Category Archives: Radio

Briton in Libya – BBC Radio 4’s Today online audio clips

British Libyan ‘willing to die for country’s freedom’

The above link is to the Today programme page on the BBC website. It’s categorised as news and available to listen to via one click from the Watch/Listen section on the News homepage – so you don’t have to type in Radio 4, Today programme to get to this audio package.

Even though it’s radio, I think this 6 min or so clip is a really good example to aim for. There is a one-line summary with more details below the clip – using the well known name Lord Goldsmith to entice users to press play.

Within the clip itself, there is a clear introduction to the current situation in Libya and the first interviewee, Rashed, a Briton fighting for the rebels, which ends in a question. Then the interviewee goes straight into answering this question. There is background noise of men talking which gives the clip a sense of place without making the answer difficult to hear.

The next voice we hear is the journalist Kevin Connolly in Libya asking – “do your Mum and Dad know you are here?” This provides a good soundbite – “I’ve come here for Libya.” There are some pauses in Rashed’s answers but Connolly never speaks over him. The interviewee Rashed, does start to interrupt him on some more controversial questions such as – “But defending yourself might mean you have to kill someone?” Connolly finishes his sentences but then gives way to his interviewee.

They wrap the interviewee up on a soundbite too: “we see nothing but victory” which the presenter neatly repeats to segue into his next section on the government. He again asks an open question (of himself, for the listeners to think about). He then introduces the second interviewee, Lord Goldsmith, who is in the Westminster studio.

The questions and answers now are much longer and much more complex than the simple, one-idea questions asked of Rashed. As with most political interviews, there is more interrupting which listeners will be used to. The clip ends on one of Lord Goldsmith’s answers.

 

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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 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

Radio Gaga

With Jeremy (careful now) Hunt bemoaning a lack of local news and everyone prattling on about the importance of reinvigorating local community spirit, I thought it might be interesting to see what audio journalism was doing for the BIG SOCIETY. Cue local radio which, as we all know, has been happily pootling along for decades little caring what grand declarations politicians were currently making about localism.

But how is local radio faring in our all singing, all dancing media age and is it embracing new technologies to engage more people? To find out I popped into Wilton Way Café (any excuse for a cake), home to London Fields Radio, Hackney.

This is a station that not only caters for a specific geographical community but also a specific kind of Hackney resident. The emphasis is very much on the creative types who reside between the high rise towers, Turkish restaurants and independent cinemas of Hackney. Although shows embrace a range of topics, from poetry to the problems facing the modern man, each one covers its topic in a sustained yet explorative, experimental way, a tone that might only appeal to a certain type of listener.

What founder of the station Dom tells me, as we sit cosily encased in the café’s hubbub of steamy coffee machines and chatter, is that passion for local radio is as strong as ever. But he doesn’t determine this strength in terms of numbers listening but by how solid the community is. “What are you going to say to three billion people?” he asks. “It’s not about communicating with as many people as possible. We want to communicate with a specific kind of like-minded person and to know that they’re getting a lot out of it.”

Dom goes on to describe how the station has grown organically since it was set up in 2009. In other words, its strength lies in people from the community broadcasting to others in their community. “Most of the people who come and put on shows are from round here so the station kind of represents the community naturally. We are amateur radio for amateurs so it’s small, friendly and cost-effective.”

So why radio? What is it about this form of broadcasting that serves this particular community so well? “Technically it’s all kept very simple,” Dom explains. “We want people to produce their own shows because we don’t have many man hours to do this. We just have a mixing desk and a couple of microphones so it’s easy for people to have a go. Hardly anybody’s got experience- that’s the whole point.”

The girls giggling into microphones in the radio corner of the café certainly don’t seem to have much experience. But a few instructions from Dom -including one that I noted for future reference, of keeping the same distance from the microphone at all times- and they’re well away.

The success of this simple form of audio journalism is however down to much more than just ease of use, Dom tells me. “I believe there is a lot of sincerity and simplicity in the medium,” he says. “In some ways it’s like reading- it stimulates your visual imagination. Kids are going to miss out on this, with all of their computer games- everything’s done for them imagination-wise. Kids have always played shooting games but now the gun’s actually there in the game for them to pick up; the scenario’s been imagined for them.”

But is Dom tempted to dabble in other forms of audio journalism? Possibly, but again he would want this to happen organically: “I’m not interested in defining things,” he says in response to me referring to audio slideshows when introducing this blog. “I’m much more interested in wanting to do something because I’m excited about it- other people can define it for you if they want.”

One medium slightly more techy than radio waves Dom is passionate about though is the podcast. London Fields Radio currently file their most successful radio shows on their website but Dom describes how in the future he hopes to record more features specifically for this medium. “Because they’re not time specific, podcasts can provide a different type of entry into a subject. Podcasts not being time specific was seen as a weakness to start with but people are now seeing this as strength as the material has to stand up on its own. They started life as just a way to catch up on something you’d missed. But recording podcasts is now becoming a craft in its own right. They can become more like plays”

Podcasts can be ideal then for meditations on certain timeless subjects which might otherwise be ignored by mediums which naturally lend themselves to topical content. “I’m always having random ideas,” Dom says. “There’s no editorial veto. I like to pursue ideas in quite unscripted ways just to see what you get out of it. This is usually when you get to the real emotion.”

But, I wonder as I sit writing this and digesting all Dom has had to say, surely podcasts impose certain time restrictions and expectations in a different way. After all, podcasts are often more actively listened to than the radio, with the listener expecting a certain amount of structure and direction. As Dom points out, podcasts should really be crafted.

So the future of the podcast? Still, it seems, to be decided as the genre evolves. And the future of the humble local radio station? Well, if London Fields Radio is anything to go by, still going strong.

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Filed under Local radio, Podcasts, Radio