Helen Palmer

Helen Palmer is managing producer of the independent public radio program, Living on Earth. After six months, she describes her job at this award-winning show as still somewhat of a mystery, and also a weighty challenge as it covers probably the most consequential beat in current radio journalism.

Palmer was the senior health desk correspondent for American Public Media’s Marketplace from 1998–2007, covering health and business. In 2000 the New England Chapter of the Medical Writers of America honored her with its Will Solimene Award of Excellence for the series, Wanted for Questioning: America's Most Profitable Drug Companies.

A native of England, she came to the U.S. in 1987 and began working as a freelance reporter for the BBC and NPR. In 1991, she joined Monitor Radio in Boston as a reporter specializing in international affairs, defense matters and culture. During six years at Monitor Radio, her roles included producing Early Edition and Midday Edition, hosting a daily news magazine on shortwave radio, and working as deputy host for Early Edition. She also co-hosted the award-winning live transatlantic special, The Balkans: Which Way Out?

Palmer began her broadcasting career in 1969 at the BBC, where she worked for 15 years as a reporter, producer, host and studio manager. A joint honors graduate in English and drama of the University of Bristol, UK, she has a working knowledge of French, German and Spanish, and in her free time gardens and keeps bees.

Session(s) by Helen Palmer:
Homework Assignment:

Your news director spotted the following announcement for a presentation at the local college called “Drugs in our Cornflakes?”

Drugs in Our Corn Flakes? Our Health and the Economic Risks of “Pharma” and Industrial Crops. Organized by: Karen Perry Stillerman, Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington, DC.

Since the early 1980s, crop genetic engineering has proceeded at a rapid pace. Today, in addition to crops engineered for herbicide tolerance and insect resistance, new genetically engineered (GE) crops produce pharmaceutical drugs, hormones, and industrial chemicals such as plastics and, potentially, biofuels. Their creators claim they will reduce production costs and, in some cases, make possible the production of entirely new drugs and chemicals. However, “pharma” and industrial crops produce compounds that are not intended for food use and may be bioactive at low doses. If they contaminate the food supply — as they are almost certain to do when produced outdoors in food crops such as corn, soybeans, or rice — they may adversely affect human health and put food companies at risk for market losses, legal liability, and brand damage. Biotechnology companies in the United States now grow most of the world’s pharma crops, with the assent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, given the global nature of the grain commodity trade, the potential consequences of contamination will likely be felt around the world. This symposium will explore the vulnerability of the global food supply to contamination by pharma crops; the potential public health, global trade, and economic consequences of contamination; alternatives to the use of food crops outdoors for this purpose; and the status of USDA-proposed regulatory changes to protect our food.

Your ND sent you to the symposium, and asked for a 1:30 spot for the morning news. Unfortunately you got lost, and missed the presentation. You did arrive in time for questions, and managed to snag the main speaker, UC Davis Professor Paul Gepts. You also interviewed a critic of pharmaceutical farming, Margaret Mellon, of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The Internet helped with background:



The Union of Concerned scientists: www.ucsusa.org
(they have a good book about this issue: A Growing Concern)


Write a super-spot – 1:30 plus anchor intro – for your local morning newscast.

Paul Gepts, University of California, Davis, Department of Plant Sciences:
Margaret Mellon, Director of Food and Environmental Programs at Union of Concerned Scientists (clip begins with 2:00 of ambience):