Monday, January 12, 2009

JO 519 Advanced Radio Journalism

JO 519 Spring 2009

Professor Anne Donohue
Monday 2-5, Room 323 and Digital Audio Lab on third floor
Office: 302, Phone: 353-3418 Home: 617-489-4334
Office Hours: Tuesday 10-4, Wednesday 1-4 and Thursday and Friday by appt.

Lots of class materials, how tos and other tips are at

COURSE DESCRIPTION AND OBJECTIVES: Audio journalism was once synonmous wtith radio news, broadcast from a traditional terrestrial radio tower. But with the advent of the internet and wireless technology, audio journalism is now being heard on newspaper websites, podcasts on PDA’s and mp3 players, via satellite and HD receivers in cars, and who-knows-what the next gizmo will be!
But the basics of telling a good story with sound are the same, no matter what the platform. This class will focus primarily on producing “NPR style” stories, longer form, in depth, audio rich sound stories. The class will bring together the highest editorial standards of public radio with sophisticated digital audio production. Public radio is considered one of the finest outlets in broadcast journalism because of its excellent writing, in-depth reporting, imaginative use of sound, quirky features, and high production values. The goal of this course is to produce a variety of high quality audio productions that could potentially be aired on a public radio program, website, or other outlet.
Audio is also being married with still photos for news website slideshows.
We may want to create a slide show, at least for the first assignment. You are free to do more as the semester progresses.

WTBU/WBUR/NPR: At a minimum, each student must submit several completed assignments to WTBU, the BU student radio station. I need to know when they will air and in what form. Two of you could combine like-minded field reports and then do a little discussion with an expert or BU faculty member and make a nice half hour show that YOU host. Contact WTBU News Directors at or
In the past, students have submitted pieces to New Hampshire Public Radio, WBUR. “Living on Earth” and NPR for national broadcast and earned a nice fee in the process. Stories pegged to holidays have been very successful. NPR has started a new show targeted to a younger audience, so youthful themes are also encouraged.

TEXT: The text is, Sound Reporting, by Jonathan Kern. The previous Sound Reporting by Rosenbaum and Dinges, editors, is out of print, but it is better in some ways than the new version, so I may provide copies of chapters of the old edition for your enlightenment. If you have never done broadcast writing before, I would strongly recommend Writing News for TV and Radio by Mervin Block and Joe Durso Jr., available at the bookstore. Its expensive, so maybe share a copy with a classmate.
At some point in your journalism career, you should read Elements of Journalism by Kovach and Rosensteil. If you haven’t read it already, do so this semester.
For fun, buy a $5 copy of Ira Glass’ comic book, Radio, an Illustrated Guide.

PURCHASE: We will be working with new flash recorders this semester. You will need to provide your own flash drive cards.

REQUIRED LISTENING: At least five hours of a variety of public radio
programs every week, including "All Things Considered", "Morning Edition", "Marketplace","The World", "This American Life", BBC programming, "On Point" and "Weekend Edition". THE EXAM WILL REQUIRE YOU TO COMPARE AND CONTRAST THE PRODUCTION AND EDITORIAL STYLES OF THE VARIOUS PROGRAMS. You need to be very familiar with the shows/styles by then if you are not already. lists about 50-75 programs. You can download most of them as podcasts, and listen at your convenience.

ATTENDANCE: Tardiness and absenteeism are not acceptable. In the event of a
personal or family emergency, please notify me that you will not be in
class, and make arrangements with me to make up the time/work. Work missed during unexcused absences will be given an F grade.
In addition, a fair amount of outside of class time will be required in the
audio lab. The only way to become adept at digital audio editing, is to practice,
practice, practice. While we will spend some class time with hands-on production, it will NOT be nearly enough to attain the level of proficiency required. You should plan several sessions with the TA, Phil DiMartino, ( or Jake Kassen ) early in the semester.

All scripts must be typed, double or triple spaced. All must have a :20-:30 second host intro that leads into the taped piece. Late assignments will not be accepted.
A = ready for air. Reporting and research are thorough. Writing is "tight, bright and right". The tape is of the highest quality. The story has a beginning, middle and end. Each element (ax, trax, sfx) adds something to the story and advances it. The edits and mix are flawless.
B = good work, but would require some editorial and/or production tweaking
before it could be sold.
C = average work, requiring major revisions
D = barely passable, and needs to be re-done
F = hopeless, start over from scratch with a new story.

You have the option of passing in any project that you have tweaked or overhauled completely to try for a better grade. No promises that the grade will improve, but it may be worth a try.

Project 1: Creating a Sound Scene: “Audio Postcard”- 5% 2 minutes*
BRING A CAMERA ALONG FOR A SLIDE SHOW. Slide show – 5% 2 minutes*
Project 2: News cut and script a.k.a. ax and trax -10% 3 minutes*
Project 3: Mixed news item with ambience - 20% 4-5 minutes*
Great Debate: 5% 3-4 minutes*
Project 4: Mixed feature with ambience -20% 4-5 minutes*
Project 5: Mini-doc – Multi-scene, in depth report, 8-10 minutes*
OR shorter mixed piece (4 minutes)paired with an interview (4 minutes)for broadcast/podcast on WTBU. 25%
Exam: 5%
Q&A timed assignment 5%
*Times are minimums and maximums. Do not deviate by more than :30 seconds

Please read the guidelines carefully. You are not to use any tape from any source other than what YOU record in the field -- unless you have written consent from the source and me. If you are doing an internship and have access to other tape, you may use it ONLY with my permission AND the permission of your internship supervisor. You cannot download audio off the web without permission and attribution. You cannot “double dip”—pass in the same story to two different classes. You cannot have family members, roomates or friends pretend to be sources. See DO’s and DON’Ts.

WBUR SHOW: All or some of your stories will focus on the theme we decide to create for the hour show in May. Not everyone’s stories will air. Quality will be the judge…and an editor at WBUR.

Week One 1-26
Public radio today: NPR, PRI, BBC, the wheel, programs
NPR style. History. listening session. Hindenburgh, to Murrow, to today.
Field recording basics. Tascam recorders and phone recordings.
Homework: record interviews and ambience from a variety of sources, locations. Bring flash card to next class.
Read manual in flash recorder or check out blogspot. You will need to create an “audio postcard” with what audio you collect. Have interview describe the scene, but also let the ambient sound tell the story. You should shoot images of the scene you have recorded.
BOOK: Chaps 1,2

Week Two 2-2
Protools: Basic digital editing. Load in tape. Basic edits, fades.
Homework: REQUIRED: Meet with TA to work on postcard. Complete a two minute music/ambience bed, mixing ax with ambience, fading up and down.
Choose topic for cut and script.

Week Three 2-9
Audio postcard (project #1) due.
Listen to students' work. More in-class digital
DISCUSS SLIDE SHOW. Peter Southwick guest.
BOOK: chaps 3&4

BY the end of this week YOU SHOULD BE QUITE FAMILIAR WITH ALL THE TECHNOLOGY -- NOW YOUR EMPHASIS SHOULD BE ON THE EDITORIAL CONTENT. If you are still struggling, see the TA for extra help. We will start doing timed exercises, so you’ll need to be comfortable working on deadline.

Week Four Tuesday 2-17
Wrting copy for radio. Narrarive style, developing scenes, characters, a story arc. How to prepare a radio script. Critique former student work.
Homework: report and write #2, cut and script. Work on digital editing and field recording. GET SCRIPT TO ME VIA EMAIL BY 6pm Sunday.

Week Five 2-23
Script for #2. Frog exercise. In class copy editing. Peer editing – bring a couple of hard copies of your script for other students to read. Professional listening session.
Michelle Trudeau “David”, basic NPR fare.
Assignment: . BOOK: Chaps 5&6. If available, read Krulwich, Amos and Simon chaptersThey are among the best in the business. Hear what they say and read those chapters carefully!!

Week Six 3-2
#2 Due. Listen to student work. Discuss ideas for #3.
Writing to sound. Using ambience. RATS. BEARS.Telling the story, beginning middle and end. Zwerdling and the use of surprise. Blind Dog, Scott Carrier.
Homework: Report and write #3. Get scripts to me before 6pm Sunday, via email.

Spring Break

Week Seven 3-16
PROJECT #3 script.
ISAY discussion/listening session. Chickens. Alternative ways of story telling.
Homework: Mix #3.


Week Eight 3-23
Project #3 due. Listen to student work. Friendly Man. Interviewing, producing Q&A.
NPR video on interviewing. Right Question Project exercise
Assignment: Listen to interviews on line, “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross, ATC, ME, Here and Now, The World. Reort and Write #4

Week Nine 3-30
#4 script Due:
In class story chasing: from today’s headlines, find an expert, do a 10 minute phone or in person interview, load it into computer, and cut it down to a 3-4 minute interview with you as show host.
Homework: mix #4

Week Ten 4-6
#4 Due. Mini-docucmentary, multi-scene story, going deeper Determine what stories will go to WBUR to be included in show.
Homework: Report and write #5.

Week Eleven 4-13
#5 Script DUE 6pm Sunday. Listening session
The docu-drama - when are re-enactments OK?
Tony Kahn, Blacklisted, Mei Mei, War of the Worlds Revisited

Week Twelve Thurs. 4-23
#5 Due.
Loose ends for WBUR show.

Week Thirteen 4-30 LAST CLASS – you may need to go to WBUR to mix your stories for show after last class. If you are not going to be able to do this, tell me.
Any re-worked material due.
Peter Pan, Wild Room, Job Prospects, freelancing, internships


No comments: