Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production

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Overview

Perhaps you’ve always wondered how public radio gets that smooth, well-crafted sound. Maybe you’re thinking about starting a podcast, and want some tips from the pros. Or maybe storytelling has always been a passion of yours, and you want to learn to do it more effectively. Whatever the case—whether you’re an avid NPR listener or you aspire to create your own audio, or both—Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production will give you a rare tour of the world of a professional broadcaster.

Jonathan Kern, who has trained NPR’s on-air staff for years, is a gifted guide, able to narrate a day in the life of a host and lay out the nuts and bolts of production with equal wit and warmth. Along the way, he explains the importance of writing the way you speak, reveals how NPR books guests ranging from world leaders to neighborhood newsmakers, and gives sage advice on everything from proposing stories to editors to maintaining balance and objectivity. Best of all—because NPR wouldn’t be NPR without its array of distinctive voices—lively examples from popular shows and colorful anecdotes from favorite personalities animate each chapter.

As public radio’s audience of millions can attest, NPR’s unique guiding principles and technical expertise combine to connect with listeners like no other medium can. With today’s technologies allowing more people to turn their home computers into broadcast studios, Sound Reporting couldn’t have arrived at a better moment to reveal the secrets behind the story of NPR’s success.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
Comprehensive and lucid, this distinctive handbook explains how sound paints pictures and how narratives are shaped and paced for the ear instead of the eye. Readers will recognize the NPR staffers who contribute telling anecdotes to Kern’s instructions in areas ranging from fairness and accuracy to field and studio production, the difference between reporting and hosting, the importance of background research, and the subtleties of booking. As media evolves in this digital do-it-yourself era, Kern’s insider course in audio journalism deepens appreciation for the professionals we rely on to set high standards.

— Donna Seaman

Library Journal

Kern, executive producer for training at National Public Radio (NPR), here consolidates into one volume the training provided to NPR employees. Kern quotes hosts (e.g., Robert Siegel), reporters (e.g., Larry Abramson), and NPR editors and producers to expound on audio journalism as specifically practiced at NPR. Sound reporting, from idea development to the finished news story or interview, gets the full treatment. Kern stresses that radio is a unique environment that dictates a writing style suited to the ear and that may therefore be contrary to print conventions. Along with the reporters and producers, he dissects actual broadcast segments to demonstrate why they were or were not successful. While Steve Warren's Radio: The Book(4th ed.) offers tips on how to get a job in radio, this work describes the interconnected avocations involved in bringing sound reporting to life. Recommended for high school, public, and undergraduate libraries.
—Regina M. Beard

Booklist - Donna Seaman

"Comprehensive and lucid, this distinctive handbook explains how sound paints pictures and how narratives are shaped and paced for the ear instead of the eye. Readers will recognize the NPR staffers who contribute telling anecdotes to Kern’s instructions in areas ranging from fairness and accuracy to field and studio production, the difference between reporting and hosting, the importance of background research, and the subtleties of booking. As media evolves in this digital do-it-yourself era, Kern’s insider course in audio journalism deepens appreciation for the professionals we rely on to set high standards."
Jane Pauley

“I think Sound Reporting ought to be required reading for anyone aspiring to a career in journalism, audio or otherwise. And also for anyone currently employed in the field who sometimes wonders if journalism hasn’t lost its way. This is not just ‘how to do it,’ but how to do it fairly, responsibly, and intelligently. And what news organization is better equipped for the job than NPR?”

John Keefe

"In an age when good and bad information mix freely, it is essential that sources of credible, accurate journalism remain so. Jonathan Kern's work helps ensure those sources will stay strong and, in the process, provides a fascinating inside look at the imperfect science we call journalism. His attention-getting, real-world examples from NPR and elsewhere illustrate how journalists succeed (and fail) at being fair and accurate in pursuit of truth, making this guide essential reading for anyone—from the newsroom reporter to the investigating blogger to the public radio fan—who is committed to fair and compelling reporting."

Judy Muller

“Writing for the ear is an art form. What Jonathan Kern has accomplished with this marvelous guide is doubly artful: using clear, colorful, conversational language, he teaches us how to write clear, colorful, conversational radio copy. He also teaches us how to interview, produce, and paint audio pictures with sound. There is no other ‘how-to’ radio journalism manual to compare. ”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226431772
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 380
  • Sales rank: 1,157,429
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Kern is the executive producer for training at NPR. He has worked in almost every position in radio news, including executive producer of All Things Considered.

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Table of Contents


Foreword     ix
Preface     xv
Sound and Stories     1
Fairness     8
Fair, Accurate, Complete, and Honest     9
The Echo Chamber     10
Verifying Assertions     16
Getting Both Sides     21
Avoiding Loaded Language     23
Writing for Broadcast     25
Write the Way You Speak     27
How to Sound Like a Real Person     29
Other Newswriting Tips     33
Reporting     39
The Reporter's Personality and Skills     40
Developing News Sources     42
Other Sources of Original Stories     45
Getting People on Tape     48
Getting Great Actualities     51
Working on Tight Deadlines     56
Beyond Acts and Tracks     60
A Storytelling Sampler     64
Field Producing     73
Getting Started     74
In the Field     77
Finding Sound and Scenes     80
Putting the Story Together     83
Filing from the Field     86
Taking Responsibility     90
Story Editing     92
The Editor's Role     92
The Ingredients of a Story     93
Structuring the Story     97
Editing by Ear     99
The Intro     102
The First Track     105
Copyediting     108
The Ending     112
When to Stop Editing     113
Finding New Approaches to Old Stories     115
The Reporter-Host Two-Way     120
The Problem with Scripted Two-Ways     121
Going Scriptless     126
Two-Way Tips     129
Reading on the Air     132
Sounding Conversational     133
Marking Up a Script     135
Getting Physical     137
The Need for Feedback     138
Hosting     141
The Host's Day     142
The Host Interview     146
Reading Scripts Other People Write     161
Hosting Live Programming     163
Newscasting     171
What Is News?     171
Public Radio Newscast Values and Principles     174
Composing the 'Cast     176
Newscast Writing     179
The NPR News Spot     184
The Reporter Q&A     189
On the Air     192
Booking     195
Booking Well-Known People     196
Booking Everyday People     200
The Booker as Detective     202
The Pre-interview     204
Final Steps     207
Producing     210
Finding and Pitching Stories     211
Producing Interviews     216
Editing Interviews     219
Mixing Reporter Pieces     223
Producing Music Pieces     228
Production Ethics     232
The Unkindest Cuts     233
Other Production Issues     240
Program Producing     248
The Art of the News Program     249
Creating the Lineup     252
Producing Live Programs     258
Program Editing     266
Setting the News Agenda     267
Error Checking     270
Massaging the Script     273
Sitting In on Interviews     281
The Editor as Manager     284
Commentaries     287
Finding Commentators     288
Topical Commentaries     290
Personal Commentaries     292
Editing Commentaries      293
Coaching Commentators     295
Commentary Intros     297
To Comment or Not to Comment?     298
Studio Directing     300
The Director as Number Cruncher     301
The Director as Conductor     302
Directing Live Events     309
The Joy of Directing     311
Beyond Radio     313
The Web-Radio Relationship     314
The Manifold Media of the Web     318
Podcasting     324
Editorial Issues Online     328
The Future     331
Glossary     335
Pronouncers     355
Index     359
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