“[J]ust as ghost stories are not for ghosts, so science writings in [a] simple way are not for scientists” (Bardhan in McIlwaine, 2001: 172).

Our Radio 3 class was commissioned by Algoa FM in conjunction with the South East African Climate Consortium (SEACC) to produce climate change and sustainability packages that would enhance public understanding in this regard. Beyond the many difficulties surrounding reporting on issues of this nature we were also required to refer to our personal philosophies to serve as a guide to approaching this assignment. Some of the ideas linked nicely however some proved challenging.

Go Green: what can we do?

When a problem faces you, you have two options 1) use your means and creativity to find a solution or 2) ignore it in the hope that it will go away. Unfortunately our environmental problems are going nowhere so we need to take a closer look at option 1. But success of option 1 depends on how we approach it. The topic of climate change has been known to trigger a doom and gloom mindset which is quite obviously understandable. How are we supposed to react to predictions of a rapidly approaching apocalypse? This makes option 2 very attractive, if for nothing else then our sanity.

Eating Green

With a growing consensus that not eating meat is green more people have turned to vegetarianism in an attempt to save the planet. In light of this it might be useful to ask: does the vegetarian stereotype hold: will you end up pale, weak, protein deficient and bored with your declining dietry variety? Just how difficult and how green is it to forgo animal flesh for the more crunchy alternative?

How successful have you been in applying your journalistic approach to the way you conceptualise stories?

To what extent have you been able to apply your journalistic approach to the use of language and scripting in your journalism?

When deciding what kind of packages I would like to produce for this assignment I realised that a focus on subjective experiences would be the most effective course of action. Through research on reporting for climate change hard-line objective reporting simply enlarges the disjuncture between the views of the experts and the views of the public (Boykoff & Boykoff, 2004: 134). As Bardhan articulates above one has to be aware of how scientific issues are articulated to the public so as to ensure widespread interest and understanding of complex subjects.

My first package, therefore, manifested itself in the form of ‘a day in the life of someone ‘green’’. By using the voices of everyday people doing everyday things, and making relatively simple changes to their everyday routines, I attempted to make sustainable living seem easy and attractive. In line with my philosophy I decided to approach a number of diverse sources including students, a lecturer and university staff member. Although we were encouraged to look outside Rhodes University in terms of Algoa’s target audience (LSM 7-9), it was appropriate.

In terms of scripting I tailored my use of language so as to parallel the ideals set out in my philosophy. When introducing David Knowles, who is the environmental representative of the SRC, I simply referred to him as a ‘student environmentalist’. I decided to avoid mentioning his position of power so as to make it easier for other students and young people identify with him and not setting hi at one remove. Similarly I introduced my second source as ‘Rob O’Donoghue, who works in education’ instead referring to his status as a lecturer. I wanted my sources to be portrayed as everyday people relating their experiences essentially making it easier for the target audience to imagine making these decisions in their own lives.

Also, I chose to use a relatively informal register in my narration as I inserted the voices of my sources in my construction of a hypothetical ‘green’ day. Using phrases like “If you’re not ready to trade in your biltong for beans” I attempted to creatively relate to the audience through an attitude of understanding. I provided less radical ways of living sustainably so as not to scare people off with essentialist notions of change. Including everyday activities like cooking also provided a solid point of identification for audience members.
Using this idea of food and food intake I constructed my second package on vegetarianism. As I had largely used white males in the first package, and in so doing deviated from my personal philosophy, I decided I would actively need to find someone, preferably female, from another race.

Therefore, this package began with the voice of Nicky Hlanze, who related her experience of ‘becoming a vegetarian’. As it is part of my philosophy to ‘normalise abnormalities’ I wanted to illustrate the relative ease and common practice of vegetarianism. By using a mixture of males and females and black and white sources I attempted to show that this life choice is not one for any particular grouping of people. I wanted to show that it was possible to be a vegetarian when tradition might make it difficult.

Hlanze articulated how that even though Swati tradition incorporates a lot of meat during ceremonies, her choice was accepted without any trouble from her family members. Also, Tristin articulated how his parent’s perceptions were gradually shifting. This would make it easier for audience members who could identify with being parents themselves to imagine shifts in their own perceptions on the topic.


Boykoff, T. & Boykoff, J. 2004. “Balance as bias: global warming and the US prestige press” in Global Environmental Change. 14: 125-136.

McIlwaine, S. 2001. “Science and journalism: A Mexican stand-off?” in Australian Journalism Review. Vol 23 (2).