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Chapter 7: Making Audio Journalism Visible

Some might say audio journalism is not as exciting as video or Web journalism, and will die along with newspaper. Despite this belief, because of its distinct taste and unique content delivery, audio journalism is strong and will be strong as long as there are listeners who seek its essence. For example, 14 million downloads podcasts from NPR and visits its website every month. The key to success is encouraging show hosts and reporters to engage personally to their audience, therefore allowing the audience to enjoy the intimacy with them.

Jackie Martinez with a microphone 01

Image via Creative Commons

Advantages of audio journalism:

  1. Flexible to work with many different devices — file size is usually smaller than video files
  2. Opens up imaginations for the listeners
  3. Can be consumed while commuting
  4. A reporter can literally bring readers to the story
  5. Tone of voices, expressions, intonation and pauses can be reserved
  6. Atmosphere of the scene can be brought to the audience
  7. Podcast — Episodes can be uploaded without establishing difficult schedule
  8. Breaking news can be packaged in a quick audio report

How can you use audio journalism? The recipe may vary depending on the goal and the subject. However, generally audio journalism can be used with the following:

  • Interviews
    • Choose your location — pick a place that’s quite and has good acoustics
    • Gather natural sound — search for sounds that will help describe the setting
    • Prepare your subject
      • What part of the story will audio play?
      • Who is the audience?
      • How long will the interview be?
      • What kinds of questions will be asked?
      • How much editing will be done?
    • Watch what you say — keep quite while the subject is talking
    • Delayed recording — ask the subject to repeat their answer
    • Mark the best spots
  • Voice-overs
    • Write a script — be prepared
    • Warm up — practice
    • Find operative words — words that convey the story
    • Keep it conversational
  • Natural or environmental sound
  • imported sound clips, including music

Devices range from cheap compact recorders to $500 recorder with stereo recording. It is recommended to use a recorder that can upload its files directly to the computer so that the recordings can be stored securely. Also, use telephone recorder for over-the-phone interviews. It is also recommended to record the interviews in WAV format, which is an uncompressed format, so that tweaks that are made after the recording will not drastically reduce the quality of the sound. Input volume level is suggested to be set at about 70 percent of its possible level.

For the better recording for quiet subjects, external microphone can be used to amplify the sound. Headphones can be used to examine the quality of the recording as the recording is being done. While recording, make a note for each 10 minutes of the recording in the notebook. This will save time for browsing through the notes and recordings during editing.


Image via Wikipedia


MP3 is the most balanced audio format that is widely used by many different media players, while conserving high quality sound with small file size. Widely used professional audio editing programs are: Avid’s Pro Tools, Adobe Audition and Sony’s Sound Forge. However, for the most of users, free audio editing programs such as Audacity should suffice their needs.

Besides cropping and cutting pieces out of audio, Audacity offers a variety of effects:

  • Fade: A gradual increase or decrease in volume of audio
  • Cross-fading: A mix of fades with one track level increasing with another decreasing
  • Establishing music: Use of song clips to set tone
  • Segue: Smooth transition between tracks
  • Transition: Connecting different tracks
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