NPR Training
Storytelling tips and best practices


What’s in your bag, Amanda Aronczyk?

Amanda Aronczyk of WNYC’s Only Human recently covered the presidential inauguration and women’s march in Washington, D.C. She had to prepare for a unique set of challenges: rain and cold temperatures, restricted mobility and potentially long stretches with no access to power. Below, we peek inside her kit.  This gear bag is a fraud. Sort of. Continue Reading >

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 >

What’s in your bag, Leigh Paterson?

The tools we carry around on a daily basis can say a lot about what we do, how and where we work — even our personalities. What’s in your bag? is a new regular series about the tools used by people in public media. We all use the basics, but the way we personalize our kits is where Continue Reading >

Which mic do they use? (Mics part 2)

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 public radio reporters told us they Continue Reading >

Be prepared: How a production workflow can help you avert disaster

Producers are busy people. We juggle multiple projects: we’re in the middle of Project A when Project B ends and Project C gets started. We often don’t take the time to fully prepare new projects before we start them, especially when it comes to creating the production workflow! We then discover, sometimes well into the Continue Reading >

Which mic should I use? (Mics part 1)

Most audio producers and reporters heading into the field will have the basics: a handheld recorder of some kind, a pair of headphones, and one or two microphones. But which mic should you use? This is one of the most common questions about field recording and the decision can be confusing. We usually make the Continue Reading >

Six ways to run a listening session

If you work in audio journalism and storytelling, you know that “listening is our gold standard,” to quote NPR’s Sara Sarasohn. We all have opinions about what we hear and need perspective on what we create. We all aspire to do great work, but we can’t do it alone. A listening session is one of the Continue Reading >

Audio truth killers: an approach to collecting better sound

What is an Audio Truth Killer?  Is the sound in your piece supporting (or subduing) the message your piece is conveying to your listeners? Kevin Wait, former Production Specialist on the NPR Training team, hosted NPR’s “Audio Truth Killers” webinar and explores how the technical production of sound influences the editorial message in a piece. View the webinar below and/or scroll Continue Reading >

6 NPR stories that breathe life into neighborhood scenes

This post was first published on the website Storybench. For scenes to succeed in any medium, they have to engage your senses. You smell the diesel fumes, feel the breeze on your cheeks, hear the anger in the collective voice of a crowd of protesters. These appeals to the senses are important, but often secondary Continue Reading >

NPR’s Howard Berkes: The fundamentals of field reporting

Correspondent Howard Berkes joined the NPR staff in 1981. He has covered space shuttle disasters, mine safety violations, the Unabomber and neo-Nazi groups, the rural American West, and many Olympics, just to name a few of his many subjects. His reporting has taken him all over the world. STEP ONE: Prepare Tap local knowledge. Consult local public media Continue Reading >

Rock and roll mixing tricks for journalists

The techniques music engineers use to quality-check and deliver final mixes are not limited to music production. Journalists can use them, too. Here are tips to heighten your listening awareness and improve the technical quality of your audio stories.     Variety is the spice of life Studio engineers need their mixes to sound great on all playback devices so they Continue Reading >

Don’t let a ‘media error’ ruin your day

Loss of your best-interview-ever recording due to a “media error” message from your recorder can be devastating.  Compact Flash cards, SDHC cards, and Memory Sticks rarely fail; however, your treatment of these media cards can have a dramatic effect on your sound-gathering success. Most audio loss due to media error can be avoided by practicing these habits. Continue Reading >

Before the first question: How to prepare for an audio interview

You have characters. Check. You have a sense of what you want to record for ambient sound and active tape (the close-up sound of people doing things). Check. You’ve researched the topic and the people in the story. And, you’ve got a rough outline of how you think the story might be told. Check. Check. Continue Reading >

Where to find archival audio

As radio storytellers, we know the power recorded sound has to transport listeners to a specific time and place. The popularity of YouTube has made it easy to locate a vast amount of historic audio-visual content from speeches and interviews, to musical performances and television commercials. But not everything is on YouTube or easily surfaced Continue Reading >

A guide for gathering vox for NPR – and doing it quickly

This is printable and shareable guide to vox-gathering for NPR. You can use it as your own tip sheet or send it out to a producer who has been assigned to get vox. What do I ask? One uniform question – or series of questions. The vox question should be made clear in your assignment. Continue Reading >

Active sound: How to find it, record it and use it

This guidance comes from an NPR seminar by Robert Smith and Jeff Rogers in March 2002. It is just as relevant today. Many of the ideas and advice were provided by Terry Fitzpatrick, Howard Berkes, Jonathan Kern, Sora Newman, and the APRN Focus News Workshop. Active sound makes a report sparkle. It is sound that isn’t Continue Reading >

NPR’s Korva Coleman: Newscasts without panic

Korva Coleman has been an NPR newscast anchor for 25 years. She originally compiled these recommendations for PRNDI’s 2015 conference in Salt Lake City. They are intended for any public radio newscaster, in big markets and small.  1. Prepare yourself before you get to work What news do you listen to? What websites and newspapers do 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 >

How to use sound to make a news spot pop

Robert Garcia is Executive Producer of NPR’s Newscast Unit. Here, he shares examples of stand-out news spots, and why they work.   Deceptively simple  A very simple Memorial Day remembrance story. Seemingly. Craig Windham masterfully weaves in the music and atmospherics from the Arlington Cemetery ceremony with clips from the President’s speech and beautiful, crisp 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.    

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 >

Colorado Public Radio: How to find the perfect audio moment

Cindy Carpien, a former NPR producer, is now an independent radio trainer. She works throughout the public radio system. Radio journalists love sound to create a sense of place in a scene – squeaky doors opening and closing, cash registers, train whistles, car honking, bird chirping. But if you really want to describe something in a 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 >