Category Archives: Interviews

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.


  • 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

BBC College of Journalism on choosing audio clips

This video guide is geared towards radio but it is still helpful for online audio. Julian Vaccari, a BBC journalist, takes us through the essentials for a fast turnaround of audio clips – especially helpful for news.

BBC College of Journalism – Audio Clips Guide

His main points are:

– Be prepared and anticipate the story.

– Listen to a piece of audio in full before you select your clip. If it is a speech, make sure you listen to the Q and A afterwards.

– Think about what you are using the clip for when you select the duration

– Choose the best quality clips, with no glitches etc

– Listen out for details that move a story on and include these in your audio clip

– Include any memorable or colourful phrases

– Cut out words that don’t add anything like ‘I believe’ and ‘The report concludes that’

– If you make internal cuts, do take out coughing, long pauses and swearing but be sure not to alter the meaning of the speaker in your clip


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Filed under Audio editing, Interviews, Radio

The Big Question

If The Guardian’s Stuart Heritage could make a podcast, it would be about the X Factor. And it would be called ‘The X Factor Podcast’. Although known mainly for screen-based reviews, observations and trying to slip X-Factor references in wherever possible, the one thing everyone wants to know is, let’s be honest, what he thinks about podcasts. And maybe a bit about whale song. Thank the lord for the Audio Journalism blog…

Hi. What do you think of podcasts?

The Bugle is always a favourite. I also like the stuff Richard Herring does with Andrew Collins, and a few of The Guardian‘s podcasts. But finding a podcast that I like tends to involve wading through about a million hopeless, boring, crappy ones first. Why can’t all podcasts be good? Why?

Ok, if you could create one, what would it be?

Entertainment Weekly sometimes does a great podcast about American Idol, where they just pile a bunch of writers together and get them to pick each episode apart in a really snappy, witty way. I’d probably rip this idea off  but make it about X Factor. However, I think I might be the only person involved with The Guardian who gives even the remotest stuff about X Factor, so there’s a good chance the whole thing might just be me in a room by myself, crying. I’d call it X Factor Podcast. Because I have no imagination.

Have you ever made one before?

I attempted to a couple of years ago. The plan was for it to be a hard-hitting news satire thing but, in my opinion at least, it didn’t really work out. It was a bit flat and tedious and we didn’t research anything properly and I think I’d die of humiliation if people ever heard it.

You are locked in a small box and subjected to one continuous sound for 36 hours. What would your preferred sound be?

I’m tempted to say whalesong or some other kind of new-age bollocks, in the dumb hope that it’d make me relax and go to sleep. However, experience has taught me that whalesong gets a bit oppressive after about 45 minutes, so there’s a good chance I’d try to deliberately fracture my skull on the sides of the box to make it stop if this actually happened. Therefore, my answer is this: the continuous sound of everyone outside the box crying and saying how much they miss me. See? Needy AND vain.

So. Now you know…

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Filed under Interviews, Podcasts

The Art of Interviewing for Audio

While I would never want to be without my trustee Dictaphone, there are few things more likely to make me cringe than listening back to my recorded interviews. Who’s that squeaky five-year-old Northerner trying to ask grown-up questions? I always wonder.  In my head, my voice sounds about an octave lower and I’m speaking the Queen’s English.

But worse than this, is the discovery that I sound like a bumbling fool. Asking the same question in about five different verbose ways seems to be one of my special skills. Thank god I’m a print journalist.

But of course not everyone can get away with such interview verbal diarrhoea and those who work in audio journalism, or like me would like to at least become reasonably accomplished in the field, have to learn the art of concise, direct questioning. As any journalist who has ever been given precisely 30 seconds of an important person’s time will attest to, this is also a rather important skill for any journalist.

The trick, if listening to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour has taught me anything, is to make it all sound very easy and relaxed. And not to panic if there’s a silence and  fill it with inane babbling.

This is much easier said than done though. Literally:  saying something is often much more comfortable than leaving a silence. So I thought I would ask someone who has experience staying calm in front of a microphone for some top tips. Steve Peiris hosts the talk show Talk Hamburg in Germany and I pounced upon the poor chap in the City journalism department. The reasons for this interview were three fold: to get some tips from him, to practice my interviewing technique, and to get to grips with editing and embedding a sound file in this blog.

You may find this hard to believe once you’ve listened to the interview,  but I was actually trying to be less bumbly than usual. The difference in the pace and clarity of our two voices provides at least I hope a stark tutorial on how to and how not to do it. Steve hadn’t prepared any of his answers but still managed to achieve a clear, calm delivery.

Have a listen to the master…

The main thing I learnt from this was to prepare written questions beforehand and STICK TO THEM. Obviously this is always quite a good rule of thumb but matters even more here, where a bit more structure to my questions would have vastly improved this impromptu interview. And of course editing questions out is always an option- Steve was such a pro that most of the time he automatically restated the question in his answer (most interviewees might need to be asked to do this). For this to work I would have had to resist umming in agreement with his answers. Again, weirdly easier said than done.

To record the interview I used my Olympus VN-8700PC Dictaphone and then used Adobe Audition to edit it slightly (that’s right, there was even more bumble in there to start with). I then converted the file from a Windows Media Audio file to an MP3 using Switch Sound File Converter downloaded from the internet. Then I converted this to a SoundCloud which could be embedded in this blog.

I struggled particularly with Adobe Audition and couldn’t find any simple tutorials online to help me out. Does anyone know of any?

Stay tuned for my guide to using these programmes… once I’ve properly got to grips with them myself of course…

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Filed under Equipment, Interviews, Radio

Tips from a start out multimedia journalist


We spoke to audio journalism fanatic Perry Santanachote who has been working as a multimedia journalist for two years in the US. She gives her essential equipment, Do’s and Don’ts and favourite podcasts and slideshows.

How long have you been working in multimedia?
I have been a multimedia journalist for two years.
What equipment do you have – what are your essentials?
For audio I use a Marantz PMD660 with a cardioid microphone and Sony MDR7509 headphones. I always carry a shotgun mic with a dead cat too, just in case the room is noisy or the wind’s blowing. I have a smaller Marantz 620 in my purse at all times. For photos I use a Canon EOS Rebel XTi. And I am addicted to my Sigma 18-50 mm MACRO lens.
A Flip cam is also always in my purse and has come in handy on several occasions.

What can audio journalism do that nothing else can?
Audio journalism encourages imagination like no other medium. In that sense, it’s actually the most visual form of storytelling. Ambient sound has the power to transport listeners and paint a vivid scene in a way that a photo alone can’t. And on the web, audio provides the narrative spine necessary for linear multimedia production.

Do you have any favourite audio journalists or pieces of work?
Do you listen to any podcasts – what are your favourites? 

  • On the Media
  • The Moth
  • Radio Diaries
  • World Vision Report
  • Public Radio Exchange
  • Transom
  • Third Coast International Audio Festival


Finally, what are your Do’s and Don’ts for producing audio journalism?
DO transcribe.
DO use short, neutral and open-ended questions.
DO always ask “how” and “why.”
DO know when to shut up and engage with your eyes.
DO wear headphones. Ear buds won’t do.
DON’T ever record in a gymnasium or a hallway.
DON’T forget to pack extra batteries.
DON’T waste time. Pre-interview and tell the interviewee exactly what you need.
DON’T produce a story if the character’s a bore. Ninety-nine percent of a good audio story is a good character.

Check out Perry’s website at

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Filed under Audio Slideshows, Equipment, Interviews, Podcasts

That’s Not My Name

An Audio Slideshow  admittedly sounds quite dull. In the words of Adam Westbrook: “It conjures an image of looking at your aunty and uncle’s holiday snaps.” It’s essential, then, to keep in mind that well known Chinese proverb. Never judge a specific journalistic medium by its vaguely formal name.

Adam, the New Media journalist behind studio.fu specialising in online video, social media and blogging, bloody loves a good audio slideshow. In fact, not only has he written some lovely stuff singing its largely unsung praises, but also took the time to chat to us about alternative names, favourite sounds and why an audio slideshow shouldn’t remind you of aunty Beryl.

Sound Party? Multi-sensory showcase? Aural Knees-Up? Adam has collated a range of possible name changes from the alliterative “Sound Show” to the quite posh sounding “Auditory Visuals”, but prefers to keep it simple. “There’s a small movement of journalists, like the guys at DuckRabbit, trying to push the name ‘PhotoFilm’ which I think has a bit more gravitas to it.” Unfortunately, this snappy moniker doesn’t mention the word “audio” which is, as he rightly thinks, quite an important element.

Perhaps we should call it Photo As Well As Audio Film, otherwise known as “Pawaf”. It sounds quite like Pilaf and, just as everyone loves a bit of fragrant rice, everyone should love a bit of photo-audio journalism. Or not. For the time being, it’s probably best to stick to the original. As Adam points out: “A name’s a name and what really matters are the pieces themselves.”

So, what’s so good about the audio slideshow?

They’re about intimate audio and extraordinary images combining with an amazing story. You have to have all three to produce something worth watching.

Yes, but why not video?

You can achieve an intimacy with an audio recorder and SLR that a video camera cannot. They’ll always play second fiddle to video in the public’s eyes just because video is all flashy and fast moving and glamorous. Slideshows are slow, quiet and careful – much more rewarding in the long run.

Any fantastic ones you can recommend?

Maise Crow produces some amazing work such as “Hungry” or the Ne w York Times’s “1 in 8 million“- more than 300 portraits of New Yorkers, all done with slide shows. I think audio slide shows come alive with personal stories, which they can capture in an unobtrusive way.

And any examples of how not to do it?

The worst ones are probably some of the first ones I ever made. This attempt I made on assignment in Iraq is a good example – it’s actually a radio package, rather than a piece of storytelling, with some pictures thrown over the top which is why it doesn’t work at all. Also, you can see how Youtube compresses images so badly you can hardly recognise them.

What’s the hardest thing about creating an audio slide show?

A really good personal audio slideshow requires a relationship with your subject – so you need to spend days with them, without a mic or camera, just gaining their trust. Then, when you do record, they’re far more revealing. Sadly, most people skip over that part.

And finally, what is your favourite sound? Yes, we saved the hard hitting questions for the end.

No one’s ever asked me that before! This will probably come across as pretentious but my favourite sound is probably the opening chord of Fantasia On A Theme by Ralph Vaughan-Williams. It only lasts 3 seconds but sends a shiver down my spine every time.

So there you have it. Goodbye dodgy power point presentations and holiday snaps, hello to a cohesion of intimate imagery and poignant narration. I’m still quite keen on Piwaf though. Might try and spread it about a bit, see if it catches on…


Filed under Audio Slideshows, Interviews