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 writing to create as close to a perfect spot as you’ll ever hear.


In the middle of the action

This is what we call a ROSR (said “roser”) – a Radio On Scene Report. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports from a full-fledged riot in Dakar, Senegal. She takes listeners right into the middle of the disturbance in what is one of the most dramatic ROSR’s ever aired on an NPR newscast. Listen to how she ends the spot, after getting tear-gassed: “Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, gagging, at Independence Square, Dakar.”


The famous New York St. Patrick’s Day parade spot

NPR’s Robert Smith won a competitive challenge with a fellow NY reporter to see who could fit more audio elements into a 40-second spot. I count 19 different audio elements. It does not come off as gimmicky, just incredibly textured.


Want more, more, MORE?!

There are LOTS more examples of news spots, and tons of great tips, at this Transom write-up by Robert Smith and Phyllis Fletcher.

Alison MacAdam was a Senior Editorial Specialist with the NPR Training team, where she focused on audio storytelling. Prior to that, she edited All Things Considered.