Sunday 1 April 2012, 16:00
(Editor's note: The Listening Project is a new partnership between BBC Radio and the British Library, aiming to capture (and archive) the nation in conversation. BBC radio producers from across the country have been gathering conversations and editing them down for broadcast on Radio 4 and BBC local and national radio stations. Here, BBC Merseyside's Pauline McAdam talks about how she goes about turning a long conversation between loved ones into a shorter piece for radio.)
The Listening Project conversations are no more or less important than any other we broadcast. But they are a little different. These are not interviews where the rules of engagement are agreed between the journalist and the interviewee. These are not inquisitive or combative or didactic duets between presenter and contributor.
These are eavesdropped moments of real life. They are small snapshots of a longer dialogue between two people who know, and may even love, each other. The curiosity, the question and answer, the ebb and flow of ordinary people talking. In fact these are extraordinary sounds. They are sounds rarely heard on the radio.
News reports, documentaries, interviews, even the weather - we're all used to hearing life conveyed to us in ways we have come to be familiar with from our radio speakers. But the chance to listen to two people chatting, nattering, conversing, confessing: communicating. Often we only hear facsimiles of this. Crafted, creative, and even beautiful; but facsimiles nonetheless.
The first rule of editing is that you respect the essential truth of whatever it is that you've recorded. Whether it's the public, a politician or the Pope, lesson one is that the message conveyed in the finished product must be the same in all the essentials as the original recording. Neater, perhaps. Shorter usually. In fact it may well be that, if we do our jobs properly, the interviewee prefers their "edited voice", free from hesitation, repetition and so on. Thoughts may appear to flow fully formed, and free of "erms" - meaning intact.
Editing the Listening Project conversations is a rare privilege. It takes all of our skills as producers to neaten and clarify and present the essential truth of the conversation in a way which is completely respectful of the alchemy that has been captured by our microphones.
And yes we have stringent rules and considered guidelines about this appropriate editing. But when you hear these people talk about their lives you don't edit only with your professional conscience. I think it's true to say you edit with your heart. How to convey in a few short moments what two people took time out of their lives to discuss with each other. A child talks to his father about fear of growing up with responsibilities. A woman reminds her grandson that romance was invented long before he was born. A daughter wrestles to catch her mother before dementia takes her away. Schoolgirls about to leave school giggle their way through their fear of freedom, and of losing each other to the wider world.
See? Ordinary and yet extraordinary.
Saturday 31 March 2012, 16:24
Monday 2 April 2012, 09:18