I've been an NPR listener since I was a child, so I have long loved audio storytelling, and I love that podcasts have revitalized audio and brought it to a larger audience. I am a voracious podcast-listener — one of the few benefits of a long commute — and I'm eager to bring this option to my journalism students.
As part of my quest to become a better multimedia journalism adviser, my focus this week was on learning basic podcasting skills. After reviewing a number of excellent sites about the nature of audio, it was time to craft my own short podcast episode. I decided to use this opportunity to create a short episode about California's little-known Leonard Law, a unique state statute that protects the state's private high school and post-secondary students' freedom of speech.
I have a connection with a local sound design company and so was able to borrow some great equipment for this experiment. I used a Tascam DR-40 recorder hooked up to a Sennheiser e835 microphone to record my audio. I monitored my sound with Sony MDR-7506 headphones — I bought these for myself, since I didn't have a good pair and plan to use them a lot. They are an industry standard and fairly affordable, and I want to buy at least one more pair for my program.
Although this audio equipment is much better than I will have for student work, generally, I know I can do much the same (if at a somewhat lower quality) using even a simple smartphone to record. This just gave me a little advanced experience for when real recorders and microphones are available. I wanted to use the same tools that my students can easily access for editing, however, so I used the free Audacity software to edit my tracks. I buffered my podcast with royalty-free intro and exit music from Incompetech.
This was a relatively quick project, but I already free more confident about helping my students do a similar experiment. The only caution I will give them is that Audacity, while a great editor for beginners, is very different from most professional editing programs like Pro-Tools. For our purposes, though, once I figured out its quirks, it worked great.
I'm eager to see what podcasts my students will create with these tools.
“And though she be but little, she is fierce!” -A Midsummer Night’s Dream