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Old Radio, New Media by Dash Wasserman
posted by: Dash Wasserman <dnwasser@colby.edu>, on: Tue, July 05, 2011

When I walked through the doors of Marketplace’s New York Bureau, I imagined myself out in the city, wearing bulky headgear, and recording conversations with interesting people. My timing was a little off. Instead, I plunged right into the stories, listening and helping radio gurus hard at work to meet their encroaching deadlines.

David Brancaccio (former Marketplace host, turned special correspondent) just returned from a trip to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates where he was covering several stories for his Economy 4.0 project. With tape in hand, it was up to him and his Economy 4.0 team (a veteran producer and a production assistant/researcher) to start writing scripts and drafting the stories.

Immediately, I went to work logging and transcribing tape as I tried to catch myself up on weeks’ worth of content. It’s kind of a rush getting to listen to all of the tape that doesn’t make it to the air. A reporter might spend an hour in an interview only use to use a few of seconds of tape. In radio, probably more than any other medium, it all comes down to the edit.

Additionally, listening to a reporter ask their questions is an incredible experience: you get to see their strategy for interviewing, but, more importantly, you get a sense of their ear. Radio, after all, has no pictures. Unlike taking notes or putting a person’s words in print, the tape speaks for itself because it’s a business of storytelling.

It appears, though, that audio is just one aspect to the field of audio journalism. While I’ve now done my fair share of logging and transcribing tape, writing promos to be read by Kai Ryssdal, and shadowing Mr. Brancaccio work his magic in the studio, it’s amazing to see how much goes beyond the two or three minute stories that hit the air. There are countless hours of interviews, numerous pages of research and preparation to be reviewed, and there’s also the production of the pieces themselves.

Even further, radio hasn’t been able to escape the throes of new media. In the past week, I’ve written three blogs for the Economy 4.0 website, and I’ve also been doing research for an interactive map for Marketplace’s website. There’s also tweeting involved and plans to get the Economy 4.0 project a Facebook page.

On the other side, it becomes increasingly clear that our culture is changing the way it consumes information. It reminds of that old publish-or-perish slogan you hear in academia. In journalism, I guess it’s “tweet or perish.” Regardless of one’s personal philosophies on new media, I think it’s all about making it your own. Because radio is all about personality and establishing intense connections with its listeners, I have the utmost confidence that it’s a medium suited to thrive in increasingly online society. The Economy 4.0 team, for example, has great personality, and it shines through their work both on and off the air.

I realize we’re at an exciting and terrifying junction for journalism, but its important to realize that everything is always changing. This just makes we want to see Page One: Inside the New York Times, plus I’ve just realized that I’ve blogged about blogging. Too meta.