • Sven-Goran Eriksson (former England coach) Svenn yoran ay-rikssonn
  • Vladimir Putin (Russian President)
  • Vladeemeer pootin

  • Zinedine Zidane (French footballer)
  • Zeenedeen zeedann

    Make sure you practise, otherwise you might stumble over a difficult word on air, which would be very embarrassing!

    Final word

    Editing at Crossing Continents
    Editing at Crossing Continents
    Of course we are biased but at Crossing Continents, we think that some of the best stories are international ones.

    So when you come to plan your bulletin, don't forget the rest of the world - it really is your oyster.

    And do let us know if you find any hot stories! Why not brainstorm international story ideas in class, select the best ones, and ask your teacher to email them to us via the Crossing Continents website.

    The Crossing Continents team are working on BBC News School Report to encourage 12 and 13-year-olds to make the news in their schools. Click on the link on the right hand side to find out more.

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