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Storytelling tips and best practices

Audio 101

The ear training guide for audio producers

Ear training, the practice of learning how to recognize certain sounds, is a must for audio producers. We need to be able to spot problems and identify them to before they impact quality or snowball into larger technical problems. This post will help you identify problematic audio, prevent the most common problems and recognize when it’s time Continue Reading >

QUIZ: Do you have the ears of an audio producer?

The producers, reporters and engineers who create the audio stories we love make a lot of magic happen behind the scenes. In seamlessly stitching together discrete pieces of audio, they can craft rich scenes that transport listeners. Asking the experts NPR Training’s Rob Byers and two NPR audio engineers took audio production questions during a reddit AMA. Continue Reading >

Put your audio to the test: Know when to use it or lose it

This post is for audio producers and journalists who work with news or documentary-style storytelling. This guide will help you make judgment calls about the usability of audio. There are many ways audio can go wrong: a press conference recording with a buzz, hard-to-understand phone tape or lots of “p-pops” — this list goes on. Sometimes those technical problems Continue Reading >

3 simple ways to find story ideas

Sally Herships is a contributing reporter at Marketplace. She also teaches radio journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and Sarah Lawrence College. Over the summer, Sally did a callout on social media asking where public media journalists get their story ideas. The responses were fantastic and spanned everything from standard journalistic practices to creative Continue Reading >

Which mic do they use? (Mics part 2)

Illustration by Chris Kindred, NPR   Liz Jones (@KUOWLiz), a reporter with KUOW, contacted us with an idea after the Which Mic Should I Use? post published. She recommended we get the input of various reporters in the field to hear about what mics they are using and why. Good idea! Here’s what a few Continue Reading >

Which mic should I use? (Mics part 1)

This post is produced in collaboration with AIR. You can find many wonderful resources for independent producers as well as a talent directory at airmedia.org. This is the first of a two-part series. The second is Which mic do they use? Most audio producers and reporters heading into the field will have the basics: a handheld Continue Reading >

Pitching to NPR? Our bureau chiefs share their process

On NPR’s National Desk, four bureau chiefs edit news stories from around the country. They are Andrea DeLeon (Northeast), Russell Lewis (South), Ken Barcus (Midwest), and Jason DeRose (West). This is their outline of the process for pitching a story for a news magazine such as All Things Considered or Morning Edition – and getting the Continue Reading >

15 principles of show booking

Jessica Deahl has been booking guests at All Things Considered since 2012. 1. You are the keeper of the guest list. NPR founding mother Susan Stamberg once compared a good radio show to a good dinner party. In both scenarios the host’s role is to lead his or her guests in an engaging conversation. As a booker, Continue Reading >

‘Butt cut what?’ A glossary of production terms

Let’s say you are producing an audio story, and you’re asked to dip the ambi under the track, butt cut the next two acts, and then sweep up and maintain the ambi. If that sentence is confusing, this glossary is for you. Terms for producing and mixing audio go back to the days of cutting real tape with Continue Reading >

Writing for radio: A manifesto from NPR’s Chris Joyce

Chris Joyce (@christophjoyce) is a correspondent on NPR’s science desk. He’s been working at NPR since 1993. The two elements of a story are tape and copy. There should be a nearly equal balance between the two, at least in terms of their importance to the story. One can think of tape as the photographs, Continue Reading >

Exercise: Imagining your story

The following is an excerpt of a post from Transom.org. It was written by Rob Rosenthal, lead teacher for the Transom Story Workshop. He also hosts the podcast How Sound. What he’s describing is a great exercise. It can free you of the inevitable limitations of journalism (you can’t make people say exactly what you want!) but Continue Reading >

Dissecting a good radio story

This piece by NPR’s Ailsa Chang took a completely wonky Congressional concept… and made it interesting. Check out the marginalia to see some of Ailsa’s tricks. The script is 2 pages long.    

What does a radio script look like?

Truth be told, not every broadcast radio script looks the same! But there are elements every script should share in order to make sure nothing goes wrong in the editing or mixing process. This post should give you a sense of the basic components of a public radio script. The real-life example is a story by NPR Congressional Continue Reading >

Radio 101: The life of a story from concept to air

If you are new to radio, this post should help demystify the process. This guidance comes from Jonathan Kern, author of “Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production.” It has been lightly edited.  First, you need a story. That may seem obvious, but often people begin by proposing an idea – the Continue Reading >

A day in the life of All Things Considered

Back in 2012, over the course of one day, All Things Considered host Melissa Block and producer Melissa Gray made this story about their own show. While the cast of characters has changed a bit and the ATC meeting now happens at 9:30am (10:00am was always pushing it, for a 4:00pm show!), this is the best Continue Reading >

Write how you talk #2: NPR’s Sam Sanders

I think the goal is for all of us doing radio to make is sound effortless. To keep our essence in our reads and make the listener think we’re “just talking,” while knowing that the journey to that “just talking” place takes a lot. A lot of thought. A lot of practice. And a lot of time.

Write how you talk #1: The basics

As Robert Siegel is quoted in the book Sound Reporting, “This is one of the most commonly offered pieces of advice… and it’s one of the most commonly ignored.” Why is it so hard to write how we talk? One reason: It’s not how we’re taught. We learn to write with book reports, term papers, Continue Reading >

Read this before you record ambience in the field

Cindy Carpien, a former NPR producer, is now an independent radio trainer. She works throughout the public radio system. Ambience: the sonic environment in which an event takes place. Also referred to as ambi. When it comes time to record ambience in the field, it’s important to capture different perspectives. It helps to think about these Continue Reading >