August 31, 2009 Archives

A podcast is the production of a short audio piece featuring the spoken word, for release on the internet.

The term combines "iPod" and "broadcasting," emphasizes the collapsing distance between creator and producer of 21st century media. 

In the past, you needed the support of a broadcasting studio to get your voice in the public arena, but now the internet is full of chatter, of all levels of professionalism and quality.

From time to time, groups of students express interest in starting a radio station at SHU. Typically these students graduate before they make much progress, but I don't want to wait for a radio station to exist, before I teach my new media journalism audio  reporting skills.

The multimedia nature of 21st Century news reporting means that the ability to gather high-quality sound -- as well as digital stills and video, web links, and ideas for interactive features like polls or discussion forum topics) is increasingly becoming a core journalism skill.

The term "podcast" can apply variously to personal rants, informal product reviews, or comedy routines. This term, however, our "Media Lab" podcasts will be in the tradition of radio news.
  • An opinion piece, like NPR's This I Believe).
  • Some on-the-spot reporting (where you will record live sound in the field, from a speaker or interview, and work brief clips into the body of your own story) (samples -- KQV PittsburghKDKA Pittsburgh).
  • And some news features (NPR is the king of this sort of thing... here's a link to a story about the cancellation of "Reading Rainbow".... you're probably humming the theme song now.)


We won't have time to look at all of this in class, but this handout (from my EL227 "News Writing" class), "English Essay vs. News Story," addresses many of the issues faced by entry-level journalism students who are used to writing for their English literature teachers. Note especially the section on the inverted pyramid.

Also noteworthy: this handout on Leads.

Radio News Delivery

Listen to a short news broadcast, such as the NPR Hourly News Summary. These stories will typically include audio clips from newsmakers, and perhaps the noise of crowds or nature. But for this exercise, we're just focusing on the sound of the radio journalist's voice.

Don't try to sound like "an announcer."  Forget the barking style of voice that radio announcers always seem to have in movies when they "interrupt this program with a special bulletin."
Radio News Delivery.mp3
(By the way, a typical radio story is just 50 seconds long, which is about how long it took me to read the following.
A radio newscaster's voice begins each story on a high pitch, with the first sentence of the story ending with a slight drop.
The second sentence starts at exactly this same pitch, which is an important audio cue that we're still on the same subject.

Note this slight boost of energy in the third sentence, which is important because the tone can't keep dropping forever.

Although I wouldn't do it when delivering a hard news story, I'm about to hang my voice, indicating I've got plenty more to say.

My speech is formal but conversational, with both high and low pitches within each sentence, though the general trend has been downward.

You can always tell the final sentence in a radio journalist's story; it slows down just a bit, and its pitches are the lowest of the whole piece.
For the New Media Journalism program at Seton Hill University, I'm Dennis Jerz.
Newsworthiness (Sample News Feature)

Next is an example of a news feature, which is far more conversational. I'm not trying to sound like I'm shouting to everyone who might be listening; rather, I'm talking to just one friend sitting right next to me.

This piece is a little longer -- we won't listen to it in class, but do pay attention to both the form (the way I use my voice) and the content (in which I give a 9-minute mini- lecture, expanding this brief handout on newsworthiness).

Brief summary:
  • Reporters report the newsworthy things that other people do.
  • The unusual or unexpected is more newsworthy than the ordinary and routine.
  • Famous or notable people (eccentric, infamous) are more newsworthy than ordinary people.
  • Weird, scary and violent stuff are newsworthy.
  • "If it bleeds, it leads." Disasters that don't happen aren't news.
  • Mildly annoying things that happen to notable people are newsworthy.
  • Events affecting more people are more newsworthy.
  • Nearby events are more newsworthy than distant events.
  • Current events, or trends that can be tied to a current event, are more newsworthy than history.

Recent Comments

Dennis G. Jerz on Ex 1: Goals Statement (03 Sep, 23:19h)
Chelsea Oliver on Ex 1: Goals Statement (03 Sep, 21:33h)
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