Page last updated at 17:39 GMT, Thursday, 3 December 2009

Top 10 tips: Reporting the environment

he BBC's science and environment correspondent, David Shukman
David surveys a glacier in Greenland

The BBC's science and environment correspondent, David Shukman, gives students his top 10 tips for reporting news about the environment.

1. Keep your eyes open. You don't have to go far to find environment stories, they can be just outside your door, in your street, in the nearest river, on a nearby industrial estate or farm. The great thing is that people now recognise the importance of the environment in ways and places nobody thought of and will help you.

2. Go beyond the environmental groups. Many eco-campaigners do a great - and very thorough - job but don't just take their word for it. Try to get hold of genuine scientists to understand what they're finding out because it may be slightly different.

3. Think about different perspectives. Some people love the look of wind farms on a hill but others hate them. It might make sense to turn rubbish into methane to generate electricity but how many people want one of the plants next door? Something might make sense ecologically but be detested locally.

4. Just as business affects millions of lives, so does the environment. Try to connect your stories with ordinary people. If it's about recycling, some families take to it, others loathe it. If you're reporting on UV radiation, seek out people who love a tan and those who've had skin cancer.

5. Keep it simple. That doesn't mean ignore the complicated parts of a story but for your audience to get it, make sure you tell your story in a straightforward way so everyone can follow it.

The BBC's science and environment correspondent, David Shukman
It's never too cold to file a news story if you're a keen journalist

6. Check out good people to interview.

It's so easy for a story to be spoiled by interviewees who aren't clear or speak in ways no-one can understand. Often the boss of an organisation likes to be interviewed but sometimes you're better off with someone lower down who's clearer.

7. Think about your job as the reporter in the story-telling. Do you want to be a distant narrator or be seen to be right at the heart of the action? If it's about rubbish, get yourself right in the middle of it - you can always shower afterwards. If it's about a drought, stand in a dried-out reservoir. If it's about trees, arrange to get up in one.

8. Try to get unusual angles. If you are making a video report, distinctive camera shots make viewers sit up and watch. For example, if your story is about rubbish, you could could set your camera running and leave it in a bin when the lid's being shut. Make sure you plan this type of shot carefully.

9. Never use the jargon and waffle loved by officials. You're an ambassador for common-sense in a world of spin. Plain-speaking is the currency that audiences appreciate.

10. Don't be put off. Some of the biggest environmental stories came through relentless and fearless digging but all kinds of organisations and people will try to block you. Persevere and enjoy it!



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