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AFR/HIS 386: Black Power Beyond Borders - Klanderud (Spring 2020)

Podcast Planning

So you have a topic - now your job is to tailor that argument and supporting research to a more general audience in the form of storytelling. This outlines how to do digital storytelling particularly in a podcast format, but a lot of the planning and gathering of materials can be applied to making videos, timelines, and more. 

Storytelling is a key ingredient in many podcasts. Think about stories your parents, family or friends have told you — or that you heard on the radio or somewhere else. What are the elements and techniques of great storytelling? How can stories we hear, but can’t see, be even more powerful than stories dramatized or documented on TV or in film?

To think about the answers to these questions, consider listening to one or more of these short audio stories below. As you listen, you can also take note of which elements and techniques of storytelling on this handout are being used. 

• “When the Civil War Ended, She Was My Age” from StoryCorps
• “The Coal Miner” from The World According to Sound
• “Seeking an End to Cycles of Abuse” from Radio Rookies

Think about: what elements and techniques you noticed and which ones seemed the most essential to good storytelling. 


Just like writers do before starting an essay, podcast producers typically make an outline or plan before they start recording and editing. They brainstorm how they want to turn their topic into an audio story. What components will they need: spoken stories, interviews, narration?

Before you get started producing your own podcast, you might consider listening to other podcasts to reverse engineer their podcast into an outline aimed at answering a specific question. You can use the beginning of Episode 538 from “This American Life” (Segment 0:00 - 4:20) and its transcript. For example, a rough outline on this episode might be: 

Narrator introduces a situation: A middle school student refuses to take off a hat in the classroom.
Vox pop interview clips, interspersed with narration: Various teachers share how they might handle this situation.
Music fades in ...
Narrator introduces the larger topic of school discipline and the main question the podcast will address: Are school and teacher discipline policies working? Is there a better way?
Music fades in ...

Questions to think about: What is the question this episode focuses on? What components do the producers use during this segment? 

You can plan your podcast using this handout. 

Gathering Audio Source Material

Using a Smartphone to Record

Until now, we‘ve focused on the nontechnical aspects of podcasting, but to move forward you’ll need to know how to use recording devices. If you have fancy microphones or microcassette recorders, you can skip this next part; if you don't, your smart phone will do the job! The basics:

• First, smartphones will need to have a sound recording app. On Android, you can download a free voice recording app like “RecForge II” or “Audio Recorder.” For iPhones, in the extras folder, find the “Voice Memos” app.
• Locate the microphone on your phone.
• Find a reasonably quiet space (library study rooms can be great for this!).
• To begin recording, start by pressing the “Record” button or a red square. To finish, press the same button again.
• Make sure to position the microphone about six inches away from the side of you and your subject’s mouth.
• Check your audio, preferably with a pair of headphones. It should be free of background sound and loud enough to hear, but not so loud that it crackles. Record for 10 seconds and then play it back; adjust microphone position based on volume.
• After you finish, make sure to enter a title for the recording and save it.
• To get the file to your computer so you can edit it later on, use AirDrop, Bluetooth transfer, email or Google Drive upload.

Once you have a plan and know how to record, go out and record your narration, stories, and interviews. 

You should also gather any additional sound files you may want to use. You can find royalty-free music and sound effects on Bensound, Freesound, and YouTube, or you can create your own beats or melodies using your audio editing software. 

Audio Editing Using Audacity

Once you have all your needed sound files, the last step is to use audio editing software to pull the pieces together into a final podcast (the length of the podcast should be determined by the instructor). Please be forewarned: Editing can be a time-consuming process.

Editing software, like Audacity, is the tool that will help you turn your sound files into professional-sounding podcasts. With it, you can delete sections of audio, move audio segments around and stitch them together, and add additional sounds. 

Note: The library currently can support projects using Audacity (a free windows application). Classes using Apple computers can use GarageBand, a free audio editing software. Other examples of free online audio editing software that can be used on Windows or Google devices include Soundtrap (free for 14 days, then premium) and Beautiful Audio Editor. For each of these applications, there are tutorial videos available online. 

Here are some of the basics of audio editing:
1. The “cut” or “split” tool enables you to splice one audio segment into two or more segments.
2. The “delete” tool enables you to get rid of any audio segments you don’t want.
4. The dragging and moving function allows you to reposition audio segments where you want them. Typically you will use the mouse as a cursor to drag and move content.
5. The timeline ruler or grid is the tool that measures the audio. You use the timeline to assemble various audio segments into one project.
6. Tracks are layers of sound. Podcasts often have multiple tracks of audio playing simultaneously, such as music or sound effects played over spoken word. You can align the various tracks using the timeline.
7. Volume can be adjusted in each audio segment. You can also add effects, such as fade in or fade out.
8. “Save” and “Export” are important functions. You must remember to save your work, and you will most likely want to export your project when you are done.

When the podcasts are ready, you can upload them to one of many hosting sites. SoundCloud offers free podcast hosting and so do Buzzsprout, Podomatic and Spreaker, with limitations. For your class, your instructor may ask you to upload your podcast to Ensemble, an application supported by the library. You should check with your instructor. Also, keep in mind that copyright needs to be taken into consideration only if you plan on sharing your podcast publicly.

To learn Audacity:

  1. Jump right in, try it, break it, figure out how to fix it.
  2. Do LinkedIn Learning's Learning Audacity course (1h53m). You can get access to LinkedIn Learning free by contacting IS&S.
  3. Watch YouTube tutorials.
  4. Reach out to the Digital Initiatives Librarian and Digital Humanities Associates for help by emailing houstonl@berea.edu