WK5 Audio Reporting

UPDATED Sept 2018 / Sharron Lovell

You will need to bring an audio recorder, softie or dead-cat & headphones and have adobe premiere CC installed. Please also download a podcast app for iPhone you can try Pocket Casts or Podcast Addict for android. 


  • M: am Brief Intensive

  • M: 10.00 – 12.15 Audio Reporting: Power of Audio Journalism

  • M: 13.15 – 15.00 Audio Workshop:  recorders / mics / formats / levels

  • M: 15.15 – 16.15 Audio Exercise & Review

  • T: 10.00 – 12.15 Audio Editing: Intro, self-study required: (MultimediaTrain)

  • T: 13.15 – 14.30 Audio Reporting: Tips to help you report your story

  • M: 14.45 – 16.00 Feature Writing Critique 

Assignment 1 – Deadline: Sunday Midnight

2.5 – 3.5-minute audio news feature. Your topic is China’s retirement age for most men and women is 60 and 55 respectively. For others, it is 50. A new reform will raise retirement ages so that by 2045, the retirement age for both men and women will be 65.

Your target publication is NPR. You will report an audio feature for their Parallels section. It will also be a suitable segment to air on NPR’s Morning Edition. Upload your audio file to SoundCloud and embed it on your website.

The Parallels section is reported by NPR correspondents around the globe. They report stories that are happening all over the world for an international English speaking audience.

NPR’s Morning Edition Is a daily morning radio broadcast including timely news and feature stories. It is also, of course, available online.

Assignment 2 – Deadline: Sunday Midnight

View the full audio section of Multimediatrain to help you review technical learning

Assignment 3 – Deadline: Sunday Midnight

  • News Literacy Week 3 Readings & Viewings. We will cover this in the Intensive week

Assignment 4 – Make sure you are up-to-date with required reading for the module

The required textbook Handbook of Independent Journalism by Deborah Potter. 

Session Preparation – Pre-reading / watching

Bring an audio recorder, softie or dead-cat & headphones and have adobe premiere CC installed. Please also download a podcast app for iPhone you can try Pocket Casts or Podcast Addict for android.

You may preview the audio section at http://www.multimediatrain.com – but it’s not compulsory. You will certainly need to watch this after the session.

Assignment Guidelines

1 x 2.5 – 3.5-minute audio news feature, your target publication is NPR. You will report an audio feature for their Parallels section. If you are under or over the time limit your assignment will be rejected and you will need to re-edit. It’s easy to access sources (both people/interviews and documents) for this topic. We haven’t given a broad topic this week, so you don’t really need to find an angle. So please stick to it unless you negotiate with us in advance. We suggest you speak with people in a park which might have a potential for good ambient sound too! But you may do your assignment in any or multiple locations. 

Be sure to listen to at least 10 reports featured on your publication – the Parallels section before you report! You might also listen to some NPR Postcards, which are all shot on location with rich human voices and ambient sound. It’s critical that you get to know the publication a little. Each week you’ll be assigned to produce a story for a different publication to help build an understanding of different publications and styles.

You will need a variety of sources both people/interviews and documents. Be sure to give us a human perspective via sound bytes (quotes). Include sound bytes from three different people. Interview in the interviewee’s native language and DUB the voice as necessary. Listen to how it’s done here. Rember to include facts, information, and statistics that support and evidence the WWWWW&H questions of the story too! Don’t include too many facts or data, pick out the most important and interesting things! 

Include a single thumbnail photo and embed into your digital page using www.soundcloud.com.

Do not record a host intro, instead write a short text paragraph intro to accompany your embedded audio file to introduce the topic and hook people in. 

Be sure to monitor your audio when recording: check the levels & wear headphones!


  • Include a single, relevant header image – you can choose to upload this to SoundCloud when you upload your audio file.
  • Include a headline
  • Make plenty of Interviews and gather at least 3 quality sound bytes (quotes) from three different people representing varied perspectives
  • record and include 5 or 6 quality ambient sounds recorded in the environment where the story is taking place (get your recorder close!).
  • Use Information, facts & data to support and contextualize the story.
  • Use Narration (voice-over) to weave your story together. You will need to practice this a few times before you record! Here are some tips for recording your voice over
  • Ensure your story has NEWS VALUE, and STORY FOCUS, and answers the basic WWWW & H questions relevant to your chosen STORY FOCUS.
  • Ensure your story has a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Embed your audio report to your blog using SoundCloud or similar software
  • Think about structure, use narration lead-in and conclude
  • The middle section should use a mixture of sound bytes and narration


  • not include an audio anchor lede. Instead write a short summary paragraph, introducing the story. (See an example here
  • Edit one sound-byte after another sound-byte without putting some narration between

Assessment / Critique Checklist

  • Your feature is suitable for the target publication – NPR’s Parallels section
  • It has a clear focus
  • It includes key elements: headline; nut graph; lead; quotes; relevant context; facts and information. 
  • The story answers essential WWWWW+H questions relevant to the focus
  • Quotes capture information & emotion
  • Quotes are dubbed to English 
  • Three face-to-face interviews with people on location
  • Document sources must be used (for facts, info, and context)
  • Sources should be properly attributed, you’ll need to do this with narration
  • The feature has a beginning, a middle and end.
  • There is one ‘header image
  • Narration is clear 
  • The feature is uploaded to your digi-platform (If you struggle with sound cloud – we can do this in class on Monday morning)

Class Notes

You can find this week’s PPT here: IMJ AudioReporting 1819

For the technical PPT’s you can find everything at MultimediaTrain

The best thing you can do this week is to listen to and enjoy a few good audio news feature stories. It’s always better to go slowly and really think about them rather than skim lots of things quickly without thinking. Try listening to one or two every day – it might help to look at the transcripts too! You might start with NPR parallels but you can also try others organizations and podcasts.
From NPR parallels we recommend the features below:

This is the one we listened to in class. A Harrowing, Mountain-Scaling Commute For Chinese Schoolkids – You might want to look at the transcripts I marked up here and here where I have highlighted the structure and various elements in the script, (like the sound-bytes, facts, and description). The only thing missing in this story about Liangshan is attribution for the sources of some of the general facts and information contained in the story that is not given by interviewees, and in fact many short audio features do simply only attribute the human sources interviewed (i.e. the names and descriptions of the people delivering the sound-bites). Audio (and video) reporting does not attribute facts and information to the same degree as text reporting because it can ruin the flow of the story and make it hard to listen and follow. However, if there is any important or contested information please do include attribution to let the audience know where the information is coming from. Here is an example of attribution of a fact in another audio report. If you read the script you will find this fact: There were over 180,000 (Syrian refugee) children working (in Lebanon) as of four years ago. Take a look and you will see that this fact is attributed to an estimation by the Ministry of Labour.

Take note, if you do not attribute the facts in your audio report, you should at least make sure they are credible and verify things yourself. This way you can ensure your reporting is accurate and your editor (in this case Sharron) will probably want to see your sources too before she/he publishes the piece.

Class notes & Assignment resources:

You’ll need to think about three important things, 1) your technical competence –  both equipment and software. 2) Good journalism and reporting – gathering rich and relevant sound-bytes and interesting, important and relevant facts. 3) Good storytelling – arranging your reporting into a story with a clear focus, and logical beginning, middle, and end. 

Audio is a unique and powerful medium, whether you use it stand-alone, part of a mixed media story or of course as the critical 50% of video. You’ll get technical tips in class but will also have to do some testing and practice with your own equipment. It’s critical to be familiar and in control of your equipment before you go to record. This takes practice. Once you get a great subject you’ll want to focus on the person you are interviewing and the story, not your equipment.

Like writing, there’s only so much we can teach in the classroom — if you want to be a good audio storyteller, you’ll need to listen to plenty of audio. Audio should be a regular part of your news diet. If you are new to audio journalism I recommend listening to either NPR’s morning edition or BBC’s Daily commute to get a sense of traditional news radio formats. We also recommend listening to longer form audio and storytelling podcasts such as BBC World’s documentaries and This American Life. You can find all of these online or subscribe via your podcast app. You might also try the unique NPR ONE app

Power of audio – In class, we take a look at traditional broadcast radio but focus on digital audio. Like radio, online audio journalism covers all genres of journalism, hard news, and features in all sections, (news, sports, politics, society etc). Audio journalism is broadcast and distributed on various online platforms from podcasts and apps to online audio streams of radio stations.

Audio journalism is easy embeddable audio via audio hosting services like soundcloud.com. Audio journalism caters for both broad and niche audiences. Podcasting is a significant growing trend, The New York Times launched a podcast team earlier this year to produce new shows.

Read and watch a little about the form and growth of podcasting — in the articles and video below.

Podcasts – The Nieman Lab reports that research shows that podcast audiences are growing. Traditional news organizations with radio departments have been podcasting for years. In recent years many traditional news outlets are now producing podcasts too, the bigger ones with more resources are producing multiple podcasts – for example, The New York Times, The Guardian and The Washington Post. This BBC article talks about the business model. 

*(The Nieman Lab is a site with articles covering journalism in the Internet age – read it!)

NPR (America’s National Public Radio) has been in the podcast game for ten years. Its history in the podcast space is an interesting gauge of how much times have changed.

Equipment + Technique; recorders / microphones / audio formats / proximity / levels + monitoring:

Take a look at technique. You might not want to do stand-alone audio in the future, but you’ll still need solid audio skills for your video work. Good audio adds a whole other dimension to video – take a look at this short film below. Listen to how the rich sound creates a vibrant experience.


For more technical information head to the audio section on www.multimediatrain.com. Start with the page below and work your way through the technical sections.

Reporting + recording tips for audio journalism – As mentioned in class you’ll need to research and plan your story — you’ll notice structure follows many of the same basic principals as text. But of course, there are some important differences.

1 – Research and find focus. The focus is the question or idea you want to explore and report. Remember: If you don’t know what your story is about — how will your audience?

2 – Plan & structure. Which sources/locations will you use? Which questions (WWWWW+H) will you ask? How will you ask them to get good bytes that deliver information and emotion?

3 – Report and record. You’ll need interviews/sound bites, wild tracks (10 sounds), room tone for interviews. You can rewatch the training tips from the wonderful BBC academy here:

4 – Transcribe + log your tape. After you’ve finished reporting, it’s time to log your tape. This means listening to everything you’ve recorded and writing it up. You should transcribe quotes you know you are going to use in full, note who’s saying what. Use Timecode! You don’t have to log the soundbites or sections you know you won’t use. Just give a reference to what’s being said and a timecode. Name your ambient sounds. You might try www.otranscribe

5 – Reformulate your nut graph. Once you’ve done this, selecting bytes and information will be easy

6 – Choose your sound bytes

Remember — don’t just choose bytes purely based on the information; consider how it’s said and how it will fit into your story structure, does it describe something, make you laugh or cry? Your actualities should advance the story and make it interesting.

7 – Write the narration. Structure a beginning, middle, and end. Slot in your bytes and write the narration. Make sure transitions between sound bytes are smooth and logical.

Struggling starting to write? Use these questions to kickstart

  • After all your research & reporting what is the most interesting and important point, you want to communicate? (What made you sit up)
  • What facts illuminate or help develop this point? (Give me data + attribution)
  • What is necessary for understanding this story? (Give me context)
  • What can I leave out? (Yawn)
  • Still stuck? Call a friend, your mum — and tell them about your story — go from there. If you can clearly and concisely tell the story to a friend that’s a good starting point.
  • Be visual. Give your listeners a chance to imagine the people, places and things in your story. Describe scenes and people; include interesting sounds.
  • Be concise. Long sentences usually don’t work too well in radio
  • Beware of too many numbers.
  • Be energetic. Use the active voice. Use punchy verbs and contractions. Mind your tenses — don’t switch back and forth between past and present. Most radio stories are done in the present tense.
  • Be conversational. Your narration should sound as natural as possible –  as if you’re telling a story to a friend. Use phrases and words you normally use. When you read your narration aloud, do you sound like yourself? Practice before you record!

8 – Edit. Edit + bring in your ambient sounds. Music (no thanks — not this time, unless it’s actually part of the story of course!!)

9 – Write your intro and don’t forget to make a picture!

 Embedding & uploading

Ethics – Last but certainly not least. When editing audio you have a lot of control of how you cut up quotes. You will want to trim things and sometimes even want to cut into the middle of a byte to make it more succinct. When editing interviews the most important rule is: NEVER change the meaning of what the interviewee said. Maybe the second rule is that It’s not okay to tell someone what to say. It is okay to re-ask or rephrase a question to allow someone another chance to collect his or her thoughts and answer it again. Often, they are clearer and more succinct the second time around. Finally for news NEVER use sound you did not record yourself at the scene or while doing your research.  Here are some good guidelines: Ethical guidelines for editing audio | J-Source and from NPR on attribution Attribution

Extra, optional Assignment resources:  

You don’t need to go through all the resources this week, there is plenty of reading for you to do this week. These extra resources are for the really keen and for you to come back to later as and when needed.

If you love audio check out this link, it’s from the amazing people at Transom.org — an experiment in channeling new work and voices to public radio through the Internet, for discussing that work, and encouraging more.

“One of the most important parts of the workshops I teach at Transom is listening. We listen to radio stories at the beginning of nearly every class. Listening is essential for developing a critical ear… Dead Animal Man” is so full of radio goodness; I can’t imagine I would ever not play it in class.”

Now, listen to Transoms breakdown analysis of “Dead Animal Man” by Ira Glass. The story is a profile of a Baltimore city employee who, as the title suggests, picks up dead animals for the Department of Sanitation. The minute by minute breakdown looks in detail at what Ira’s doing in terms of production and storytelling. Story Dissection: Dead Animal Man

Check out BBC academy search term radio

There’s a whole host of incredible resources on the ‘This American Life’ site Make Radio | This American Life

Transom is an incredible resource Transom

Want to make a radio feature? Listen to this great podcast from the BBC — “There are many different ways to make a world-class radio documentary. Creating a good radio feature is all about the art of shaping sound to tell compelling stories. Done well, they can provide intimate insights into somebody else’s world, painting vivid pictures in the minds of your listeners.” Making radio features

Writing a Radio Script gives a good quick guide to writing a script for a feature radio story, “Writing for radio is different than writing for print. You’re writing for the ear, not the eye. Listeners have to get it the first time around- they can’t go back and hear it again (unlike re-reading a sentence in a magazine).”

Anna Sale, the host of the program, Death, Sex, and Money is a remarkable interviewer, and not afraid to ask personal questions of both public and private people. Anna talks about the craft of radio interviewing with Rob Rosenthal, producer of HowSound, a podcast about audio storytelling from PRX and Transom.