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Sound School Podcast

Author: Rob Rosenthal/PRX/Transom.org

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The Backstory to Great Audio Storytelling, hosted by Rob Rosenthal, for Transom and PRX.
333 Episodes
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David Weinberg pulls off a real radio feat mixing fantasy and reality in his documentary called "Grace of the Sea." In this archive episode, David explores the value of "magical realism" in audio storytelling.  
An Audio Field Trip

An Audio Field Trip

2024-07-0230:00

Rob plays "Story DJ" on this episode "spinning" excerpts from several excellent stories you'll definitely want to hear. It's an audio field trip taking you around the world: Macon, Georgia, Wales, Madagascar, Kenya, and a closet at an undisclosed IKEA. Bring your best headphones for this one. 
Don't leave an interview entirely to chance. Structure it like a good story. On this episode, Rob dissects an interview on The Daily revealing its effective inner story structure. 
Ira Glass of This American Life is a master audio storyteller. He's equally skillful at laying out the mechanics of creative storytelling and reporting, too. Rob unearthed a presentation Ira made back in 2001 at a radio conference that is signature Ira and brimming with incredibly helpful tips on writing, structure, reporting, and scoring. A good listen for audio 
It's illegal to be queer in Uganda and incredibly unsafe. Queer people risk violence, eviction, harassment, and arrest. How then does a producer protect the identity of interviewees, especially when someone's voice might be recognized. British freelance producer Mary Goodhart solved this problem and many other safety issues while working on an LGBTQ story for the BBC World Service Podcast "The Comb." 
There's a moment in this episode when Rob is gasping and holding his hand to his chest. Why was he so astonished? Listen to his conversation with Jess Shane as they dissect the ethics of her Radiotopia documentary "Shocking, Heartbreaking, Transformative."
Deadlines, production meetings, staff management, show scheduling... in any given day, there's rarely time to pause and consider the craft of audio storytelling. Of course, PRX and Transom hope Sound School provides an easy opportunity to do that. On this episode, we'd like to introduce you to another podcast with the same mission: Sound Judgment hosted by Elaine Appleton Grant and featuring an interview with Jonathan Menjivar about his podcast Classy.
Have NPR's news magazines occasionally been sounding more radiophonic lately? Rob thinks so. He's collected a handful of satisfying moments of writing, production, and reporting from several reporters: Daniel Estrin, Avery Keatley, Andrew Limbong, Barbara Moran, Ari Shapiro, and Andrea Shea.
The Um, A Deep Dive

The Um, A Deep Dive

2024-03-2614:37

"Ums." You're supposed to cut them out, right? But what if the "um" means something? Talia Augustidis noticed her boyfriend "ummed" when he was lying and she thought "radio story." Talia takes a deep dive into the importance of not cutting out all the "ums" as well as the backstory to her piece for the BBC's Short Cuts called "What's In An Um?"
One of the top three questions Rob often hears when he's teaching is, "Should I record in stereo?" Rob says mono is usually the way to go. But on this archive episode of Sound School, former NPR engineer Flawn Williams evangelizes about the value of stereo recordings, and he brought along several sound-rich examples.
In the tsunami of serialized documentary making over the last decade, what happened to the short story? Where are the one-off curious and creative sound portraits or essays or found sound or audio postcards or.... ? Last year Transom commissioned a dozen short stories as part of "Small, Random, and Meaningful." Rob features his three favorites.
In honor of World Radio Day this week, The Sound School Podcast is celebrating with a story that exemplifies the power of radio to evoke striking images — a story reported from a remote hillside in Slovenia.  
A Triple Whammy

A Triple Whammy

2024-01-3020:26

Katz Laszlo says writing and tracking for herself is complicated enough. But it's an even greater challenge writing for and tracking with the two co-hosts of The Europeans podcast. Katz lays out how she and the hosts wrangle it all on the latest Sound School.
Tracking Partners

Tracking Partners

2024-01-1624:24

It's a brave thing to share the outtakes from a tracking session. All the blemishes are right there. But, Martine Powers and Rennie Svirnovsky from audio team at The Washington Post have graciously done just that. Hearing how they work as tracking partners is a real gift for anyone who wants to perform better in the mic booth.
While there were many great podcasts released in 2023, no one will remember the year as a good one for the people who make podcasts. There were far too many layoffs and cancellations including a show dear to our radio hearts at Transom, Heavyweight, hosted by Jonathan Goldstein. In honor of the show and Jonathan's remarkable writing, Rob revisits his chat with Jonathan where they talked about process, fonts, and a writing maneuver they jokingly dubbed "The Goldstein." 
Rob takes himself to task on this episode. He felt the beginning of the last episode of Sound School was so boring, he rewrote it. Compare the old version with the new version be sure to tell us at Transom which is the better open. 
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.  
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