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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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UCU Strike at City University

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at City are striking both today and on this Thursday the 24th March to demand reform on their pension schemes as well as highlighting the thousands of jobs already lost from the university sector.

Click below to hear  Rory Fitzgerald, vice-president of City University’s UCU committee speaking from the picket line outside City’s social science building.


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New LinkedIn Online Audio Journalism group

Last week I received a message from my LinkedIn account telling me I’d been invited to join a group for those interested in Online Audio Journalism.

I joined and saw that already journalists have been coming together to discuss different techniques and the software they use for their audio work.

With many sites dedicated to online journalism as a whole – which is a massive subject – I think it’s a great idea to give journalists a forum to specifically focus in on audio.

The group has been set up by journalist Andy Watt. I interviewed him to find out a bit more about why he decided to set up the group.

What’s your journalism background?

My interest in journalism began after I set up  an internet forum discussing the local football league team. As the forum grew in popularity, I was asked to write for a number of publications, participate in press interviews on  radio as well as TV appearances. This led to me being asked to host my own radio show which developed into anchoring a 4 hour Saturday morning sports show alongside  four other presenters. My focus has now widened to other areas including hyperlocal issues which itself resulted in me being asked to write for the Guardian.

When did you first get involved with audio?

My first involvement with audio was while presenting my own radio show and producing others. This was in the early days of podcasting where I edited my own shows, removing the music tracks for copyright reasons, and made them available for download. This progressed to the creation of enhanced podcasts for the sports show and now, I try to help and advise anyone I can with creating their own.

Why did you decide to set up the group?

There seemed to be no central dedicated online place for those involved or interested in audio journalism to meet and support each other while discussing topics of mutual interest. I chose LinkedIn as there are already a lot of members who are industry professionals which potentially provides a huge, ready made pool of talent and experience.

What do you hope to achieve from it?

I am hoping that those with an interest in entering the world of audio journalism will see it as a place where they can freely ask for advice and feedback in a creative and supportive atmosphere. I am also hoping that those who already produce audio for online use will see the LinkedIn group as a place to meet, network, share good practice and discuss developments in the industry.

Who should join?

I hope that anyone with an interest or background in online audio would consider joining. An online community grows in strength with a rise in contributors and the more people who share their knowledge and experience will make it a valuable resource to everyone, from amateurs to seasoned professionals (along with those in between).

Sign in to your LinkedIn account at and search for Online Audio Journalism under groups.

Follow Andy on Twitter @Andy_Watt and view his website at


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Ten tips for recording audio

Ten things to think about before you record any audio and whilst the recording is going on. These also apply when recording video footage where you will use the audio..

1. Brief your interviewees so they know what to expect

2. Choose your location carefully: background noises can ruin your interview

3. BUT  can also get across a particular place if done right so experiment

4. Record any interesting sounds that you might use later to switch between interviewees/ show that time has moved on

5. With intros and voiceovers (which can be recorded later) make sure you set the scene


7. Get used to not interrupting – this is harder than it sounds

8. Don’t try to trick the listener with subtle editing. There’s nothing wrong with a few ‘um’s from your interviewee. If they are listening to your clip on headphones, they’re more likely to hear if you’ve edited the audio.

9. Get an external mic/spoffle to reduce the ‘pop’ of talking

10. A digital dictaphone is best, but if you’re stuck with nothing else your smartphone will probably do.

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Must see audio slideshow

Big thanks to Lex who brought this audio slideshow to my attention when he commented on one of our previous posts.

It showcases some of the best images acquired by the Wellcome Trust over the last eighteen months.

Photographs include extreme macros shots of a zebrafish eye and infections under microscopes.

The images in this are OUT OF THIS WORLD – if you look at one audio slideshow this week it should be this one.

They are on display at the Wellcome Image Awards 2011 until  10th July 2011.


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Gay Pride at Barranquila Carnival – Audio Slideshow

I’m really interested in how audio slideshows can be used to tell stories. Today I came across this one which  discusses the experiences of the LGBT community at the Barranquila Carnival in Colombia.

The audio describes how the festival is important for the LGBT community as a way to express themselves and their sexuality openly, in a society that is largely unaccepting of them.

What really struck me was the fantastic choice of images used. Bright and colourful, they capture the  festival’s spirit perfectly. This combined with the narrative and faint music  means you can really imagine you are there, which I think makes for a more interesting and engaging experience.

In an audio slideshow it’s key to get the photos right as much as, if not more than, the audio. Many of the photos in this piece show or imply a movement – dancers captured mid step, people in the middle of pulling faces or confetti frozen as it falls through the air. These hints towards movement help to carry the piece along while pausing on each image allows you to take in the audio and the framed moment simultaneously.

I found the images from 2:05 which focus in on two gay men who dress as ‘negritas’ captivating. The men wear black masks with decorations and black lycra costumes as they are not comfortable revealing their identities during the parade.

The photos range from informal shots of the men getting dressed to more stylized close ups of the striking masks. The contrast between the shots of the intimate,casual moments and the more exuberant ones when they are masked backs up and reinforces what is being said on the audio.

This piece has inspired me to try and capture a few shots of my own as being handy with a camera will be a great skill to have when creating audio slideshows in the future.

I’m keen to try and capture movement in them and will post up my attempts once I have had a go.

Heads up they probably won’t be as good as the ones on this audio slideshow but I’ll do my best. Any hints and tips appreciated.



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7 blogs you should check out

Online journalism is all about interaction and that goes for learning about audio too. Here’s my pick of my seven favourite blogs which I’ve looked at while learning about audio journalism so far. Some don’t focus entirely on audio journalism but all have audio aspects.

One for every day of the week (in no particular order):

1. Mastering Multimedia

Who? Colin Mulvany. A multimedia producer at  The Spokesman Review in Spokane, Washington. An experienced still photographer for the first 18 years of his career who movedinto making videos and audio slideshows in 2005.

Good for? Audio slideshow tips.

2. Scobleizer

Who? Ex-Microsoft whizz Robert Scoble who blogs about ‘world-changing technology.’

Good for? Hot-off-the-press news about all online technology including  audio-specific technology.

3. Online Journalism Blog

Who? Paul Bradshaw (and contributors). Bradshaw is described by The Press Gazette as “One of the UK’s most influential journalism bloggers”. Leads the online journalism module at City University London. Blogs about everything online from social media to podcasting.

Good for? Plenty of posts cover aspects of audio journalism: comments, tips and theory.

4. Dan Mason

Who? Dan Mason. Consultant, editor and trainer for the Thomson Foundation with over 25 years’ experience as a journalist and editor.

Good for? Podcasting tips, hints about free tools for multimedia journalists.

5. 10,000 Words

Who? Various contributors, ‘where journalism and technology meet’.

Good for? Multimedia news and technology – regularly updated. Search for articles on podcasts and audio slideshows to see audio-specific posts.

6. Sounds like journalism

Who? Journalism students exploring audio journalism.

Good for? Learning from others’ audio experiences, practical hints and tips.

7. BBC Podcasts

Who? The Beeb

Good for? A huge range of podcasts, informative, funny, serious – great for getting some inspiration for your own podcasts.

If you have any other recommendations for blogs which have great pieces about audio, tutorials or just great examples of audio being used in journalism let me know.


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