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Narrative Radio Syllabus Spring 2013


Professor Anne Donohue
Wednesdays 9-12 in Room 323 and Digital Audio Lab on third floor
Office: 302, Phone: 617- 353-3418 Home: 617-489-4334
Office Hours:  By appointment  is preferred! Monday all day and Friday morning,

Without an appointment: Tuesday 11-4 all or Wednesdays after class until 4.
TA for production help: Sandeep Chandrashaker email:, Phone: (408)-772-3650




COURSE DESCRIPTION AND OBJECTIVES: Audio journalism was once synonymous with 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 phones, 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, narrative, 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. Our goal is to produce a one hour show to air on WBUR or at least, WTBU, at the end of the term.
Audio is also being married with still photos for news website slideshows. We will create a slide show, at least for one assignment. You are free to do more as the semester progresses.  In the past, BUToday has published the sound stories and asked students or a staff photographer to go out and create images to create a slideshow.
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
In the past, students have submitted pieces to New Hampshire Public Radio, WBUR, WCAI, “Living on Earth” and NPR for national broadcast and earned a nice fee in the process. Students interested in getting a wider audience should become members of the Public Radio Exchange (PRX). This Cambridge based group distributes freelance material around the country. Stories pegged to holidays have been very successful. NPR is hoping to expand to a younger audience so youthful themes/trends 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 Also, please find a copy of Ira Glass’ comic book, Radio, an Illustrated Guide. It is a cookbook of exactly what we are trying to create!.

I also recommend John Biewen’s Reality Radio: Telling True Stories in Sound. 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.
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.


PURCHASE: We will be working with TASCAM recorders this semester. You will need to provide your own SD memory cards. Some of the TASCAM recorders can take 2 or 4GB card. Some can only take a 2G, so this is your safest bet.  These are the same cards you can use on a digital camera. We will need them the first week of class. YOU ALSO WILL NEED AN EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE TO STORE YOUR MATERIAL. SEE JAKE KASSEN IF YOU DON’T ALREADY HAVE ONE.
REQUIRED LISTENING: At least five hours of a variety of public radio
programs every week, including “All Things Considered”, “Morning Edition”, “Living on Earth”, “Marketplace”, ”The World”, “This American Life”, BBC programming, “On Point” and “Weekend Edition”. You need to be very familiar with the shows/styles if you are not already. lists about 50-75 programs. You can download most of them as podcasts, and listen at your convenience.

There will be a writing test where you compare and contrast various programs.


ATTENDANCE: Tardiness and absenteeism are not acceptable. In the event of a personal or family emergency, please notify me BEFORE CLASS 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 time outside of class 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 Sandeep (or Senior Media Technician Jake Kassen) early in the semester. Jake is a busy guy, so Sandeep should be your first contact.

Laptops and cell phones should be off unless we are using them for class purposes. When we listen to each others’ work, you should be fully attentive to your classmates’ stories, not checking in on Facebook.


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. DEADLINES FOR ALL PHASES OF THE PROJECTS ARE VERY REAL.
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, ambi) 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 re-submitting any project that you PASSED IN ON TIME, which 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).

Projects will be evaluated with three grades: The “Pitch”, The Script, and The Mix.
The Pitch should be a fleshed out, researched concept of what the story will involve, who precisely will be interviewed, what the SOUND SCENE will be.
The Script should be “tight, bright and right” — accurate, succinct, clever, and balanced with stakeholders and/or experts from a variety of viewpoints.
The Mix should be sound rich and seamless. Each element should add to the story and move it forward.

Project 1: Creating a Sound Scene:  Sonic ID or Audio Postcard – 5% 1-2 minutes*

Project 2: Man On the Street (vox pop): re: Foreign Aid + Expert. *BRING A CAMERA ALONG FOR A SLIDE SHOW.

DUE: Scripted and Narrated Story with or without ambi-10% 2-3 minutes

PLUS NON-narrated, vox and images Soundslide – 5% 1 – 1:30 minute.

Project 3: Mixed feature with ambiance on WBUR theme – 20% 4-5 minutes*
Project 4: Mixed feature with ambiance on WBUR theme or topic of your choosing -20% 4-5 minutes*
Project 5: Radio Commentary or Story Corps submission 5%
Q&A timed assignment 5%
Project 6: FINAL PROJECT: Reworked story for paying news organization (Only A Game, Radio Boston, NH public radio, Cape and Islands public radio) or WBUR “World of Ideas” 4-5 minutes
OR shorter mixed piece (4 minutes) paired with an interview (4 minutes)for broadcast on WTBU. 20%

Written Test: Compare and Contrast a variety of radio programs. 10%


*Times are minimums and maximums. Do not deviate by more than :30 seconds


Please read the University Code of Conduct guidelines carefully.  It is available at: 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, roommates or friends pretend to be sources. Don’t cut corners.


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


Week One, Jan 16

1. The radio landscape.

Public radio today: NPR, PRI, BBC, the wheel, programs
NPR style. History. listening session. Hindenburgh, to Murrow, to today.

What are YOU listening to?


2. How to Produce a Sound Scene:
Sound Postcards

Cape and Islanders on Chihuahua, missed ducks, seasick, etc.
Littlest Bar

3. Field recording basics. Tascam recorders and phone recordings.

Record interviews and ambiance from a sound scene.

Read manual in flash recorder or check out “how to” section on this site. You will need to create a 1-2 minute “audio postcard” with what audio you collect. Have interviewees identify themselves, describe the scene, but also let the ambient sound tell the story.

BOOK: Chaps 1, 4, 5 and appendix 1 glossary so we are all using the same terms.


Week Two,  January 23 IN ROOM 301B

Adobe Audition Basic digital editing. Load in tape. Basic edits, fades. Using audacity for prep ONLY.
Homework: REQUIRED: Meet with TA to work on postcard.

Mix a two minute music/ambiance bed, mixing ax with ambiance, fading up and down.

BOOK: Chap 6 and 13


Week Three, January 30

Audio postcard (project #1) due

Learn Soundslides

Scripting. Writing with sound. Narrative vs. Traditional News style. Inskeep suicide bomber. Review previous student work: Adeline Sire on Glass Harmonica, Shannon Mullen on Sound Design, Cathy Corman on Candidates as Dogs, etc.



1. RECORD Man on the street (MOS) or Vox Populi (vox pop – voice of the people) on Foreign Aid and interview an expert on Foreign Aid. TAKE LOTS OF PHOTOS of the vox pop people.

2. Also, write a traditional news style script with reporter narration on Foreign Aid using vox and expert.  You do NOT need to mix narrated script this week, just write the script and send it to me via email before NOON next Tuesday. Bring hard copy to class for peer review.
3. Think ahead on ideas for #3
BOOK:  chaps 3 and 8 and appendix 2 on pronouncers


Week Four, February 6

1.Edit Scripts for #2.

2. Frog exercise. In class copy editing. Peer editing – bring a couple of hard copies of your script for other students to read

3. What is a pitch?




1. mix #2, narrated reporter script on foreign aid using vox and expert.

2. Put together Soundslide using vox pop on Foreign Aid with images of vox (no reporter narration, no expert)

Work on pitch for #3.

BOOK: Chap 2 and 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 Five,  February 13

Listen to Mix #2

Pitch #3

Professional listening session. Chana Jaffe Walt on FDIC Bank Takeover vs. basic NPR fare.
Story Corps.

David Isay Sound Portraits. discussion/listening session. Ghetto Life, Compassion Fatigue, Witness to an Execution.


Homework: Collect interviews and SOUND SCENES for #3.

If available, read Krulwich, Amos and Simon chapters of out of print edition or the Biewen book. They are among the best in the business. Hear what they say and read those chapters carefully!!




Week Six, February 27

Peer Edit Scripts #3.

Possible Guest lecture on possible topic for WBUR show

RATS. BEARS. Telling the story, beginning middle and end. Zwerdling and the use of surprise. Blind Dog, Scott Carrier.
Homework: Mix #3.
BOOK: Chap 12 and 14


February 28 and March 1: Telling the Story of Foreign Aid Event. MUST ATTEND ONE OR THE OTHER DATE IN LIEU OF LAST CLASS MAY 1


Week Seven, March 6

Homework: STORY CORPS – interview a family member over break – due last class.
Book: Chapters 15 and 16

Prepare Pitch for #4


March 13 No class. Spring break. Listen to LOTS of public radio shows for TEST.


Week Eight, March 20

Pitch #4

Jay Allison, Transom/WCAI. Sonic Memorial, Michelle Trudeau David, Moth
Homework: REPORT #4
Book: Chap 7 and 9


Week Nine, March 27
Interviewing, producing Q&A.
NPR video on interviewing. Right Question Project exercise. Scott Carrier: Friendly Man.
Assignment: Listen to interviews on line, “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross, ATC, ME, Here and Now, The World.

Continue work on #4. Script Due TUESDAY APRIL 2ND AT NOON.
Book: Chap 10 and 17


Week Ten, April 3
Working on deadline. In class story chasing.
#4 script edit/approval

Homework: Mix #4
Book: Chap 18


Week Eleven,  April 10
#4 Due. CRITIQUE..
Meet with producers from WBUR. Pitch #3 and #4 to them. Determine what stories will go to WBUR to be included in show.
Mini-documentary, multi-scene story, going deeper
The docu-drama – when are re-enactments OK?
Tony Kahn, Blacklisted, Mei Mei, RadioLab: War of the Worlds Revisited, Chickens, Alternative ways of story telling


Rework #3 and #4. Get revised scripts to me ASAP.
Week Twelve, April 17
Homework: Complete any other revised material and get it to me ASAP


Week Thirteen, April 24th

Story Corps. Peter Pan, Squirrel Cop, Wild Room


Week 14, May 1 NO 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.


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How To: convert Soundslides to mp4

This link will walk you through the steps to save your Soundslides as a Quiktime file.

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Writing Tips from Poynter


Writing Tips from one of the best in the business, Roy Peter Clark.

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Story Visioning – Ott


This helps you to think through the story from idea to reality.

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Sound in the Story

This from the Poynter Institute via Susan Walker…about the value of the


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