Ethical Audio

Editing an interview for an audio slideshow is a tricky skill. In fact, getting the words to match the images is the least of your worries, especially when the narration is someone candidly, and so more poignantly, discussing the topic you’ve chosen.

Do not fear. Outlined below, thanks to The Journalist’s Toolkit, is a list of ethical do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when collating and viewing your soundbites:

Firstly, the golden rule is to never change the meaning of what the interviewee said. This obviously applies to all journalism, but can still be overlooked in the face of a tight deadline and a wealth of photos to coordinate.

The Do’s

  • It’s okay to cut out verbal stalling. Ums, ers, “can I go back and say that in a less slurred fashion” and “ooh this a great packet of crisps” can all go. Unless the slideshow is about crisps, of course.
  • Extraneous words can be edited out. In candid speech people tend to overuse words such as “like” and “kind of” and “you know” which can slow down the audio.
  • Au revoir to reiterations. As people think, they repeat sentences and this is often unnecessary. Make sure this doesn’t result in a jarring final edit, as it requires some skill to do well.
  • Subordinate clauses should also only be attempted by editing whizzes. It can usually result in a weird jumpy edit making the interviewee sound somewhat robotic and/or mental.
  • Always identify the speaker if it’s an interview piece. Either through captions or actually within the audio.
  • It sounds obvious, but let the interviewee know beforehand that they have to answer fully. So not “yes, I thought it was brilliant actually…” but “yes, I thought the Walkers foray into condiment flavoured crisps was brilliant actually…”

Summary of Do’s: You CAN edit anything that smooths out the interview and tightens the soundbite.

Don’ts

  • Never tell the interviewee or narrator what to say. It’s unethical to force opinions on anyone.
  • Don’t forget to make sure the interviewee or narrator gives full permission for their audio to be used. Written and signed.
  • You cannot dub other questions in other than the ones you asked. This is often used on pirate radio interviews and is bad practice. Even if the wording is slightly altered, it could change the semantics of the person’s response. Similarly you can’t use someone’s narration out of context with the one given by you in the recording.
  • Avoid re-asks unless the interviewee chokes on a question and cannot answer it.
  • Do not change location. Different background levels will sound bizarre.

So there you have it. Follow these guidelines and you can guarantee yourself a better soundbite, and a distinct lack of being sued.

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Filed under Audio editing, Interviews, Uncategorized

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