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Storytelling tips and best practices

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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.

How NPR’s David Greene learned a new ‘art form’ in radio

The Morning Edition host came to NPR from newspapers. His advice on audio: Forget everything you know. But don’t!

What’s in your bag, Gregory Warner?

For this month’s What’s In Your Bag we reached out to Gregory Warner, host of the new NPR podcast Rough Translation. His work has taken him across Pakistan and Afghanistan, and now he is based in New York City after a long stint as NPR’s East Africa correspondent. He carries all of the essential gear

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.

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

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

3 simple ways to find story ideas

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 and humorous anecdotes. We asked her to some of those ideas in this post. It’s a great starting point for the next time you’re

A good lead is everything — here’s how to write one

The lead is the introduction — the first sentences — that should pique your readers’ interest and curiosity.

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.

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?

Understanding story structure in 4 drawings

You can learn a lot from a few simple line drawings! NPR’s Robert Smith explains the structure of audio news stories — from basic to complex.

Don’t ‘radiosplain’ and other ways to report on communities that aren’t your own

We can all get better at talking to communities that are not our own. It requires listening, humility and the willingness to investigate our own biases.

A checklist to organize your story process

With so many different ways to tell stories, I created this checklist of questions to keep things organized. The list is a work in progress — often more aspirational than actual. Pitch time Is this a radio story, web story or both? (Consider content and turnaround time) What visuals would make this an exciting story

How NPR covered the Paris attacks

An NPR crew prepares a broadcast from Paris on November 18, 2015. Photo by Russell Lewis/NPR In the days after the attacks in Paris, NPR deployed on multiple fronts, with special coverage by shows, Newscast reports, continuous updates online, and on-the-ground stories by reporters, producers and hosts in Paris. Different types of stories emerged. Here is a sampling (and

How to inject ‘documentary flair’ into your story

If you’ve ever covered something like a school board meeting and thought, “There’s no way I can make this interesting,” let Linda Lutton prove you wrong. This post is based on a Third Coast Festival presentation she gave at the 2015 PRPD conference about how to infuse documentary-style radio into everyday reporting (even when you think you don’t have

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

“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.

‘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.