Pen and paper…

Thoughts, ideas, questions, experiences

All things bees and eco-teams… May 31, 2010

Filed under: Birmingham Recycled,News — Kellie Maddox @ 11:36 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Let’s not dwell on my absence the last few weeks (all in the name of work I assure you). A few interesting things to report from the last few weeks – some enviro, some not. But for these purposes, let’s talk ‘green’…..

Last week I took a trip to Birmingham Chamber of Commerce  – the intention wasn’t wholly to discuss new ‘green’ developments but something quite exciting did crop up. I won’t reveal too much as a Birmingham Recycled article will be posted soon to tell you more, however the general gist of the Chamber’s latest venture involves a newly-devised environmental team/project which is aimed at encouraging Midlands’ businesses to operate in more enviro-friendly ways e.g. energy saving, reducing waste and improving efficiency.

So you’ll be hearing more about the project in the coming months from the Chamber, but also from moi, as I’m going to be working as an intern on the project to get the site going ( along with the team and Jon Hickman) and filling it will lots of informative (and hopefully exciting) content.

Next……following lots of media interest the last couple of weeks about the plight of our beloved bee population, I thought it was something worth looking into. The Guardian reported that honeybee numbers were still in decline after the harsh winter this year. Referring to the results of a survey published by the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA), the figures show a wide regional variation, with northern parts of the UK suffering greater losses than the south.

I decided to try to find out the picture in the Midlands so contacted several groups to find out how the bee population has fared in the local area. Although not so great for me, many groups weren’t able to accommodate me because they were so busy with huge numbers of people learning the ropes of beekeeping – a great sign that more people are interested in the conservation of these insects.

South Staffordshire Beekeepers’ Association were kind enough to invite me along to one of their meetings, held at their apiary at Shugborough Hall. I was pleasantly surprised to find a gathering of 20-25 ‘beginner beekeepers’ along with several experienced committee members who look after the apiary and run the course.  

After the informative session, which was all about ‘swarms’, I managed to grab a few minutes with apiary manager Neil Leadbetter and the knowledgable membership secretary Phil Healy. I filmed my brief interview with them, asking about the local picture in terms of bee numbers, why there is a decline, what can be done and how many people are taking up the hobby. I’m hoping – if me and Sian manage to hone our video editing skills – to have the video up on Birmingham Recycled tomorrow so you’ll have to have a look.

Finally, my most time-consuming and least-progressed project is the mapping I’ve been attempting, but let’s not talk about that. It may or may not materialise depending on my inclination to process another hundred or so calculations before the week is out. A miracle needed please…..


My Easter at Beacon… April 23, 2010

Filed under: News — Kellie Maddox @ 10:40 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

…and the joys of radio news. So, no need to guess – I spent my Easter holiday with the Beacon radio news team and experienced life as a fully fledged journalist (well, almost). And now I actually have more than a few minutes to myself again, I thought I’d jot down my thoughts, experiences and general reflections on my 3 week placement.

It all started way, way back on Monday, March 29 at approximately 8.50am (well, really it was like 3 hours prior to that when I leapt out of bed in fear that I’d be late on my first day). Anyway, I got to Beacon to be greeted by a big Georgian-period building – that must have been a house at one point – and my first thoughts were ‘hmmm, interesting for a radio station’; not what I was expecting. But it was great for a radio station! Downstairs was the news  and programming teams and the studios for Beacon Black Country, Shropshire and Gold. Upstairs – the sales team and the ‘creative’ folk (that’s what they told me), another studio for live performances and a vending machine that hadn’t worked for at least 6 months. So all in all, a lovely little set-up in a nice period building.

So after the formalities (the show-round, introduction to team, placement guidelines etc) I set about getting stuck in to covering stories. Luckily, I’d got a bit of head start from my Smooth experience, so refreshing the brain on the software Burli wasn’t too difficult (thankfully) and I pretty much did what all news team peeps do – chase stories, interview, write copy and clip audio ready for the bulletins. I got to go out on stories and speak to loads of different people: a media expert at Uni of Wolverhampton, the head of PE at a local school, a youth parliament member, officers from West Mids Police and the lovely people of Wolverhampton (well, not all of them were so nice……)

So, my three weeks with the news team were busy, varied day-to-day and seemed to fly by (ah…..the joys of ‘real’ work) but what did I learn from it?

  • Speaking to members of the general public and asking opinions is not easy – most think you’re selling something, make their excuses and walk on; others don’t understand what you’re asking and give you a one word answer (great…thanks for that) and then some think its an excuse to ramble on for 5 minutes about everything under the sun (great…..all I wanted was a 15 second clip!)
  • Equally – reading a news bulletin really isn’t easy but maybe that’s because I’m not so well practiced at the pro’s. You have to read accurately and sound authoritative (so people think you know what you’re talking about) but you also need to sound natural and avoid the common mistake of putting on a ‘newsreader’ voice (yes….that happened to me aswell). Not only that, you need to read ahead so you know what’s coming, emphasise all the right words and remember to breathe in between………erm….anything else?
  • Election time is a stressful time for all journalists – 1. because lots of the people who would normally comment for stories suddenly aren’t able to comment on certain things (e.g. councils, NHS etc) because they are all obviously connected to the government (not great for broadcast media). 2. Whenever a ‘political’ story is run – all parties have to be equally represented so there’s no getting away with ‘Gordon Brown said……’ without ‘But Cameron said this…….and Clegg thinks their both wrong……..’ (you get the drift)
  • Despite all the above – radio news can be fun and exciting when a story breaks and you need to get there. Everything’s much more immediate and you feel you’re constantly on the watch for the ‘latest’ on anything. Also web has become a much greater part of radio news output and the importance of keeping content fresh and up-to-date and also using the online content as a place to experiment with other forms that you wouldn’t broadcast (i.e. videos, pic galleries, polls etc)

Highlight of the placement – the daily ‘why I’m late’ excuses of one of the team (which included ‘I saw signs for the M6 Toll and thought I don’t want to go on there so I followed a road and I ended up on the M6 Toll, then I realised I had no money to get off it’ and ‘today’s is simple; I had to get petrol and blow my nose because I’ve got a ****ing cold!’) Genius!

Not-so-highlight – getting up at 5am, standing outside a train station and asking commuters in the Black Country what they thought of the first leader’s debate. Getting ignored and receiving death stares at 6am is not great when the 8am bulletin is calling – to be honest though I don’t blame them….I wouldn’t talk to me either at that hour……about anything let alone politics…..

Great three weeks, great people and a good insight into the world of radio news = well worth the early mornings!


Better late than never: a quick update….

To cut a long story short (sorry for the old cliché there) – my general absence here and elsewhere across the social media ‘waves’ over the last few weeks was because I was on work placement at a well-known Black Country radio station. But I will eventually blog about that whole experience – it is on the to-do list.

So I’m back – if not in mind but in general physical presence – and I’m trying to get back into the swing of things, especially on the Online Journalism front now we have the Birmingham Recycled Investigates team up and running. I did blog here before the Easter break about what we were up to but here’s a quick note about where I’m at:

  • Birmingham allotments and bees – published initial story about BCC changing their rules (updates to follow once council agrees new terms)
  • Trying to figure out and experiment with interactive tools to help support online work and offer alternatives for presenting data in text form (blog post on this to follow shortly)
  • Initial team idea to experiment with interactive tools such as Wordle, audio slideshows and mapping to represent how the recent airspace closure has impacted on the environment (focusing on Birmingham Airport’s CO2 emissions saved)

That last point is still something we’re working on, but obviously now the ban has passed, we’re conscious that it’s becoming less relevant. Hopefully, we’ll use the data we’ve got so far to do something even if it’s not what we originally wanted (again I will blog about this). So, that’s where I’m at and maybe by the end of the week – I’ll be back to normal…….whatever that is…..


This weekend I will be attempting to live-blog… March 13, 2010

Filed under: News,Online journalism — Kellie Maddox @ 10:54 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

…whilst supporting my other half’s love of cars at Ultimate Dubs – a VW/Audio car show at the Telford International Centre, Shropshire . There’ll be lots of shiny cars and sad men drooling over them! But hey, relationships are all about give and take, I guess (although I’d much rather spend my weekend elsewhere) so I shall don my happy face and nod in agreement at the ‘beauty’ of these four-wheeled masterpieces!

To keep me sane (if that’s possible), I’m hoping to give live-blogging a bash – maybe a few pics and some commentary on my rapidly diminishing mental state – so keep an eye on my Posterous blog and hopefully it will give you a snapshot into the life of a car-fanatic’s long-suffering girlfriend…

Oh, and here’s a couple of small snaps of the lovely vintage car that is the third ‘person’ in our relationship : )


M&S launch sweets that have ‘blooming’ potential March 10, 2010

Filed under: Birmingham Recycled,News — Kellie Maddox @ 7:03 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Saw this article and I think its brilliant! M&S have launched a new line of chocolates for Mother’s Day (first bonus) and the packet can be planted to grow into flowers (even better bonus!) What more could mums want – choccies and flowers! Failproof gift if ever there was one!

According to M&S:

The Milk Chocolate Praline Butterflies come in a paper bag that has been impregnated with candytuft flower seeds and will grow into flowers that are said to attract butterflies.

The paper should be planted between March and May and will flower between June and August, M&S said.

Candytuft flowers, also known as Iberis umbellata Rose Cardinal, bloom in a range of colours from white to red.

Environmentally friendly – check. Panic over for what to get mum – check!


New Street jobs deal to boost jobs and training March 8, 2010

Filed under: Grounds,News — Kellie Maddox @ 11:19 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Birmingham City Council have announced a deal with Network Rail as part of the development of New Street station.

See the article at Grounds for an outline of the deal and useful contacts for employment opportunities.


Aren’t columnists supposed to express their views? February 18, 2010

Filed under: News — Kellie Maddox @ 11:16 am
Tags: , ,

News today that the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has rejected the complaints about Jan Moir’s Daily Mail article – following the death of Stephen Gately – has revoked mixed reaction once again.

It was widely reported that 25,000 complaints were made following the publication of Moir’s column back in October 2009. Gately’s partner Andrew Cowles pursued his complaint; citing that the article broke the Editors’ Code of Practice on  “accuracy, intrusion into grief or shock and discrimination”. 

Many people have passed judgement on whether or not the PCC have made the right decision. I fully appreciate and understand that the comments made in the article may be construed as ‘offensive’ by some readers and I do see that the content of the piece would be difficult for a grieving family to accept. Focusing more on the debate of  whether ‘columnists are supposed to express their views’ , the PCC published the following as part of the adjudication:

As a general point, the Commission considered that it should be slow to prevent columnists from expressing their views, however controversial they might be. The price of freedom of expression is that often commentators and columnists say things with which other people may not agree, may find offensive or may consider to be inappropriate. Robust opinion sparks vigorous debate; it can anger and upset. This is not of itself a bad thing. Argument and debate are working parts of an active society and should not be constrained unnecessarily (within the boundaries of the Code and the law).

The full adjudication can be read here.

Claims of sexism and inaccuracy aside, I find myself agreeing with the above comment. Newspaper columnists and media commentators of all mediums are employed to do exactly that – offer their opinion on things. News is where the facts are published objectively (well, supposedly) and comment is precisely that. Ok, so not everyone is going to agree on every occasion but that’s what its all about – sparking debate, starting the conversation, offering ‘controversial’ opinion.

As Moir pointed out in her following piece, her comments weren’t set out to offend, upset or cause distress to anyone. The journalist in her naturally raised questions about the circumstances of the singer’s death. I do feel however, that the way in which she expressed those questions was not particularly sensitive and so complaints against the piece were fully justifiable.

Several questions spring to mind from today’s news. Is the role of the columnist changing? Has political correctness taken precedence over free speech? Should controversial views be banished from column space?

Thoughts welcomed.