Part 1: Radio journalism tools
Spend a couple days/weeks getting familiar with recording equipment and digital editing software. If your local community station offers an equipment and training program, take advantage of it to practice and become familiar with what’s available. If you’re thinking about doing radio journalism on a regular basis, consider investing in your own equipment. A lot of radio journalists produce broadcast quality material using the following:
–Recorder: Zoom H2 or H4 (both have broadcast quality built-in mics; the latter has an XLR line-in, which provides more flexibility in various recording environments)
–Digital editing: Audacity, a free, open-source digital editing program
Transom.org is an excellent resource for many things radio, but they also conduct in-depth equipment reviews:
The Knight Digital Media Center also provides a number of tutorials on equipment:
J-Lab has a great overview on what to include in your field recording kit and how to record in the field:
A few sites that have competitive prices for digital recorders:
Eventually, you might want to expand your equipment to include:
–Different external mics, for example a shotgun mic to gather sound from a distance
–A more advanced digital editing program, like Audition or Reaper
–Mobile digital editing, like Hindenburg: http://hindenburgsystems.com/
–An expanded home studio: http://transom.org/?p=23904
–Get familiar with how your equipment works before you conduct your first recordings. Practice with your friends, roommates, family and colleagues. Pay attention to mic placement, background sounds and what you’re hearing through your headphones. Make adjustments in order to get the best possible recording. Ideally, you always want the mic to be about an apple’s width from the speaker’s mouth.
Part 2 – Field recordings and interviews
Now that you’re familiar with your equipment, time to put it to use. Spend a couple months conducting field recordings and interviews, and editing those down to stand-alone segments (Q&As, vox pops, segments of speeches).
–Practice recording in different environments: one-on-one interviews, speeches, round table discussions, outdoor and ambient sound. If you’re recording at a formal event, you’ll want to request credentials & permission to record. Also, find out recording logistics. Will there be a mult-box to plug into? Another way to plug into the PA system? If no PA system, can put your recorder on a podium? At big events, where there are speakers and an audience, you should avoid recording from a distance (unless you have a shotgun mic). A handheld recorder will not capture broadcast quality sound from even short distances. If you’re recording outside, you’ll want to have a windscreen. If you’re recording in a home or office, you might want to use a mixer, to get both your voice and your subjects recorded. If you’re doing person-on-the-street interviews, make sure you hold the mic (don’t let the interviewee hold it) and keep it as steady as possible (as you’re practicing you’ll hear how often slight movements of mic and recorder will be picked up on the recording).
–Throughout recording, wear headphones so you can monitor what your recorder is capturing. Pay attention to your levels, which should fall between -6 and -12. Overmodulated sound can’t be fixed post-production, so make sure you’re not recording “too hot.”
–If possible, take notes while you’re recording indicating time codes and identifying sections of the recording you’d like to use. This will help you when you return from your field recording or interview, especially if you need to quickly pull audio for a project/production. Depending on how you’re using your audio, you may want to log all of your tape (a rough transcript with time codes). Logging tape is particularly useful when producing a hard news reporter feature or long-format documentary. Also, come up with a system for archiving your recordings. There may be opportunities in the future to go back to that interview and re-use the audio, for example if you interview a prominent person and they later pass away or when doing a “Year in Review” segment.
Part 3: The Craft
After you’re comfortable with the basics of recording and editing, start focusing on interviewing, news gathering, writing, reporting and on-air delivery skills. There are lots of online resources available, and often free webinars that you can sign up for or that are archived (Ijnet.org, linked below, lists some of them). As you’re studying tips and formats, listen critically to other radio producers, dissecting how they’ve put together programs and reports. When you’re ready to produce your own segment or report, give yourself an assignment. Write a “nut graph” that boils down the story into 1-2 paragraphs. Include a list of sources (both interviews and primary source materials) and estimated length of segment or report. Start with straight-forward projects using 1-3 sources and build up to more complex ones. Share your work with others and ask for critical feedback. Journalism is a lifelong education, and you’ll grow, improve and learn new tricks along the way.
http://www.radiodiaries.org/diy-radio/ (This is written for youth, but has some great tips!)