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Theo Greenly reports for a public radio station in the far-flung Aleutian Islands in Alaska. When he started, about two and a half years ago, he thought he'd hit the ground running reporting in-depth, documentary-style pieces. Instead, he learned he really needed to get his bearings first and just report the news. His stories about how to report -- and navigate all the transportation challenges -- in such a remote location are fun and insightful. 
Fiction should stay in its corner, non-fiction in its corner. Or so Rob thought until he heard producer Pippa Johnstone seamlessly and effectively mix the two in her memorable podcast "Expectant," where Pippa explores a remarkably uncomfortable question: In a time of climate change, is it okay to have children? 
Catherine Carr has turned vox into artful conversation with a deceptively simple question: Where are you going? That's also the name of the podcast she makes (a recent British Podcast Award winner) where she interviews strangers about where they're going and so much more.  
Studs Terkel is considered by many to be a patron saint of documentary radio journalism. It's been 15 years since his death. On this archive episode of Sound School from 2012, Rob talks to Syd Lewis who worked with Studs for 25 years. The show also includes a lengthy excerpt from "Working With Studs," a Transom Radio Special produced by Syd, Jay Allison, and Viki Merrick.  
Pleasing to the Ear

Pleasing to the Ear


Rob acts as a story DJ on this episode, featuring excerpts from stories he’s recently found pleasing to the ear. His "playlist" includes work from "More Perfect," the BBC Radio 4 podcast "Seriously," "The Shortwave Radio Archive," and "That Intimate Feeling." Drop a needle on the episode and press play.
Salt at 50!

Salt at 50!


What do radio producers Phoebe Judge (Criminal), Zoe Chase (This American Life), Greg Warner (Rough Translation), Matt Kielty (Radiolab), Emily Kwong (NPR) and dozens if not hundreds of others you've heard on your favorite podcasts and radio shows have in common? Salt. They're all graduates of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. Salt turns fifty this year! Isaac Kestenbaum, the director of the program, joins Rob to celebrate the occasion and talk about what makes the Salt experience so unique. 
This year's Third Coast Festival winners and finalists produced incredible work. It got us thinking about winners from previous years. So, we dug up this fantastic interview with Rachel Matlow who won a "Best New Producer" award in 2016 for their thoughtful and creative story "Dead Mom Talking."
It's unusual for a producer to share a work in progress. It's rarer still to do it twice. Nina Porzucki updates Rob on the progress of Bird Talk, her comedy podcast in-the-making and the steps it took to make her second pilot funnier and more engaging. 
Rebecca Hersher, a climate science reporter at NPR, offers excellent tips on reporting on climate change. But, at the heart of Rob's interview with her is something more philosophical: the role of hope in climate change reporting. 
Summer means cicadas. Those crackly, buzzy bugs that drone and drone in the heat like a live electrical wire spewing sparks. Mair Bosworth and Fiona Benson took that sound and crafted "Magicicada," a stunning "sound poem," as they called it, marrying Mair's stellar recordings and sound design and Fiona's nuanced poetry. 
Next-level Scoring

Next-level Scoring


Get your headphones on for this episode! Rob dives into three remarkable examples of scoring. He features examples from the Serial/NYT series "The Retrievals," scored by Phoebe Wang, "My Mother Made Me" from PRX's Radiotopia Presents scored by Ian Coss, and The Atlantic's "Holy Week," scored by David Herman.
Rob's a fan of the "radio art" style of audio storytelling from Europe but often, after listening, he finds himself scratching his head. "What was that about?!" He wonders if the problem isn't the storytelling but his American ears and the way he listens. Alan Hall, of Falling Tree, the English production company, helps him listen in a new way. 
No matter how good you are recording in the field, you're going to encounter challenges. Rob Byers does an incredible job explaining how to avoid and fix those problems on this archive episode of Sound School from 2017. At the time, Rob worked at NPR. He's now the Technical Director at Criminal. His recording tips are invaluable. And so are the resources we used on the episode from NPR's  "Ear Training Guide for Audio Producers.”  You'll make better recordings after listening to this episode.
Pushkin Industries released a "Best Of Audio Storytelling: 2022" but instead of putting it out as a podcast series, it's an audiobook. Does it matter? Julia Barton at Pushkin says no. On the latest Sound School, Julia talks about tearing down audio silos, and discusses a handful of stories from the collection, including selections from Radiotopia, NPR, Rumble Strip, and more.
The Sound School Podcast launched 15 years ago this month. But it was called Saltcast back then. And for the first episode, Rob featured once of his absolute favorite student-produced stories - one that he played in classes for years as an excellent example of documentary audio storytelling. To celebrate the show's 15th anniversary, Rob dusted off the very first Saltcast and this incredible story about a motivational speaker who can't talk. 
Antonia Cereijido has her ear to the ground. It's her job as Executive Producer at LAist to listen to what everyone is putting out. Rob asks her what grabbed her ears lately? She tells us about two recent series: the second season of LaBrega, the Puerto Rican experience in eight songs, and Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong.
A light went out recently. The bright light of Chris Brookes — a sorcerer of audio documentary and sound art. When Rob heard the news, he immediately started work on this remembrance featuring excerpts from several of Chris' distinctive productions — stories where Chris' clear, authorial voice, his fingerprint, is evident and inspiring.
What's the value of a non-narrated story for the listener? "It's direct," says NPR's Quil Lawrence. The characters in the story are "talking straight to the listener." He says this is especially important in an audio obituary. So, in a recent remembrance he produced, he made sure to get out of the way of the tape.
Munira Kaoneka first started as a blogger in Tanzania. But she says sometimes you need to shout so she started a podcast, “The Kaya Sessions." A couple of years later, after taking a workshop on narrative audio storytelling and reporting, she's at a crossroads: continue her path to engineering ("the sensible choice for a proper African child," she says) or make the leap into podcasting. Hear Munira's story, and the piece she produced at the workshop, in this episode of The Sound School Podcast.
Rob takes a hard listen to three podcasts -- You Didn't See Nothin', Lights Out, and Noble Champions. He then tosses out darts for work that caused him to ask "Why'd you do that?!" and laurels for work that's just plain crushing it. Rob opens this episode with a note about Transom is dreaming up a new project and could really use your input. If you have a minute, head on over to the Transom homepage and click the link to take a short survey.
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