Off The Written Path

Exploring New Journalism

Off The Written Path

‘JournalismNext’ Chapter 7 Summary

March 1st, 2011 · No Comments · Journalism Next by Mark Briggs

Audio journalism from Edward R. Murrow. 1945.


Sounds are a bit like smells. Just like a scent can transport you to your childhood, so can a certain sound transport you to another place. In Chapter 6 of “JournalismNext” Mark Briggs argues that as a reporting tool, audio deserves another look.

“Audio journalism is about more than just getting a sound bite,” Briggs says. He adds that audio can help journalists build a “textured, layered” story that takes on “multidimensional” aspects.

The chapter lists some abilities unique to audio reporting.

Presence: Sound can take readers to the scene.

Emotions: The sound of a voice can convey emotion better than print (and without the distraction of visuals).

Atmosphere: Natural sound helps pull listeners in.

Briggs describes audio as a personal experience that builds an intimacy with listeners that is absent in print or video.

There are several ways journalists can do audio journalism:

Reporter overview: Simple audio overviews of a story.

Podcasts: Regular audio episodes on a particular subject.

Audio slideshows: Adding audio to a photo slideshow to create a compelling multimedia story.

Breaking news: Quick audio reports which can be filed from the field.

Briggs says that it is not difficult to compile an audio story since they just have a few basic parts; interviews and voice-overs, natural or environmental sound, and imported sound clips including music.

There are several steps to get started.

  • Record an interview. Interviews can be used as stand-alone audio files with a story, podcast, stand-alone audio file for a blog post, audio for a slide show.
  • Prepare. Improvisation won’t do. Here is a class that can help you improve your voice if you are a print person nervous about doing audio.
  • Choose your location. Make sure the place is not noisy.
  • Gather natural sound. Listen for natural sounds that will help set the scene for your story and record the sound separately from your interview.
  • Prepare your subject. Let the subjects know about the story you are doing and give them questions in advance so they can prepare answers. This helps in audio so you don’t have audio with awkward pauses.
  • Watch what you say. Your voice will also be recorded so try to stay quiet and give nonverbal cues to your interviewee.
  • Try delayed recording. Record an interview after the initial print interview. It will make your subjects more confident since they have already answered some of the questions.
  • Note the time. If you jot down the times for the best quotes it will be easy to go back to them when editing the audio file.

Finally, make sure you pick up a good digital recorder and find a good audio-editing program.

If you are not convinced audio can be a powerful tool for journalism listen to the classic report at the start of this blog post. It is Edward R. Murrow reporting from the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945.


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