Archives for category: Radio/Audio Journalism

Advice from Sachin Seth

Internships are the key to the industry. If you want to make serious connections in the field, the best way is by completing as many internships during your university career as you can.

I got really, really lucky. I scored two really great internships in 2010, one at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, and the second at the CBC’s foreign bureau in London, England.

It was a great opportunity for me to see the contrast between two of the biggest journalism organizations in North America.

I learned a lot, but there was one thing I learned that made me especially happy. If you’re a visible minority (I’m South Asian) don’t pay attention to the stats that tell you that you have a less of a chance of making it big. In a world that’s this globalized,  journalists of diverse backgrounds are gaining a lot of support from upper management in big organizations, so the shift in employment is in your favour.

Since finishing the pair of internships, I’m frequently asked two questions:

Question One: “what does a correspondent actually do on a daily basis?”

Sachin worked with CBC correspondent Susan Ormiston (pictured) in London

Last fall, I got the incredible opportunity with the CBC’s new London correspondent Susan Ormiston for six weeks. The London bureau was really small (about 11 full-time staff) and the place gets pretty hectic on filing days.

For example, when Susan had to file a story on the announcement of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement, we were out all-day shooting visuals, interviews by Buckingham Palace, and doing live hits with the studio back in Toronto. Susan was writing her script for the final piece while out in the field, and when we got back in the evening, she voiced it and oversaw the editing process through until the end (which wrapped up around midnight or 1 a.m). That was a 14-hour day.

The days can be long and jam-packed, but really, the work is incredibly fun and there is very little repetition. You come into work with something new to do everyday, and that’s one of the joys and main attractions of the field.

In short, a correspondent may not have the same thing to do on a regular basis. Depending on his or her position, he or she may or may not file everyday. On non-filing days, the correspondent usually works on future stories, by researching and doing pre-interviews with future subjects. Their interns or assistants help with streeters*, doing pre-interviews, researching and, on occasion, writing.

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*streeters: non-gender-specific version of what used to be called the man-in-the-street interview. “Go out and shoot some streeters on gas prices.” Also known as voxpops (Latin: vox populi, voice of the people).
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Question Two: “What does an anchor do all day before going on-air?”

Sachin worked with CNN's Don Lemon (pictured) in Atlanta

Before my internship in London, I was at CNN in Atlanta for 9 weeks, working almost 60 hours a week. I worked, for the most part, on a specific show called “CNN Newsroom with Don Lemon.” I got to see first-hand what a national anchor does every day, and how crucial his supporting cast is to the successful execution of the show.

Don, like most anchors, does not write his full script (that would be impossible, especially for shows that go on for one or two hours). He did however write the tease* for every show, and read over his scripts several times before going on-air, just to make sure he was familiar with the material.

He also made executive decisions on which stories to include and not include, and was heavily involved in story meetings on the two days leading up to his weekend shows, as well as on the day of the shows.

Don did a number of live interviews on his shows as well, many times with questions that were written for him but that included a lot of his own input. Of course, the live follow–up questions were his responsibility.

Being a correspondent/anchor/reporter/any type of journalist is really hard work. As you’ve probably have heard a thousand times already, the hours are horrendous, the pay is usually pretty sub-par, the work is stressful and can be depressing. But the type of people who work in the industry are probably the kindest and funniest people you’ll ever meet. The people who practice journalism do it for the love of the work, and because they feel a responsibility to educate others on subjects that they care about.

If you feel the same way, then you’re in the right field.

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*tease: a promo which doesn’t give away the kernel of the story. “This man has committed no crime, but he’s wanted across Canada. We’ll have his story…later on the show.”
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About Sachin

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYH2_0UC%5D

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Advice from Lily Boisson

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Maiko received bad news. An earthquake struck her home country of Japan.

Maiko is a J-school grad who lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick. She couldn’t reach her family and she was worried. As soon as I found out I sent her a text saying, “I know how you feel.”

I know all about the initial panic—the mad dash to reach family members, the anxiety as images of destruction flash across the screen and the harrowing thought that loved ones might be hurt.

I lived through all those same emotions last year when my home country was stuck by a natural disaster. I was in Fredericton, where I live and study, when I heard the news that Port-au-Prince had been rattled by a strong earthquake.

As a Haitian-born Canadian and a journalist, I gained a different perspective on disaster stories and the people affected. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1)  Speaking to the media isn’t a priority for everyone

When I first heard about the earthquake, my immediate thoughts were with my family members. My father, aunts, uncles and cousins all live in Haiti. It was two hours before I could reach my family. Those two hours were the darkest hours of my life.

It wasn’t until after I heard from my dad that I even considered doing interviews with local media and writing about the earthquake.

When trying to reach a source for a comment or an interview keep in mind that talking to the media may not be their first priority. That being said, many people will be eager to talk to the media and bring attention to their situation.

2)  Don’t let the disaster define the people affected

There are many dimensions to every culture; don’t let your subject be defined by the disaster. We are all too familiar with images of devastation and strife on the news. Unfortunately, these images can come to over-represent an affected area.

When I spoke about Haiti after the earthquake I soon became aware that many people were associating my home country with poverty, devastation and death. I tried to balance this by telling them about all the wonderful things Haiti has to offer.

On the ground in Haiti many reporters covered religious services after the quake. In Haiti these ceremonies are accompanied by singing, dancing and impassioned sermons. This was a good way to showcase Haitian culture and tell the story of a grieving population.

3) Be compassionate, be human

While people shouldn’t be defined by their suffering, the gravity of their situation should not be downplayed either. Journalists on the scene in Haiti were overwhelmed with the suffering they saw around them, but they managed to produce some excellent work.

CBC journalist Paul Hunter’s story about a makeshift hospital is a good example of this. Hunter, doesn’t mince words about the dire conditions at the hospital. During his stand up he draws attention to the cries of a young girl receiving treatment.

4) Stick with it – cover the recovery

Any good journalist should always be thinking of follow-up stories. Natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis are just the beginning. In Haiti, a Cholera epidemic followed. In Japan it’s an ongoing nuclear disaster.

The effects of the earthquake are still palpable in Haiti’s capital. In fact, tent cities once thought of as a temporary solution for the newly homeless, are now being considered permanent settlements.

Often the most captivating stories happen after the initial disaster. Stick around, there will be more stories to tell.

About Lily

Advice from Adam Avrashi

Broadcasting is very technical and, popular belief aside, it’s not about shoving a microphone in someone’s face and hoping for the best. It requires a lot of preparation: know what questions you want to ask, know what sound you will need for your report and be prepared for difficulties.

Questions should be specific ( because a microphone just incites most people to just blather on) and you need to be very attentive. Also, as an interviewer, speak as little as possible. You should be listening to what your interviewee is saying and be prepared to ask a follow-up question based on that.

1) Your story is too long

You should know what clips you want to use for a report before you get into the editing booth. Know your material, and the piece edits itself.

In my experience, the best editors aren’t the ones who know how to create cool effects. They are the ones who insist you cut down your story. And trust me: your story is too long. It always is.

It took me a while to realize this, but the audience has a short attention span, and no matter how much you like a particular clip or sequence, if it doesn’t add to the story you are trying to tell, take it out.

Broadcasting is not about quantity but about quality. If you’re story is two and a half minutes long, try cutting it down to one minute 45. Chances are you are saying something superfluous or belabouring a point, and your audience will definitely appreciate a more concise piece.

2) You don’t have to have a “voice for radio”

I don’t have a God-given voice for radio. And yes, some people just do have that booming presence. I’ve worked with and gone to school with a handful of them. But having a booming voice isn’t really that important, but sounding authoritative and interesting is.

If you are like me, and just have a normal speaking voice, there are a couple of things you can do to try and improve your on-air delivery.

First off, record yourself having a regular conversation, just on the phone with someone or speaking with a friend in person. Then listen to it. Chances are, you will be very surprised with what you hear. We are used to hearing our voice in our own head, so having our actual voice played back is a strange phenomenon.

Once that’s done, try recording yourself reading some news copy (don’t just read an article online—go ahead and actually write yourself some news copy. Remember, the shorter the sentences, the easier they are  to say). Now record yourself, with headphones in your ears to hear the resonance, reading the copy. Try to make your voice sound powerful, use pauses and try to alter the speaking tone and insert emotional flourish when appropriate—no newscast should be read with a monotone drone. Practice and repeat.

You know you have found your broadcasting voice when you can listen to yourself without feeling embarrassed or self-conscious. You should be able to listen to the piece and hear your story instead of your performance. Then you’ve got it.

3) Tips on hosting a radio show

I have hosted my own current affairs radio show for nearly two years on campus radio. If you are interested in broadcasting, this is some of the best practice you can get. Booking guests, preparing interviews, producing discussion topics and segments all take practice and it’s something you won’t learn in class.

I’ve interned in two different radio newsrooms and the equipment and the preparation process aren’t so different than working on campus radio.

My tip would be to over-prepare — know your topics and discussion points so well that when you go on air, you barely need any text in front of you. All you should have are facts or story details—you shouldn’t have everything you want to say written out or the show won’t feel organic and result in boring radio. And remember, radio is the theatre of the mind, so make sure you are descriptive and illustrative when recounting a story. Make your audience sees what you are talking about.

4) Where to get story ideas

Story ideas can come from anywhere: a newspaper article, a press release, something I overheard on the bus or a story my grandmother told me. But remember that not every story will be a good fit for every audience, so make sure you know who is listening to your show or report. Read newspapers and listen to radio, that is how you develop a good sense of an interesting story. But if you get a tip that excites you and you think would be of interest to others, it is worth exploring.

5) How to address controversial subjects

When talking about something that could be construed as controversial—religion, politics, sex, etc—don’t panic but bring your A-game. This is the type of show or report where you need to triple check your facts. Also, if you are concerned about saying something that may offend others, try picturing those people sitting in the radio booth beside you. Would they be offended? Do they have reason to be offended? Are you treating their point of view fairly?

As a show host, you have the right to say something controversial—it is stipulated under media law as fair comment—but it is important that the comment actually is fair and based on truth. A Muslim woman in Quebec refused to give a presentation in front of her class because she claimed it was against her religion. We covered this topic on my show, and it was important for me to express my point of view, but I imagined that the woman and her family were sitting next to me. It is easy to say something into an empty room with a microphone, and much more difficult to say the same things in person.

Final thoughts

Practice, practice, practice. If you can’t get your own show on community radio, make a podcast and put it online or play it for your friends and family. The more practice you get, the better you will become. And have fun.

About Adam

Advice from Alejandra (Alex) Hering

The internet and social media platforms have changed everything about the way we journalists do our jobs and how our boss’ boss makes money. As a result, today’s top editors are looking for journalists who can do it all, for less.

This is a massive opportunity. Take the time to understand how the web works, how users make money online, and how you can harness that into your next big break. For a competitive edge, you have to think bigger than print clippings in folders that you bring to interviews. The interview begins online when prospective employers and collaborators google you.

Here’s my guide to greeting them with a compelling online portfolio.

Step One: Write the content.

This is the most critical step in the process. Content is king and will drive the most visitors to your site. Journalism students should have the following pages:

Home – introduce yourself and talk about the purpose of the site (to inform prospective employers of how awesome you are, who you are and what you’ve done.)

Clips – this will be your most viewed page, so take the time to perfect it. FYI Every clip or every clip category (video work, print work, design work) needs a description of the circumstances when you created it (ex: written on 30 minute deadline, or 2 hours video editing total)

  • Post links to the PDF files of your stories or link directly to the news organization’s website. Another option for getting clips to your site is to sign up for a Scribd account. Scribd works the same any media uploading site does – you upload your jpegs or pdfs and you can embed the Scribd reader right into your site
  • Photographers: think about using a widget from Flickr to automatically slideshow your work on a blog page
  • Videographers/video journalists: your best packages should be on youtube/vimeo where you have the option of embedding them into a blog or website.

Resume – Highlight what you have done and where. Include links to the organizations you’ve worked with, longer descriptions of the work you did, and the awards you may have received for work you did. Remember that the web is immune to silly 8.5×11 inch dimensions so you can write in depth about the role.

Interests – Post a photo and a few graphs on an activity that keeps you sane. My interests page might seem a bit out of place but I love backpacking and I’d like a prospective employer to know I have a hobby. It may also be a conversation starter or the touch that makes you more memorable.

Contact – Link to social networks you belong to and think about having a professional facebook profile that doesn’t contain photos from last weekend. Provide your personal email address in case anyone has questions about the site content.The links I post and have good luck with are: linkedin, twitter (acts as both personal & professional), facebook (acts as both personal & professional), google public profile page, youtube (only professional) and/or vimeo. Things not to include on your contact page: myspace link, phone number or home address.

Step Two: Buy a domain and hosting

A domain is the URL of the site. Use your first and last name if you are a journalist (www.alexhering.com). Use a more jazzed up version of your name if you are a PR student (www.heyalex.com). Do not stray far from this formula. Remember to keep the domain short for twitter and business card’s sake.

Web hosting keeps your site and all the files associated with your site on the web for you. My advice is to use the same company for both domain and hosting. I went with doteasy.com for $25/year for the domain and basic hosting comes free with that purchase. They often have domain sales for as little as $4/year.

Step Three: Create a house for your content.

This can be done in several different ways. Sites like WordPress and Blogger offer the code and a management system. They are fully customizable and give you access to the page function that you need for the home, clips, resume, interests and contact pages.

If you wish to go the other route and code the site yourself, it would be best to enroll in a short web design class. I learned this art from Cindy Royal, a social media guru and professor at Texas State University who is getting recognition from professionals around the country for her course in social media and HTML coding. If you can’t get Cindy, follow her on twitter, it is well worth it.

The most important thing to remember about your website is that it is now your advertisement to the world and you should treat it the way you treat yourself – be aware of how it’s dressed, feed it with new content and show it off in every way you can.

Editors note: Alex’s website is, of course, very well done and reflective of her personality. For other great ideas, check out the sites of some other featured journalists: Jasmeet SidhuStuart Thompson, Chloe Fedio, Lucas Timmons.

About Alex

    Alejandra (Alex) Hering

  • Name: Alejandra/Alex/Ale/Al Hering
  • J-school: Texas State University – San Marcos, school of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Current/Past employers: MediaEDGE, Toronto Star, NBC, San Antonio Express-News, NOWCast San Antonio, Scripps Howard Foundation News Wire, Laredo Morning Times, The University Star and KTSW 89.9
  • Platforms: web, print and video
  • Twitter: @alexhering
  • Sample work: print, video and design work on my website.

Advice from Leslie Young

Be interested in everything. As a journalist, particularly a young journalist, you will be covering stories on a huge variety of topics. In a single day, you may be interviewing a professor about their research into black holes, looking into municipal transit budgets and talking to an athlete about training for the luge. Your job is to make all these things interesting and relevant to your readers. The best way to accomplish this is to be genuinely interested yourself. Find that angle or meet that person who will make you care about whatever is going on. Your readers will care too.

Be curious. As you walk down the street, take note of things you see and try to figure out why they are the way they are. Ask questions about everything – and then go out and find the answers. Read everything you can, as much as you can.

Finally, never stop writing. I was told in journalism school that writing is the basis of the entire craft. My teachers were right. No matter what medium you work in, good writing will carry your story. It’s also very transferable – writing for radio for a year has made me a better print journalist as well.

About Leslie

Leslie Young

  • Name: Leslie Young
  • J-school: University of British Columbia
  • Current/Past employers: CBC Radio, OpenFile
  • Publications in which her work has appeared: Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun, CBC Radio, OpenFile, PBS Frontline/World
  • Platforms she works in: radio, print, online
  • Website: leslieyoung.net
  • Twitter: @leslieyoung
  • Work samples:

Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground (Emmy award-winning documentary)
Ottawa methadone treatment options limited

Downtown shoppers paying a premium for groceries

Advice from Arden Zwelling (served cold)

Journalism is far from a glamorous pursuit. If you want to be really good at it and make a living from it, you’re going to have to endure a lot. It’s not the ninth ring of Dante’s Inferno or anything. It’s just close. I want to make it clear this ain’t no walk in the park.

Are you ready to work for next-to-nothing for an extended period of time early in your career? Are you willing to pull the late nights (like 3 a.m. late), early mornings (like 6 a.m. early), working lunches (it’s okay to type with your mouth full) and dinners on the go (just don’t eat and drive) that are an ultimate byproduct of this pursuit? Are you prepared to make some drastic sacrifices in the amount of time you spend with your family and friends? Are you ready to pick up a large, complex story on a subject you likely don’t completely understand and turn it out in a well-researched, informative and balanced fashion within just a couple of hours? If you’re going to cut your teeth in hard news like I did, are you ready to deal with death, pain, anguish, evil, hate, injustices and inhumane crimes on a daily basis? Are you ready to be lied to, generally disliked and told you’re an idiot by a magnitude of people?

These are the questions you have to ask yourself. Journalism can be extraordinarily rewarding for those that are good at it. But it can be a real nightmare if you’re not aware of what you’re getting into. I don’t mean to take the cynical route with this thing. I just want to be honest.

Editor’s note: Arden’s entry is just about 4 pages long, and he asked me to select a portion to share. Instead, I’ve decided to give you the option of reading the full text version of his advice. Aspiring sports journalists, pay special attention.

About Arden

Arden Zwelling

  • Name: Arden Zwelling, 23, Toronto, ON
  • J-school: In final year of Media and Information at the University of Western Ontario
  • Current/Past employers: UWO Gazette (news writer, sports editor, associate editor), the Canadian Football League (staff writer, featured columnist), Major League Baseball (associate reporter), The Score (blogger, blog editor, web editor), Sports XPress (editor), CHRW 94.9 FM (radio host)
  • Publications: UWO Gazette, CFL.ca, MLB.com, thescore.com, Sports XPress
  • Platforms: Print, web, radio, television
  • Web: http://blogs.thescore.com/cis, http://wgaz.ca/zwellin, http://wgaz.ca/blogthevotewww.ardenzwelling.com
  • Twitter: @ArdenZwelling
  • Work samples:

Foster fights for a home in the Lion’s den
Brouillette lays down the law for AIs
Shelters remain overcapacity as temperature drops

Fournier falling his way in the pros

Advice from Tamara Baluja

Don’t feel that getting into J-school is your only option if you want to become a journalist. You’ll learn some basic skills, yes, but J-school is simply a way to get your foot in the door. It’s far more important to get great internships and experiences, even if it means sacrificing your grades a little.

Ultimately, it’s your portfolio that gets you an interview and not your school grades. (Er, sorry, not sure if that’s what you want to hear, but it’s true). Also, live a little! Employers love journalists who’ve lived/worked in different places, can speak a second or third language fluently, or even have a different undergrad degree from the prescribed journalism degree.

(Editor’s note: Tamara was actually heading to Law School when she decided to jump ship and become a journalist.)

About Tamara

Tamara Baluja

  • Name: Tamara Baluja
  • J-school: Centennial College, Toronto (in my last semester – thank-god!)
  • Current/Past employers: Associated Press, London, UK bureau (current).
  • Previous: The Province (Vancouver), Toronto Star radio room, CFRB. Upcoming summer internship: Globe and Mail in Toronto.
  • Publications: This is going to be a huge list mainly because of AP subscribers – Washington Post, USA Today, ABC Online, LA Times, Bloomberg, MSNBC, Philadelphia Inquirer, Today Online, eTaiwan News, etc. In Canada, my work has appeared in The Province and affliate Postmedia papers when they picked up my Province stories, Toronto Star, East York Observer, Rogers TV Mississauga, and CFRB.
  • Platforms: Radio, print, online. TV as well, but extremely reluctantly. Make-up ewww!
  • Twitter: @tamara_baluja
  • Sample work: Banned but Easy to Buy (a cover story investigation for the Province)
  • In three parts: baluja1 baluja2 baluja3

Advice from Bethany Horne

Put a lot of thought into why you want to be a reporter, and make sure you stay true to that. And if you get discouraged: put yourself in the path of people who will re-inspire you, and force yourself to listen to them. If you have a good reason for wanting to be a journalist, no shift in technology or collapse of the industry will be able to stop you. Figure out who you are writing or producing media for. Meet them. Spend time with them. Love them. You’ll never wonder what story to cover or what to look into if you have that clear.

Develop a sense of responsibility to the audience that is strong enough to overpower every politician who doesn’t return your calls, every source who dodges a question, every obstructive Freedom of Information officer, and sometimes, a bullheaded editor or publisher.

If your sense of responsibility to your audience is strong enough, you’ll push yourself in the directions you need to go in your reporting. You’ll be fastidious about your facts. You’ll get things right more often than you’ll get them wrong, and your stories will be useful and significant.

And this is more for old timers, but also some young cubs who get influenced by old timers and absorb some of that nostalgia: don’t be suspicious of change. It seems to me that the first instinct sometimes is to mock the ‘new thing,’ then write a trend piece about it as if we get what it is, then ignore it for a while, then actually start using it way too late to really harness its power to the same degree as the media-makers who aren’t tied to a newspaper or TV channel can. So just … be more open to everything at the beginning, and maybe we the trained journalists have a chance not to be left behind.

About Bethany

    Bethany Horne

  • Name: Bethany Horne
  • J-school: University of King’s College
  • Current/Past Employers: The Dalhousie Gazette, OpenFile.ca.
  • Publications: The Coast, OpenFile.ca, Dalhousie Gazette, Geez Magazine, j-source.ca, King’s Journalism Review, Maclean’s OnCampus, and radio and TV shows out of the university.
  • Platforms: print, radio, video, web/multimedia.
  • Twitter: @bethanybhorne
  • Web: www.bethanyhorne.com
  • Sample work: Family resource centre loses home
G20: One view from the street
G20: Police given extra powers
Student Union Building up for grabs

Advice from Jessica Linzey

Let go of your worries about finding a job. Live an interesting life, and the work will follow.

Move to another country, another province, another city, another neighbourhood. Travel alone, live with locals. Talk to strangers. Take your headphones off. Eavesdrop. Let conversations breathe. Listen. Really listen. And don’t be afraid of silence. Read. Read. Read. If someone’s work inspires you, moves you, say so. Get contact details for everyone you meet. Collect business cards and write bits of info on them. Go through those cards every few months — there are stories everywhere. Do not blow deadlines. And if you must, talk to your editors — they’ll appreciate it.

Spend as much time working on your pitches as you do on your stories. Learn to love the editing process. Find a mentor. Ask for help. Ask for clarification. Ask your colleagues for feedback. Play nice — this is a small industry. Be careful with what you put online. Always follow up — with leads, with thank yous, with pitches, with promises to buy drinks. Have a life outside of journalism. Remember that there are hundreds of ways to practice this trade. So take a chance. Everything is an opportunity. Everything. Do something that leaves you a little off balance. You never know where it will take you.

About Jessica

Jessica Linzey

  • Name: Jessica Linzey
  • J-school: UBC
  • Current/Past Employers: CBC, self, Chef Abroad (The Food Network), NewsXchange, The Riz Khan Show on Al Jazeera English, The Frontline Club, The Coast
  • Publications: The Coast, OpenFile.ca, Momentum Magazine
  • Platforms: print, radio, TV and live production (see NewsXchange, Frontline Club), online
  • Twitter: @jesslinzey
  • Web:  jessicalinzey.ca (under construction)
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