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.

Want razor-sharp focus in your audio stories? This group activity can help

All you need is a story idea, an open mind and some friends.

Want to start a podcast? Read this first

Use these prompts and quick tips to get your creative process started.

The journey from print to radio storytelling: A guide for navigating a new landscape

Print and audio journalism exist in the same world — but the terrain is different. Let this serve as your map.

You asked: How can I get better at standups?

On-scene, in-the-moment narration can add depth and urgency to an audio story. But doing great “stand-ups” requires thinking beyond the clichéd “I’m standing here…” approach.

What makes a good pitch? NPR editors weigh in

Pitching is hard. Every one of us has gotten excited about an idea … and been shot down. We compiled the best tips for getting to “yes” — and some common pet peeves — from NPR editors.

Radio intros: 5 examples of success

A good radio hooks your audience. Here are five examples of great intros — and why they work.

Beyond the 5 W’s: What should you ask before starting a story?

We all know the classic “5 W” questions journalists ask: Who, what, where, when, why (and bonus, “how”). But you should also consider the six additional questions listed below, which complement those fundamentals. They are informed by journalism but focused on storytelling. Your answers to these questions may change in the process of reporting. That

How audio stories begin

At this hyper-competitive moment in audio, it’s essential to grab listeners at the very beginning of a story. But how do you do it? Check out these explanations of different narrative strategies.

The audio editor’s resource: Tips for shaping great stories

Editing is a specialized craft in itself. This post compiles NPR Training’s tips and tricks to help audio editors guide and elevate stories.

Reporter two-ways: Improvisation within a structure

For many radio reporters — even some of the most experienced ones — the prospect of talking on-air with a host can be daunting. How can you clearly deliver your reporting when you don’t have total control over the questions and you can’t read from a script?

Six ways to run a listening session

Helping people listen critically to stories requires more than simply pushing “play.”

How Joe Richman makes ‘Radio Diaries’

Joe Richman created Radio Diaries in 1996. He began giving tape recorders to “ordinary” people and working with them to tell stories about their own lives. Joe also produces audio histories. A distinguishing feature of his work is the lack of an authoritative, reportorial voice; Joe is a master of the non-narrated audio story. His work has

How to edit with your ears

If you haven’t listened to a story and all of its sonic elements, you haven’t edited it.

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

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

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.

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

Active sound makes an audio story sparkle. It is sound that isn’t stuck in the background. It’s up-front. It shows character and action. Here’s how to capture it.

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

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

‘Butt cut what?’ A glossary of audio production terms and definitions

This is the technical lingo you need to know as an audio producer.

Vocabulary for an audio editor: 15 things to say… over and over…

These editing tips come from Sara Sarasohn, a longtime NPR editor and producer who has worked at All Things Considered, the Arts Desk, and NPR One, where she leads the app’s editorial efforts. As you read this, imagine you are speaking to your reporter. Each of these recommendations is a question or line to use during

How NPR’s Carrie Johnson found her radio voice

For this correspondent, learning to write for radio required a special style of script-writing.

On deadline? Follow these tips to get on the air fast

Say it’s 9:00am and you just got an assignment. It has to be on All Things Considered by 4:00pm. You may have to throw your dreams of perfection out the window, but you can still produce a satisfying story, if you use strategies like the ones described below. These tips are adapted from former NPR

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

Understanding story structure with the “Three Little Pigs”

This is an excerpt of a piece written by former NPR editor Jonathan Kern. It has been lightly edited. One of the under-appreciated challenges in putting a radio report together is ensuring that the story has a logical structure.  All too often, reporters assemble their pieces by collecting their best tape, and then writing copy that

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

Dissecting a good radio story

See an actual script, complete with margin comments, from NPR host Ailsa Chang.

What does a radio script look like?

Not every broadcast radio script looks the same! But there are elements every script should share. And here they are.

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

How a long audio story is different from a short one

Jonathan Kern was a longtime NPR editor (among other things) and author of “Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production.” What he describes as “long” are long pieces for news magazines — roughly, 6 minutes or more — but this guidance is helpful if you’re crafting an even longer story. The basics

Radio intros

Radio intros: 7 engagement tips to keep listeners from hitting the skip button

Intros are the most important feature of your story — here’s how to write one.

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

How NPR’s Sam Sanders is finding his voice

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.

“Would you say it that way?” Tips on writing for your voice

Why is it so hard to write how we talk? Here are some essentials tips to capture the human voice in your radio writing.

From pitch to story: These 32 questions can help editors guide reporters

This checklist of questions will make your reporter’s story better — and editing it easier.

‘Once upon a time’ and other devices for starting your story

Every story has its own style of adventure. Here are different ways to take listeners on a journey.