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How to make local listeners care about your story

Using data from the NPR One app, we identified specific approaches to telling audio stories that can inspire your audience to sit up and listen.

Get great sound every time with this field recording checklist

You return from a long day reporting in the field — only to realize you didn’t record ambience. Rats! This post will help ensure that you get the sound you need to tell great stories.

Korva Coleman’s media habits

We asked Korva Coleman, NPR newscaster, about her media habits: “what – and who – are you paying attention to? What’s been good on the internet recently? I’ve been trying to scoop up as much political news as I can, so I’ve been looking around to find different angles of presidential campaign coverage. That may

How to write short

Short writing may not seem like a natural goal for journalism on the web. It’s easy to assume there’s infinite space to fill up, and if we’ve done all the reporting and have tons of material, well, why not? But just because there’s a lot of online real estate available doesn’t mean every story is

You made good radio — now make good internet

You’re probably here because you’re about to embark on a new, exciting audio storytelling project. Whether it’s a radio series or podcast, you likely have hours of recording, writing and editing ahead of you. But before you get started — and to make the most of your time — you need to do a little

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.

Ari Shapiro’s media habits

We asked Ari Shapiro, one of the hosts of All Things Considered, about his media habits: “what – and who – are you paying attention to? What’s been good on the internet recently? The photographer Ben Moon made a beautiful and moving short film last year called Denali, about saying goodbye to his dog. I

How to weave audience engagement into your reporting process

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Kelsey’s 2015 guide, The News Is Served: A practical framework for newsrooms to connect with niche communities. Watch a related webinar and check out her list, Seven Questions For Engaging Stories and Projects. Ah, reporting. The bread-and-butter of the journalistic process. This might feel like we’ve just put

Want to start a newsletter? Read this first

In case you haven’t heard, newsletters are back (and bigger than ever). A regular email is a great way to connect with your audience in a really intimate way — and it might be the first step to turning a casual listener into a super fan. But you shouldn’t start a newsletter without thinking deeply about what you’re trying to

Front-end editing: The ‘secret ingredient’ of great audio storytelling

Too often, editing only happens after a story has been reported and written. But the best editing begins even before a story is assigned. What should the process look like? Check out this step-by-step guide.

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?

These are NPR’s photo caption guidelines

Captions are journalism, too. They should be fact-checked and typo-checked. They should be complete sentences that present the who, what, where, when and (sometimes) why without necessarily stating the obvious (i.e., he sits, she waves, they clap). Captions give photos context, telling viewers what’s going on in a photo so they don’t have to guess

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

Get a Twitter habit: 5 things to do every day until it sticks

The hardest part to becoming a Twitter regular is developing the habit of using it. Every journalist today should be on Twitter — the excuses are few and the benefits are many. It’s not just a place to share and find stories. You can also use it as an alternative to the news wires and/or to find sources.

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

How to find sources on Twitter: An exercise

Note: This guide was developed in September 2015. It uses the California wildfires as a subject, but you can substitute any news story. I recommend a breaking news story that has some central event in a place (i.e. a tornado instead of the Trans-Pacific Partnership). In this exercise we’re going to use one of the

A quick guide to getting started on Twitter right now

I wanted to answer some of the basic Twitter questions I often get. Keep in mind that the answers below have been written for individual journalists and may not necessarily apply directly to what we call branded accounts (official accounts such as @NPR, @MorningEdition, @NPRGlobalHealth).  Let’s get started:  What should I tweet? You might not

How to write great headlines that keep readers engaged: 5 tips (and examples)

These tips and tricks will you help write stellar news and feature headlines.

Find stories and sources on reddit, Instagram

When news breaks, you may instinctively reach for Twitter. And that’s a fine reaction! It’s a good place to start to find sources. (This guide/exercise will show you how to do that very thing). But if you’re looking for more sources and tips, and if you’re generally trying to stay on top of the news, you should

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

This headline process can make your stories better

The exercise of coming up with a headline can also be a great way to come up with the right story idea. Here are a few ideas to get you started. While you’re at it, read this post to learn the characteristics of a great headline. Start brainstorming headlines at the idea stage Headline writing is an

6 ways to use social callouts

In public radio, it goes without saying that the public – our existing audience and otherwise – should be at the heart of everything we do. One way to bring more of those people into our reporting is through social callouts, where we ask the wider world to share their stories, photos and thoughts on

Acting on analytics: Using data to make editorial decisions

If you publish to a website, you probably have access to some sort of analytics dashboard where you can see which posts are performing well — and which ones aren’t. But what actions can you take with that information? This document will help you use metrics data to make informed editorial decisions. (Print it out!)

A review of basic analytics terms for understanding digital audiences

When someone reads or listens to our stories, we use a few different methods to keep track of them. These metrics are the baseline for what we measure when we look at our audience. We do this with Google Analytics, which is a good tool for understanding the fundamentals of your site. It provides general traffic

Twitter tips for talk shows

Kerri Miller shared her tips and thoughts on using social media in her role as a former host of the now-defunct MPR show, The Daily Circuit. Kerri Miller tweets several times a day asking questions related to her broadcast, about the latest books she’s reading, and more to over 15,000 followers. She said that although it took a while to fit social media into

Use your guests to grow a social media community

If you want to reach more people who care about your work by using social media, leverage the resources you have right in front of you: the guests, institutions and organizations that are featured in your segments. It is a benefit to everyone: the guest’s audiences are probably interested in their work, guests (usually) want to

How to host a Twitter chat

What is a Twitter chat? A Twitter chat is a conversation about a specific topic, usually at a specific time using a planned hashtag. There are annual chats about everything from web journalism to agriculture. Organizations often use Twitter to hold one-time chats about specific topics, have Q&A’s, discuss news series, and much more. Why

How to engage your community with Instagram callouts

The NPR Visuals team has engaged with the smartphone-toting, photo-taking, audience by asking them to share photos around various themes, stories and series on social media. Instagram in particular has been a useful platform for these storytelling projects, NPR Visuals assistant producer Emily Bogle said. Emily shares when to do an Instagram callout, how to plan, carry one out, and many

How to ‘interview’ a big pile of data

When confronted with a big pile of data, these tips will help you find sense in the numbers, find story ideas, and ask further questions. Like interviewing people, these techniques won’t necessarily uncover a smoking gun. In fact, such analysis rarely leads to great insights. That’s precisely why learning how to quickly ask some basic

Digital inspiration for the stressed out public radio reporter

Question: For small (or understaffed) stations, has it been worth trying to get reporters to produce stories for both radio and web/mobile platforms, or is it better to focus a reporter on one medium? This question has one clear answer – reporters should handle both digital and radio duties. When reporters are responsible for creating

Tips for creating shareable, local content

Writing shareable local stories doesn’t have to be complicated. The Local Stories Project shows that the tactics to create shareable stories cross state lines (all the way from Alaska to D.C.). We asked some of the current station editors involved with the project to share their tips. Check out this Nieman Lab story for more information

How to pitch a digital project at your station

Question: I have the idea for a blog for my station. How would one convince upper management that this project is worth the time and effort? What tips do you have for pitching digital projects? We hear versions of this question a lot. Since every station is different, there is no absolute best way to pitch

Get closer to your audience with an audio callout

At Morning Edition we’ve had fun experimenting with audio callouts. Our listeners record their response with their smartphone’s memo app and then send them to us via email. We’ve asked listeners to share their stories on everything from the Paris “love locks” to the ambient sound of daybreak in their backyards. The responses are intimate, funny — full of

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.

Twitter basics: Hashtags

Hashtags, love them or hate them, are important because they allow users to categorize tweets. When a user publishes a tweet with a hashtag, the tag appears as a link and allows readers to see the larger conversation around a topic or keyword. #butfirst, the origin of the [Twitter] Hashtag Hashtags sprung up organically during

Russell Lewis’s guide to fact checking

Note: This post is adapted from a presentation Russell has created on fact checking. What is a fact? Just because someone tells you something doesn’t mean it’s true. You also can’t trust that other sources, reporters and/or news outlets (even the New York Times) have gotten it right before you. Trust, but verify People don’t

How to grow a social media community from scratch

I spoke with Kat Chow, a producer with NPR’s Code Switch, about how she helped grow the blog’s social media presence from scratch when it launched in 2013. Think strategically about where to spend your time Code Switch focused a lot on Twitter when they launched because they knew they could have interesting conversations there with a diverse

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.

The nuts and bolts of building a storytelling project on social media

Davar Ardalan is a former NPR producer.   Women from technology fields in Silicon Valley to South Africa live tweeted a day in their lives using the hashtag #NPRWIT in March 2014. The series was a big success, with over 7,900 tweets with the hashtag and millions of impressions, Davar Ardalan wrote in a post in NPR’s daily social media tips newsletter.

7 strategies for engaging your podcast (or show) audience

Editor’s note: Although the advice here is aimed at podcasts, it is equally applicable to shows.  One of the first projects assigned to me as a product intern was to assess audience behavior and levels of engagement with NPR podcasts on social networks. I focused on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, iTunes, reddit and YouTube. The podcasts

Open copyright: How to find images, music and audio

Have you heard of openly copyrighted materials and wondered if they are something you can use? This post provides a basic introduction to what open copyright is, and what photography, music and other audio resources are available to you. The organization Creative Commons (CC) offers copyright licenses with simple, easy-to-understand rights. Media with Creative Commons copyrights

Get to know Instagram

Who Instagram users are “nearly as likely as Facebook users to use the site on a daily basis,” according to Pew Research Center. While there aren’t nearly as many users as Facebook, they are younger. Plus, there’s a lot of cross-posting between Instagram and other social networks — I’m sure you’ve seen an Instagram picture

5 principles of web writing

Online and radio audiences take in our stories in different ways. Because of this, sometimes you will want to “webify” or rewrite a radio piece for the web. We don’t recommend doing this for every radio story. In fact, we often suggest writing a web post first or completely separately. However, when it does make sense, there are

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

15 principles of show booking

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, you manage the invite list to that party. It’s your

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 to find great pictures for your stories

When it comes to stories on the web, strong photos can really help your story resonate with your audience. Just like putting together a radio story or written narrative, there can be a lot of things to consider to help make your visuals sing, so here’s a quick reference guide on when to consider visual

NPR Ethics Handbook

The NPR Ethics Handbook is designed to help our journalists make thoughtful, principled decisions. It is not a series of commandments. Instead, it offers frameworks and guidance. It is also a “living” document. While our core principles do not change, we review and adjust our thinking as issues arise. The Handbook is designed to accommodate

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

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

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

3 Google search tips from NPR’s Research Strategy & Archives Team

Everyone knows Google is a powerful portal to digital information, but a more daunting task is sorting through results to find the exact piece of information that will make your piece fuller and more informative.  The NPR Research Strategists are here to share three tips we use to get more precise and relevant results. Searching across

“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.

Steve Inskeep: Three songs that will change how you write for radio

When it comes to writing for radio, where does Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep find inspiration? In great lyrics. The structure of a great song parallels a beautifully written radio story. That was the subject of a talk Steve gave to the staff of Morning Edition. He played examples of songs that get right to the

Colorado Public Radio: How to find the perfect audio moment

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 compelling way, you’ll need more than the sound of a great squeaky floor. We’re looking for surprising moments that

8 things to keep in mind when writing for the web

When you’re writing a piece for the web, here are a few points to keep in mind: Get to the point quickly Think about the people who will read your blog posts. They’re looking at it on their desktop or mobile device. They’re coming from social media or search. They’re also scanning through a lot