Telling Tales

This week, I’m cutting two stories for the delicious. magazine July podcast, and pondering on the nature of journalism in 2017. In many ways, it’s the same as it ever was; you find a story, and record the people with the tale to tell. Recording might be short hand (never did that), a camera or recording device of some sort, or notes in scrawly hand that you can barely read when you get home. You listen/read back and revisit your experience, painting pictures with words, sounds, images until you’ve reconstructed what you saw. Of course you go for balance, audience relevance and ethics, but basically that’s it. That’s how storytelling works.

Castellucio after the earthquakes. Photo by Tamsen Courtenay

So yesterday, I was editing the story of Sara, a Italian lentil producer from Castellucio, whose family survived the three enormous earthquakes this year and last which reduced her agriturismo and farming business to rubble. She told me, through a local English interpreter, a once tough journalist called Tam whose nerves were also shattered by her own experience of the quakes, how terrified she had been. Not just for her 12 and 15 year old children, her sheep in the fields, the farm that had been in the family for generations, but by the terror of the tremors that her eight and eleven year selves have never forgotten. And as I tried to keep the feel of the shot nerves in Tam’s calm and measured translation and Sara’s relentless optimism (‘there is no option’), I cut and cut away to try to fit it all into the five minutes I can give to the piece.

Now, I’m lucky.  I’ve got a fabulous editorial and digital team at delicious. with old school ethics and big heart, and listeners who care enough to listen, and in the brave new world of podcasts, I can give people like Sara and Tam a further 15 minutes in Extra Portion which follows the monthly magazine podcast. But can 15 minutes to tell the story of a woman with ‘the heart of a lion’ as Tam calls her, ever be enough? Perhaps, if the rubble is cleared and the roads are opened as result of someone hearing the podcast.

This week, Extra Portion gave extra space to debate whether the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association should create a market for pony meat to add value to animals who are mostly culled at under a year. Charlotte from the DHPA tells me that the podcast has done more in a week to get people interested in the meat than they’ve been able to do in months.  The Telegraph, The Mail and Horse and Hounds have all been in touch as a result, and want to give the story more space. Which is probably a good thing. 

As I leave Sara’s story, I begin to edit the next for the July pod, a heart warming story about San Patrignano, the world’s most successful rehabilitation community whose secret can be found in the work ethic behind its award winning cheeses. I listen to Anna, Sasha and Daniel tell me their survival stories and I hear the back stories that they only half-told me.  I look at the timeline on my laptop and begin to cut.

And here’s the final cut:



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