Writing to be heard: Recording and editing sound

Reading: Writing for the Mass Media, chapters 8, 9



Tools and equipment. Basic recording equipment is inexpensive and simple to use. Every journalism student must have some kind of ditigal recorder and must be aware of its capacity.

The importance of sound quality. Sound quality does not have to be an obsession because of the good equipment that is available. Still, journalism students must learn to make their equipment produce clear, understandable sound on all occasions.

Ambient sound and music. The qualities of ambient sound and music can enhance the reporting. They are special products of audio journalism that cannot be duplicated by any other medium.



Putting audio files together for presentation. Editing audio can be as simple or as complex as the reporter and editor choose to make it. Some audio reporters, such as NPR’s science reporter Robert Krulwich, develop their stories through complex and highly sophisticated editing techniques (see Darwin’s Very Bad Day, for example). Our goals for beginning journalism students are more modest. Simply producing a clear, coherent recording would be enough.

  • Multiple tracks. Student should have some basic understanding of mixing sound tracks.
  • Importance of beginning and ending. Writing good introductions and planning the sound story from beginning to end is basic to good audio journalism.
  • Standard constructions and techniques. Students should learn the standard techniques of audio editing as the well as the terms, such as fades, cross-fading, establish music, segue, transition, voice out, music up, and voice wrap.



The one piece of software that students should learn for audio journalism is Audacity.

While editing sound has a wide array of possibilities, it has been rendered simple and easy by Audacity, a free and downloadable piece of software from SourceForge.net. Audacity comes with a set of tutorials, the basics of Audacity can be grasped in just a few minutes by those who simply use the software. Audacity allows users to add and delete portions of a soundtrack and to place new soundtracks into a file. Its visual dashboard (below) includes all of the tools for basic sound editing, and it is likely that student will be able to learn the program to create audio files very quickly.

Below is a screen shot of a audio file being edited in Audacity. Editing an audio file is a relatively straightforward matter.


The audio interview

Ask the question and shut the hell up.

Nod but don’t make noise.

Don’t interrupt.

Ask questions to clarify.

Single question

Multiple questions



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