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Public Radio is concerned with helping students and members of the community develop professionally and advance their career skills.To that end, the WNIJ News team has developed "Public Radio 101" a seminar conducted by professional journalists from the WNIJ News team at the beginning of the academic semesters.

Strong Sound!


Use of sound sets public radio reporting apart. Always ask yourself what sound you can get as you are planning your story and how it will “take the listener there.” Not just for long, in-depth pieces.

Plan your sound. Discuss with editor. Brainstorm with co-workers. Ask the people you plan to interview what sound epitomizes the issue you are going to talk with them about. Then go to the place and decide for yourself.

Rich Egger takes us there.

WIUM's Rich Egger's opening scene

WNIJ Sense of Place examples:

Examples of natural sound in reporting

Different types of “nat sound”:

Sound effects: the gunfire, the old steam engine starting up, the shovels digging into the dirt.

Conversations: a back and forth you recorded on site. May even be you asking a question.

Ambient sound: the background sound around you that is part of the story. Stream trickling, kids playing, busy road.

PRO-TIP: from Tanya Ott, Morning Edition grad school trainer and great reporter. Walk into an interview with your recorder rolling when you can. Might get busy office sounds, “welcome to my store!” with jingling bells on door, vicious turkeys that meet you in the driveway. **But let the person know in advance you are going to be recording when you arrive.

PRO-TIP: Roll, roll, roll. It will feel like you have a lot of ambient audio, but it’s almost never enough. One minute is a long time.


Six NPR stories that take you there, using great writing and great sound.

David Greene's quick tipson going from print reporting to radio reporting.


1)    Always let people know they are being recorded.

2)    Only use sound gathered on-site. (No O’Hare planes when you are doing a story about Denver’s Airport. No pigs from Joe’s farm when you are doing a story about Jane’s pigs. If necessary, identify it as such.)

3)    Don’t stage audio. Your ambient audio is like candid photography: no posing. Be honest. (If you missed the chanting at the rally, don’t ask them to do it again. But if they notice your mic, they might just start on their own.)


Audio is fun. It changes your story from a poem into a song. Take your limitations as a creative challenge.

Dial-A-Carol http://northernpublicradio.org/post/free-cheer-served-u-i-students

Susan is an award-winning reporter/writer at her favorite radio station. She's also WNIJ's Perspectives editor, Under Rocks contributor, and local host of All Things Considered.