By Rob Rosenthal/PRX/

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The Backstory to Great Radio Storytelling, hosted by Rob Rosenthal, for Transom and PRX.

Episode Date
The Hidden Work Of An Associate Producer

Who are all those people at the end of an episode of Reply All, given credit for putting it together? One of them is Jessica Yung. She's an Associate Producer. On this episode of HowSound we shine a light on Jessica's hidden work as an AP. 

Jul 09, 2019
First, Tell Them An Anecdote

When you have guests as famous and interesting at Tan France, Ramy Youseff, Wazina Zondon, Ryan Harris, and Alia Shawkat, why does the host  of Tell Them I Am start each episode talking about herself? Misha Euceph has the answer.  

Jun 25, 2019
When The Going Gets Tough, Keep Asking Questions

NPR reporter Uri Berliner breaks from his usual approach to storytelling and finds interviewing his dad about growing up in Berlin in the 1930s to be incredibly difficult and rewarding.

Jun 11, 2019
Some Fav And Not-So-Fav Sounds

Sewage pipes, a radio crime, and sound designing inner thoughts.... Must be another episode of Rob's fav sounds but this time with a twist -- a sound that annoyed Rob to no end. Clips from BBC 3 and Nathanial Mann, Bodies by KCRW, and No Feeling Is Final from ABC Radio.

May 29, 2019
Getting Inside Someone Else’s Skin

Every once in a while, I think HowSound should focus solely on interviewing. To heck with sound design, writing, ethics, tracking, and the like. Just focus on “the backstory to great radio interviewing.”

Why? Because interviewing is how radio producers mine. It’s how we collect the raw material for our work. The better the interviewing, the better the tape. The better the tape, the better the story.

I mean, sure sloppy writing can kill stellar interview tape.

Same with bad production.  Conversely a

bad interview can be saved by rock solid writing. But really, if you nail your

interview, the rest will come easy. Okay. Not easy, but easier. And the story

the tape is based on will likely be more satisfying.

Put another way, interviewing is the keystone of audio


That’s why it’s important to examine the work of the best practitioners and Cathy FitzGerald is just that — one of the best. She possesses an uncanny ability to capture “humans being” in her interviews. And she approaches it in unusual ways with her penchant for recording interviews in scene; her use of participant observation, which is a fancy way of saying she doesn’t just ask questions, she gets involved; and her use of props to prompt conversation. On this episode of HowSound, Cathy chats about those approaches and we hear extended examples of her work.

As a bonus, during our chat, Cathy turned the tables and

asked me questions about

interviewing. And that led us to talk about our weaknesses and what we both

would like to improve and to this positively lovely analogy for interviewing —

weeping with one eye.

May 14, 2019
Eight Things I Like About 10 Things That Scare Me

On this episode, the convention-busting production choices of "10 Things That Scare Me."

Apr 30, 2019

Sometimes, there's just too much good work to feature on HowSound. To solve the problem, from time to time I feature a slew of ear-catching clips on one episode. On this episode, work from Believed, 99% Invisible, This American Life, and Threshold.

Apr 16, 2019
How Sruthi Tracks

At a school where I taught radio, in the mic booth, there was a photo of Studs Terkel hanging on the wall. Under it, someone wrote “Talk to Studs.”

The picture was there to help with tracking. Narration will

sound more conversational if you pretend you’re talking to Studs, the thinking

went. After all, that’s the goal, right? To track like you’re just talking to


Hanging up a picture and talking to it may be a good (and slightly weird) first step toward tracking naturally, Sruthi Pinnemaneniof Reply Alltakes things a whole lot further because she’s driven to avoid sounding like she’s reading something written. She very much wants listeners to fall into a story because her voice sounds unaffected and genuine. 

“(At Reply All) we try to track in a way that is closer to ‘I’m telling a story to somebody,'” she says. “When we’re tracking, we almost always have a producer or someone in the room where we’re trying to recreate that feeling of ‘I’m here and I’m feeling the excitement and joy that I know exists in this story.'”

She says it’s not just a matter of talking to that person in

the room. They help, too. They offer feedback, of course. But, they also play

tape. Sruthi listens to a quote in her story then, right as it finishes, she


“The tape always carries a certain kind of emotion,” she explained to me. “Either you’re surprised by what the person is saying or what the person is saying makes you laugh. And so you want the tracking, the line that you’re saying out of it, to carry that emotion.”

What else does she do? Sruthi lays it out in this episode of


Apr 02, 2019
An Editor’s Fingerprints

Since 2009, Julia Barton's edited a lot of radio and podcasts you probably listen to including Revisionist History. On this HowSound, Julia talks shop about her approach to editing.

Mar 19, 2019
All The Sound We Can Not Hear

Jeff Emtmen pulled an audio sleight of hand in an episode of Hear Be Monsters about Mexican free-tail bats. It's a delight to listen to. To understand Jeff's trick, Rob offers a primer on sound and hearing.

Mar 05, 2019
Two From The Road In Nashville

Why do students at Transom's Traveling Workshops produce such solid work on very little sleep? Because they're driven to learn? Yup. Because they want to leave the workshop with something they're proud of? Absolutely. But, it may also be because they want to do justice to the people they profile in their stories -- to get it right. You can definitely hear that effort on this HowSound.

Feb 19, 2019
A Sonic Conjuring

On this episode, a fascinating minute of audio - the sound of war and peace reconstructed from the exact end of World War I. Even more fascinating, the producers - Will Worsley and Sam Britton - conjured the sound using audio shadows captured on film.

Feb 05, 2019
Twitter Vox

Back in September, Barrie Hardymon and Dana Cronin produced a short, sharp, shock of a story. One that featured tweets recorded by listeners including a tweet that had to be approved by NPR legal before broadcast. And they did it all in about eighteen hours.

Jan 22, 2019
Taking Control Of The Music

Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda compose music for stories at Reveal. HowSound's Rob Rosenthal talks with them about the way they think about music and scoring. We think you’ll find it instructive, even if your music comes from a library.

Jan 08, 2019
Your Skull Is An Ear

Up now on HowSound, a recent doc from BBC 3 called "Right Between the Ears" features ear-catching sound design and reveals how ears aren't the only part of the body involved in hearing.

Dec 26, 2018
Making Sense Of A Pile Of Tape

A pile of tape just might be a treasure trove of radio gold. But how do you go manage it? Bianca Giaever has answers and a touching documentary called “Two Years with Franz” produced with Jay Allison here at Transom.

Dec 11, 2018
Enticing Listeners To Press Play Again

That feeling you have at the end of a serialized podcast where all you want to do is press play again -- what causes that? Rob talks to Leah Sottlile and Ryan Haas from Bundyville about episode endings that entice listeners to press play again.

Nov 27, 2018
These Are A Few Of My Favorite (Recent) Clips

A student once asked me “How do you find the stories you feature on HowSound?” I’m asked that a lot, actually. And, I’m sorry to say, I don’t have any secrets to reveal. I probably find stories and podcasts the same way everyone else does. Here’s my very quick and cursory list.

* I listen to the radio. A lot.

* I ask people “What are you listening to that was really interesting? Or that pissed you off?”

* I pick the brains of my students. They often get out their phones and rifle through what they subscribe to.

* I’m always scouring newsletters and emails on radio listserves I belong to:

a. The list for the Association of Independents in Radio

b. The Transom Story Workshop Alumni listserve

c. The list for the Sonic Soiree, a local listening group in Boston (I bet there’s a group near you).

d. The newsletter from the Bello Collective

e. The newsletter from Hot Pod

f. Sam Greenspan’s occasional newsletter YSLTF: You Should Listen to Fridays.

* I’m a member of a couple of Facebook groups:

a. The Podcasters Support Group

b. The BEA Teaching Audio Production Group

* I subscribe to podcasts that feature work from a lot of different producers:

a. Short Cuts from the BBC

b. Unfictional from KCRW

c. The BBC’s Between the Ears podcast

* I search for subject matter I’m personally interested in. For instance, I might search for “Arctic” and “podcasts.” Or, “podcasts on the environment.”

I’m sure I’ve left something out. (What would you add?) Perhaps the short answer is: my ear radar is always on; I’m constantly on the hunt.

I should mention, too, that as I’m listening, I look for a way into the story for a HowSound episode. Is there a “teachable moment” in the piece? Did the producer do something unusual and notable? Do I find myself wondering “How the heck did they do that?!” Sometimes it’s just a matter of being satisfied by the story or a production technique.

That’s what this episode of HowSound is about. On a recent road trip, I listened to several hours of stories and made a mental list of segments from those stories that caught attention, that I found satisfying. This is a different way of producing HowSound. Typically, I find one story and interview the producer. But, today, I feature a slew of clips that caught my ear and I offer some thoughts about what worked and what didn’t. Stories from Earshot, The City, and Sound Africa.

If you get a chance, let me know if this episode worked for you. And, tell me what I should be listening to next.

Nov 13, 2018
You Just Won’t Know If You Don’t Ask

Jennifer Kingsley was so nervous when she started "Humans of the Arctic" she didn't eat for a week. But, she stepped off the boat in Svalbard with her mic and recording gear and learned a valuable lesson - you just won't know if you don't ask.

Oct 31, 2018
Fictional Sounds For A Fictional Story

Producer Morgan Givens lays out his elaborate thinking behind a few sound effects he recorded for a historical fiction story he produced about an escaped slave.

Oct 16, 2018
The Podcast Mindset: Part 2

It's a hackneyed idea, but it bears repeating: you can have all the right gear and marketing and everything else to make your podcast successful, but the most important asset is you. On this second episode of two, Vanessa Lowe of Nocturne lays out her podcast mindset.

Oct 02, 2018
The Podcast Mindset: Part 1

Recording equipment? Check. Marketing plan? Check. Theme music? Check. Mindset?..... You can have all the technical and logistical aspects of podcasting in place but if you don't have the right outlook, your effort may fall short. What is that mindset? On this first of two episodes, Phoebe Judge of Criminal answers that question.

Sep 18, 2018
Color Notes

Often, sound brings to light the visuals in a radio story. But, narration can paint pictures, too. NPR's John Burnett talks "color notes" in radio storytelling.

Sep 05, 2018
Three Stories, Marfa Style

For some radio inspiration, make sure to listen to these three stories produced in a week by students at a recent Transom Traveling Workshop in Marfa, Texas. Then, sign up for a workshop yourself!

Aug 21, 2018
Story Endings

The narrative arc in recent story about the drug epidemic by NPR's Rachel Martin was like being taken down into a basement and having the light turned off. The piece was bleak and the ending was, perhaps, the darkest point in the story. Rachel talks about that choice and offers other thoughts about story endings on this episode of HowSound.

Aug 07, 2018
Anatomy Of A Scene

Radio producers talk about the scenes in their stories all the time. "What are the scenes in your story?" "Oh, I got some great scene tape today." But what is a scene? On this episode, Rob dissects one of the best scenes he's heard in a while.

Jul 24, 2018
A Rockin’ Start

It's possible I love David Weinberg's "Louie Louie" doc because I love the song. It's "Louie Louie" for God's sake. But, really, what hooked me was David's writing. Especially the opening.

Jul 10, 2018
Three Student Stories Produced In Only A Week

Three students. Three stories. One week. Hear what can be accomplished in a very short period of time with barely any sleep.

Jun 26, 2018
Hang A Picture In Front Of The Mic

Select telling details... Mete out descriptions... Cast surprising characters... and other tips for dynamic and visual reporting on the arts from the legendary Susan Stamberg.

Jun 12, 2018
25th Anniversary Of “Ghetto Life 101”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of one of the best -- if not the best -- radio documentary: Ghetto Life 101. Producer David Isay and editor Gary Covino recall their landmark work on this episode of HowSound.

May 29, 2018
Recording Binaurally

All you need to know for this episode is this: Listen with your best headphones!

May 15, 2018
Finding Chenjerai The Storyteller

A few years ago, Chenjerai Kumanyika went to record his narration for his first-ever radio story. And he discovered a problem: "What should I sound like?" Several years later, Chenjerai found his voice on the Peabody Award-winning podcast "Uncivil."

May 01, 2018
Police Ride-Alongs

How can you be fair during an interview with a suspect when a police officer is standing right there? Over the years as a law enforcement reporter for NPR, Martin Kaste has developed an approach to navigate this and several other challenges.

Apr 17, 2018
The Value Of A Sympathetic Character

What do you do when the main character in a story is strange, bizarre, and weird? So crazy listeners might tune out? One answer is to find a sympathetic character, someone the audience can relate to. Producer Ann Heppermann explains how Glynn Washington was the perfect sympathetic character as the narrator of the "Heaven's Gate" podcast, the series about the cult that committed the largest mass suicide in the United States.

Apr 03, 2018
Sports Stories That Work

Bradley Campbell couldn't believe it when I told him I'd like to interview him about sports stories. He knows how much I hate them. But, a sports story he produced and other episodes of Gamebreaker are well worth the listen. Bradley explains why.

Mar 20, 2018
Stopping A Podcast

Megan Tan pulled the plug. She stopped producing Millennial at the height of the podcast boom. Her inspiring yet cautionary tale on this episode of HowSound.

Mar 06, 2018
A Question To Start A Story?

One way to start a story is with a question -- one that focuses and animates the piece. Annie Minoff and Elah Feder of the "Undiscovered" podcast use focus questions as story starters to great effect. But, I had some questions about their questions.

Feb 21, 2018
Journalism Of Empathy

"The Promise," a podcast from WPLN in Nashville, is an inspiring example of the journalism of empathy. And, it's easily some of the best local reporting I've heard in a long time. Meribah Knight explores this approach to reporting on this HowSound.

Feb 06, 2018
Reporting On Traumatic Events

A shooter guns down twenty-six people in a church. Soon after, Debbie Elliott from NPR shows up, a stranger with a microphone. She says it's hard not to feel like a pariah when reporting in traumatic situations. So, how do you avoid that?

Jan 23, 2018
Don’t Write, Tell

Planet Money's Noel King says the best way to write for radio is to not write. Instead? Tell.

Jan 09, 2018
Two Traveling Workshop Stories

Two solidly produced, fun stories from students at the Transom Traveling Workshop in Marfa, Texas. Both are well worth your listen.

Dec 26, 2017
Radio Is A Visual Medium

"Radio is the most visual medium." Aviva DeKornfeld's story "After the Storm" is proof. So much so, it's just as much a photo essay as it is a radio story.

Dec 12, 2017
Avoiding Cheesy Sound Design

Jad Abumrad of Radiolab delivers the goods on sound design in radio stories. A must listen if you're thinking of sound designing your next radio story.

Nov 28, 2017
Stepping In With The Facts

A recent story on NPR about the Confederate flag got Rob wondering about the practice of correcting interviewees in narration. Producer Zach Hirsch produced the story and he explains why he felt challenging the interviewee's viewpoints was necessary.

Oct 31, 2017
The Broken Narrative

Greg Warner is one of Rob Rosenthal's favorite radio writers. He deftly put the "broken narrative" to good use in an episode of his NPR podcast "Rough Translation." In fact he's so good at it, you'd have no idea he was using it. What is the broken narrative? You'll have to listen.

Oct 17, 2017
Sounding Like Yourself

Why is it so hard to sound like yourself when reading narration for radio stories? Transom's Viki Merrick offers some voicing coaching gold. You'll wanna take notes.

Oct 03, 2017
Sound Design Basics

After teaching documentary storytelling for seventeen years, I feel confident in the advice I give students, most of the time. But, as soon as someone brings up sound design, I’m flummoxed. I feel like my advice is next to useless.

Typically, what happens is this: a student feels like their story is boring so they want to throw some sound in — something from a sound effects library. They think it will make the story more dynamic.

And, typically, I respond by saying, “If your story is boring, write better. Or, play around with the structure. Or, find better quotes. Don’t expect to solve a problem by tossing in some sound. It will end up sounding cheesy.”

I do think that’s solid advice. But, in reality, there are times when a bit of sound design might actually help a story. Not to make it less boring, but to drive home a point or help the story be more visual.

That’s when I return to my problem as an instructor: I don’t know how to help.

But here’s the good news. I produce a podcast about audio storytelling and I can actually ask people for advice! And so, I did.

My first stop was Matthew Boll. Matt works at Gimlet as a lead producer and music composer. Of particular interest to me was his work on Crimetown, a podcast on crime and politics in Providence, Rhode Island, that uses a lot of sound design.

Matt and I covered quite a bit of ground but I feel like I’ve only started to understand how sound design works. So, consider this the first in an ongoing, from time-to-time, set of episodes on sound design that will appear over the next few months.

Sep 19, 2017
Making First-Person Stories Stand Out

With the glut of first-person stories these days, how do you make yours stand out? Neil Sandell has some ideas.

Sep 05, 2017
Fact-Checking “A Life Sentence”

Producer Samantha Broun and This American Life's Christopher Swetala join me to talk about fact-checking "A Life Sentence" on this episode of HowSound.

Aug 22, 2017
Ready, Set, Radio Race!

If you have one day to produce a story for KCRW's 24-Hour Radio Race, reach for low hanging fruit, right? Not if your Esther Honig. On this episode, Esther recounts how she and her team produced an emotionally difficult story for the race in 2015 -- and won! An inspiration to sign up for this year's race.

Aug 08, 2017
Let The Tape Sing And Other Lessons From A Filmmaker Turned Podcaster

Filmmaker Tally Abecassis learned a lot about audio storytelling when she jumped in the deep end & started producing "First Day Back." The lessons she learned are useful for filmmakers thinking of producing audio stories -- & radio producers, too.

Jul 25, 2017
A Few Of My Favorite Things

Irish radio producer Ronan Kelly has a great ear for compelling radio. He plays story DJ on this archive episode of HowSound from 2010.

Jul 11, 2017
Ask Uncomfortable Questions

I was so nervous talking to Ashley Ahearn the producer of KUOW's new podcast about the environment "terrestrial." I should have been. I asked her about her appearance.

Jun 27, 2017
Improvisation And Structure

Sook-Yin Lee describes the combination of improvisation and structure that informs the production of Sleepover, a hit podcast from the CBC.

Jun 13, 2017
Stories That Are Impossible To Pitch

Sometimes, pitching a story is the last thing you want to do. Just press record and see what happens. Jay Allison is the guest on this episode of HowSound.

May 30, 2017
On Interviewing A Racist

"Live like the truth is true and go where love has not yet arrived." Words Al Letson of Reveal lives by, especially when interviewing a racist.

May 16, 2017
When A Good Idea For A Podcast Is A Bad Idea For A Podcast

Heed Arwen Nicks' warnings. Arwen explains when a good idea for a podcast is really a terrible idea for a podcast.

May 02, 2017
Avoiding Pesky Recording Problems

Never say to yourself: "I'll fix it in the mix." Fixing recording mistakes in the studio can lead to more problems. Instead, prevent issues before they happen. Rob Byers, from NPR's Training Team has tips for avoiding basic, pesky recording problems.

Apr 18, 2017
Dead Mom Talking

Rachel Matlow had a head slappingly simple idea: make a conversation out of the interviews she recorded with her mom after her mom died. But, simple it was not. Rachel explains the backstory on her Third Coast award-winning doc.

Apr 04, 2017
Reporting On Whiteness

The series "Seeing White" is essential listening. John Biewen reports on whiteness and white people for his podcast "Scene on Radio."

Mar 21, 2017
Intimate Interviewing

How does Lu Olkowski get such intimate interview tape? She shares some of her approaches including a couple that are a bit unorthodox, I'd say.

Mar 07, 2017
Rethinking A Podcast Top To Bottom

After 5 years producing a successful podcast, Aaron Hendkin & Wendel Jenkins of WYPR's "Out of the Blocks" have decided to remake the show. On this first of 2 episodes, they introduce us to the podcast and the process they're using to make change.

Feb 21, 2017
Sound As The Protagonist

Take a deep sonic dive as we listen to "Jump Blue," by Nicolas Jackson and Afonica. Remember to hold your breath.

Feb 07, 2017
Shaking Up Storytelling Formulas

Did Robert Smith of Planet Money go to far to make the uninteresting interesting? Robert talks about using "Oblique Strategies" for reporting an arcane topic in economics.

Jan 24, 2017
Buried Treasures, Again

Get your headphones ready and listen! Two buried treasures from Transom students. A story about domestic violence. Another about eels.

Jan 10, 2017
Morphing Print Essays Into Radio

Some print essays make great radio. Jay Cowit, Technical Director for The Takeaway, tells us how they recently did it.

Dec 27, 2016
Composing Music For Stories On This American Life

A lot of the music This American Life uses to score stories is composed for the program. Producer Jonathan Menjivar and musician Matthias Bossi of Stellwagen Symphonette talk about the music that works and doesn't work for the show.

Dec 13, 2016
On Your Mark. Get Set. Start Your Story.

There are no rules about starting a story but, there are some common approaches. Jessica Terrell dissects several story-starting tricks she used in the first episode of Offshore, the podcast about the off-beat side of Hawaii.

Nov 29, 2016
The Blindsiding Twist

Story twists are the hallmark of Love + Radio. Nick van der Kolk dissects the blind-siding reveal in "A Girl of Ivory."

Nov 15, 2016
Story Structure: The ‘e’

Rob dissects an episode of 99% Invisible to reveal a common but effective story structure -- the 'e.'

Nov 01, 2016
Narrating To An Audience

Outside/In host Sam Evans Brown narrated the first few minutes of an episode of the podcast just fine -- really well, in fact. Then he switched gears and brought two colleagues into the studio to tell them a portion of the story. Why?

Oct 18, 2016
The Evolution Of A Story

A son. A father. And an alien abduction. What more do you need to know?!

Oct 04, 2016
Doorstepping: The Uninvited Interview

Approaching a stranger on the street for an interview, pretty easy. "Doorstepping," knocking on the door of a house or entering a business for an interview uninvited, not so easy. Producer Nina Perry on her "doorstepping" interview for More Perfect.

Sep 20, 2016
Subjective Reporting

I dare you to listen to this story from Ryan Sweikert and not be moved. A perfect example of what he calls "subjective reporting."

Sep 06, 2016
How Not To Write For Radio

There's blood on the floor. Rob skewers the writing in one of his first-ever radio stories to reveal how not to write.

Aug 23, 2016
Sound Matters

Not everything has to sound the same. British/Danish producer Tim Hinman, of Third Ear, talks about tone and his podcast Sound Matters.

Aug 09, 2016
Hiroshima Revisited

If you want to re-broadcast a doc from 20 years ago but don't like a lot of the writing, the mix, and the voicing, what do you do? If you're John Biewen, you re-do it! On this episode--the old and the new version of John's "Hiroshima Remembered."

Jul 26, 2016
Radio Silence

Silence is a radio no-no. But what if you want to produce a story where the central focus is silence? Some answers on this HowSound.

Jul 12, 2016
Short Is Beautiful

Podcasters are free to produce without the confines of the public radio clock. So, why go so long? Short is beautiful.

Jun 28, 2016
Should Stations Produce Podcasts?

A lot of public radio stations are wringing their hands these days about podcasting. "Should we or shouldn't we," they wonder? Wyoming Public Radio's Caroline Ballard says "Yes!"

Jun 14, 2016
The Ethics Of Trespassing And Secret Recording

When is it okay to trespass and use secretly recorded phone calls while producing a story? Not often. But, producer Jack Rodolico remained ethical while skirting the edges of what's appropriate for his documentary "A Mountain of Discontent."

May 31, 2016
Show The Girls The Snakes

Three early pieces from The Kitchen Sisters circa 1980, stories sparked by mistakes and chance encounters. Their DIY approach is inspired.

May 17, 2016
First-Person Reporting

Sean Corcoran is a reporter's reporter. Straight-forward. Unbiased. Ethical. So why did he break some of his own rules on a story about opiate addiction?

Apr 19, 2016
Still More Buried Treasures: Student Work

Two more classics from Rob's vault of student-produced stories including one from 2003 by NPR's Gregory Warner, long before he became the network's east Africa correspondent.

Apr 05, 2016
Tinkering With Sound Design

How does your brain react when you drive through an intersection? Martine Powers answers that question and explains her clever sound design in her story "Driving In Circles."

Mar 22, 2016
Producing Personal Pieces

It's rare when a reporter turns the mic on themselves. Stephanie Foo's essay "The Favorite" for This American Life is an excellent example of why it should happen more often.

Mar 08, 2016
What Do You Do When The Rooster Dies?

When an interviewee is too nice, getting what you need as a reporter can be a challenge. Monika Blackwell relates how she navigated the "reporter/subject relationship" (& death of a rooster) during a Transom Traveling Workshop in the Virgin Islands.

Feb 23, 2016
Should I Or Shouldn’t I: Recording In Stereo

Rob and his guest, audio engineer Flawn Williams, attempt to answer the question: Should I record in stereo?

Feb 09, 2016
Magical Realism In Radio

Here's something you don't hear very often when talking about radio documentaries: magical realism. Producer David Weinberg talks about how he used magical realism in his doc "Grace of the Sea."

Jan 26, 2016
Interviewing With Your Skeptical Brain

Transom Story Workshop student Sally Helm talks with Rob Rosenthal about learning the value of being skeptical and pushing back during interviews. Also featured in this episode, her excellent story about the 1977 Martha's Vineyard secession movement.

Jan 12, 2016
Frank Langfitt’s Unusual Voicing Method

Reporter Frank Langfitt shares a surprising trick for sounding natural while narrating radio stories.

Dec 29, 2015
What’s Changed?: The Power Of Follow-Up Stories

Put time to work for you. The power of follow-up stories.

Dec 16, 2015
More Buried Treasures: Two Student Stories

Two excellent student stories from years ago prove that radio is the most visual medium.

Dec 01, 2015
The Biggest Story In The World

The Guardian has proven that podcasts from newspapers can be ear-catching -- great sound design and narrative. Producer Francesca Panetta talks about "The Biggest Story in the World."

Nov 17, 2015
Small Is Beautiful

Want to learn how to write an essay? Study "The Memory Palace." Nate DiMeo, the host, is my guest on HowSound.

Nov 03, 2015
Writing Out Of Tape

Writing into tape is a necessity. Narration needs to lead to a quote. But, what about writing out of tape? Mose Buchele of KUT-FM in Austin has an uncommon approach.

Oct 20, 2015
Frustrated Artist Finds Way To Make Art

Al Letson is fully dedicated to the journalistic work he produces at State of the Re:Union and Reveal, but deep down, he's still an artist. That's why he produces Errthang, a podcast.

Oct 06, 2015
Father Cares: The Last of Jonestown with Deb Amos and Noah Adams

NPR's Deborah Amos and Noah Adams recall their haunting, must-hear documentary from 1981 about mass suicide at "Jonestown," Guyana.

Sep 22, 2015
Buried Treasures: Four Student Pieces

Rob digs into an archive of good stories, well told, and features four by his former students.

Sep 08, 2015
Story Dissection: Dead Animal Man

Rob Rosenthal combs through Ira Glass's piece "Dead Animal Man" minute by minute pointing out all of its radio goodness.

Aug 25, 2015
Finding The Story When You Know Too Much

How do you find the story when know too much and have hours and hours of tape? Reporter Karen Duffin and Radiolab producer Kelsey Padgett trace the path to "Nazi Summer Camp."

Aug 11, 2015
Producing Science Stories With A Scientist

Producer Kerry Donahue pulls back the curtain on producing science stories with a scientist for PRX's podcast "Transistor."

Jul 28, 2015
Remixing The Music

HowSound's Rob Rosenthal remixes a story from Latino USA by producer Neena Pathak to reveal a different way to score a piece.

Jul 14, 2015
A Mom, A Transgender Daughter, And A Podcast

Producer Marlo Mack on the impulse to pick up a microphone and record her transgender daughter for her podcast “How to Be a Girl.”

Jun 30, 2015
A Matter Of Ethics

In 2008, student producer Jamie Yuenger recorded a remarkably private moment during a moose hunt. How she got that recording may cause you to raise your "ethics eyebrow."

Jun 16, 2015
Radio Luck And The Gift Of Character Change

In a character driven story, producer Hillary Frank says the story will be more satisfying if the character changes, evolves. Hillary got "radio lucky" when the kids in her story "Real Teens, Fake Babies" shifted 180 degrees.

Jun 02, 2015
Foils And Other First Person Tricks

Neenah Ellis talks with Rob Rosenthal about her series "One Hundred Years of Stories" and she shares some of her tips for first-person stories.

May 19, 2015
The Path To Primary Care

In this episode of HowSound, Rob Rosenthal talks with producer Karen Brown about her piece, "The Path to Primary Care: Who Will Be the Next Generation of Frontline Doctors." A local piece with national appeal.

May 05, 2015
Radio Writing With Alex Chadwick

On this edition of HowSound, Alex Chadwick and Rob Rosenthal trade tips on writing for radio that new producers will find invaluable.

Apr 21, 2015
Concerning Breakfast

This week on HowSound, Rob Rosenthal shares one of his favorite pieces of all time, "Concerning Breakfast" produced by Annie Cheney and Jay Allison for the series, “Life Stories,” (Associate Producer, Christina Egloff).

Apr 07, 2015
Death, Sex And Money With Anna Sale

Anna Sale, the host of the podcast "Death, Sex and Money" talks with Rob Rosenthal in front of a live audience about the art of interviewing and getting people to talk about difficult things.

Mar 24, 2015
Teenage Diaries Revisited: Melissa’s Story

This episode of HowSound features Joe Richman of Radio Diaries talking about his Third Coast Award winning piece, Teenage Diaries Revisited: Melissa's Story.

Mar 10, 2015
Reporting Dark Matters

A live interview with 2014 Third Coast International Audio Festival Award winners, Luke Malone and Pat Walters.

Feb 24, 2015
Barf Draft With An iPhone

Rob Rosenthal talks with producer Bradley Campbell about "barf drafts." A technique for producing radio stories that Bradley swears by. Especially when he's on a tight deadline.

Feb 10, 2015
Revisiting Criminal

The podcast, “Criminal” has enjoyed a big jump in popularity. Rob Rosenthal talks with “Criminal’s” host Phoebe Judge about growth—how good press and partnership helps, how doing good work helps, and the “Serial” effect.

Jan 27, 2015
Burroughs at 100

"Burroughs at 100" with Iggy Pop. What's not to like? A HowSound recorded live at the Third Coast International Audio Festival with award winning producer Colin McNulty.

Jan 13, 2015

An Australian radio sampler with Julie Shapiro, Executive Producer for the Creative Radio Unit at Australian Public Broadcasting.

Dec 30, 2014
Here I Am And Here Be Danger

Producer Annie McEwen talks about her award winning piece, "Here I Am and Here Be Danger."

Dec 16, 2014

On this HowSound, how a story about a skydiving accident nearly drove Anna Rose MacArthur away from radio and what brought her back.

Dec 03, 2014
Bionic Pancreas

Rob Stein and Rebecca Davis reveal the backstory to their working relationship as reporter and producer.

Nov 19, 2014

Lea Thau, host of the "Strangers" podcast on podcasting, journalism, and turning the mic toward yourself.

Nov 05, 2014
Early Bloom

On this edition, we follow the path from script to a produced story about plant communication with Peter Frick-Wright and Robbie Carver.

Oct 15, 2014
HowSound Live!

A HowSound first: a live recording in front of an audience. The guest is Michael May who talks about his story "Death of a Bangalore Law Student."

Oct 02, 2014
Compassionate Release

Natasha Haverty talks about her path from reporting on dairy princess pageants to award-winning investigative stories on prisons for North Country Public Radio in upstate New York.

Sep 17, 2014
The Hitchhiker

On this HowSound, Scott Carrier, Alex Chadwick, and the legendary story behind Scott's first radio piece "The Hitchhiker," produced in 1983.

Sep 03, 2014
Hard To Say

On this episode, a 2004 "Best New Producer" award-winner from Third Coast and a real tearjerker produced by Bente Birkeland.

Aug 27, 2014
Set the Wayback Machine for 1914

The staff at Studio 360 dissects the production, writing, and voicing of their recent broadcast from 1914.

Aug 06, 2014
3rd Grade Audio

Stories about drawing, getting old, stuffed animals, and what to do when you get a magnet stuck up your nose. It must be David Green's "Third Grade Audio."

Jul 23, 2014
Five Things

If I had to pick a story for a "Top Ten Favorite Student Features," "Five Things" by Matt Largey would be one of them because of the incredible intimacy.

Jul 09, 2014
Walking with the Voses

Producer Jakob Lewis on "parachuting in" to produce a story about a funeral and a grieving family.

Jun 25, 2014
Love Is A Battlefield

Interviewing tricks and tips from NPR science reporter Alix Spiegel. You'll want to take notes.

Jun 11, 2014
Look At Me, Did I Find True Love?

Transom Story Workshop student, Alex Kapelman, with the story of a drummer with a hook for a hand and a 50-year old rock and roll mystery.

May 28, 2014

The new podcast "Criminal," is well worth a listen. Find out what it's all about from the program's host, Phoebe Judge.

May 14, 2014
Risky Reporting at Fukushima

NPR foreign correspondent Anthony Kuhn on the risks involved reporting at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Apr 24, 2014
Typewriters Are Unpleasant

Michael Raphael of Rabbit Ears Audio talks sound effects recording: winter scenes, rockets, cityscapes, and the soul destroying typewriter.

Apr 09, 2014
Getting Honest: The Editor, Producer Relationship

Producer Will Coley and editor Viki Merrick offer HowSound listeners a gift by talking about their editorial process, a working relationship that is usually not shared publicly.

Mar 26, 2014
Baking Tape

A painful reminiscence about preserving old reel-to-reel tapes by baking them. No, that's not a typo. Baking.

Mar 12, 2014
To Scene or Not To Scene

NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg finds on-scene narration canned and phoney and she says ambient sound often gets in the way of a story. Yet, her recent report on buffer zones around health clinics proves otherwise.

Feb 26, 2014
Dear Birth Mother

On this edition of HowSound, a 2005 Third Coast Festival award-winner from Long Haul Productions about a transracial adoption.

Feb 12, 2014
Recording Not By The Book

Tight budgets, technological advances, and the impulse to experiment are leading some producers to record "not by the book." Does it work?

Jan 29, 2014
The Hospital Always Wins

Laura Starecheski should win a radio endurance award. Laura tells the story of her decade -- ten years! -- of research and production on "The Hospital Always Wins."

Jan 16, 2014
Hark! The Acoustic World of Elizabethan England

Three radio greats -- Chris Brookes, Paolo Pietropaolo, and Alan Hall -- explore the sound of England 400 years ago along with our modern soundscape.

Jan 02, 2014
The Last of the Iron Lungs

Julia Scott says "participant observation" is a valuable reporting tool, even if it means climbing into an "iron lung" which looks like something only Dracula would lay in.

Dec 18, 2013
The New New Sheriff in Town

Headphones are mandatory for this episode of HowSound. Kathy Tu's second radio story ever will set your ears ablaze.

Dec 04, 2013
Just Plumb Gone

Mary Helen Miller encourages station-based producers to "Sneak out the back door with the tape recorder and make something good."

Nov 20, 2013
The Elusive Digital Stradivarius

David Schulman usually produces non-narrated stories on music. Recently, he stepped out of his usual style to produce a narrated science story focused on the acoustics of reproducing the sound of a Stradivarius electronically.

Nov 06, 2013
This Story May Be Recorded… To Save Your Life

Yowei Shaw amassed 325 pages of transcripts for her This American Life story on Eritrean hostages and the reporter who uncovered the story. And that was just the beginning of Yowei's long, grueling production process assembling the story.

Oct 24, 2013
Hafid is Free

"Hafid is Free" is a solid example of what a story needs when it doesn't have a narrative hook.

Oct 09, 2013

A recent episode of "99% Invisible" employed a dramatic recreation to bring the past to life. Producers Alex Goldman and Sam Greenspan explain how they did it.

Sep 25, 2013
Nodding Syndrome

Producer Matt Kielty wonders about "objectification" and advancing a career reporting on the suffering of others.

Sep 11, 2013
Autism Grows Up

Capital Public Radio's Catherine Stifter and jesikah maria ross (no caps) are tasked with changing the sound of the station's documentary unit.

Aug 28, 2013

New producers Conor Gillies and Zack Ezor get it right, right out of the gate with their documentary "Stylus" on music and sound.

Aug 14, 2013
Reporting Trauma After the Boston Marathon

Interviewing traumatized people is no easy task. Zach Hirsch, a radio producer, and Bruce Shapiro, Director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, offer suggestions for treating victims with respect.

Jul 31, 2013
Just Another Fish Story

Molly Menschel's radio story about a beached whale in Lubec, Maine is so good, you'll be jealous of her storytelling and production skills. In fact, you might not want to listen.

Jul 17, 2013
Love + Radio

Nick van der Kolk on "auteurship" and the incredibly unique sound of the "Love + Radio" podcast.

Jul 03, 2013
Witness to an Execution

"Witness to an Execution," another addition to my Top 10 list of radio documentaries. "Witness" was produced by Stacy Abromson and Dave Isay in 2000. The prison warden and staff of a prison in Texas recount their experiences and the process of putting people to death in Texas.

Jun 20, 2013

Lilly Sullivan relates the curious tale of "52 Hertz," the whale who sings at the "wrong" frequency.

Jun 05, 2013
Balance and The Minnesota Marriage Amendment

Reporter Sasha Aslanian on balanced reporting during Minnesota's gay marriage debate.

May 22, 2013
Josh: Growing Up With Tourette’s

Happy Birthday to Teenage Diaries! To mark the occasion and the production of five updated stories, HowSound features a story dissection with producer Joe Richman recorded in 2009.

May 08, 2013
The Vietnam Tapes of Lance Corporal Michael A. Baronowski

A tip for figuring out your top ten radio documentaries: Start with "The Vietnam Tapes of Lance Corporal Michael A. Baronowski" by Christina Egloff with Jay Allison.

The post The Vietnam Tapes of Lance Corporal Michael A. Baronowski appeared first on Transom.

Apr 24, 2013
Recording in Remote Locations

Headed out to report in a faraway place? Dan Grossman says "Be prepared." Dan shares intriguing sounds and important field preparation tips on this HowSound.

Apr 10, 2013
My Kingdom For Some Structure

Producer Bradley Campbell says story structure is a like a map, it shows you were to go. For this episode of HowSound, Bradley drew story structures on napkins (really) and we dissect his drawings.

Mar 27, 2013
Generation Putin

International reporting is an order of magnitude more challenging than local reporting. Producers Sarah Partnow & Sarah Stuteville talk about the travails of overseas reporting in the former Soviet Union for their latest doc, Generation Putin.

Mar 13, 2013
What If There Was No Destiny?

If only there was a quadratic equation for ethics, right? Plug in the variables and the equation spits out the answers. No such luck which means we've got to talk it through, like we do on this episode of HowSound with Radiolab reporter Pat Walters.

Feb 27, 2013
Curious City

"Curious City" loves the local. Hear how this project at WBEZ brings listeners into the making of radio and on-line content.

Feb 13, 2013
Three Records from Sundown

Producer Charles Maynes crafted the perfect tone for his documentary on singer Nick Drake called "Three Records from Sundown." It's almost as though Drake and his producer, Joe Boyd, were in the studio recording a Nick Drake documentary like it was a Nick Drake song.

Jan 30, 2013
Tiny Spark

"Tiny Spark" is an impressive new podcast from Amy Costello. Amy produces in-depth investigative stories about non-profits and foundations.

Jan 16, 2013
The Tale of Lot 180

WLRN reporter Kenny Malone offers his strategy for creative storytelling: a clever central question, story motion, and place. This episode features Kenny's ear catching story about Florida's Unclaimed Property Auction, "The Tale of Lot 180."

Jan 02, 2013
‘Til Death Do Us Part

Producers Sara Archambault and Heather Radke talk about how they responded when characters in stories they produced died.

Dec 19, 2012
Dear Craigslist: I Have A Small Swastika Tattoo and I Want It Off

On the radio, why don't we hear more conversations with interesting people? Emily Hsiao's radio story, "Leaving A Mark," is just that. You'll want to listen twice.

Dec 05, 2012
The Burning Question

The interview may be the core of what we do as radio producers. Who better to talk about interviewing than Audie Cornish who says she conducts fifteen interviews a week for NPR's All Things Considered. Take notes on her tips.

Nov 21, 2012
Jad’s Brain

We're goin' in! Grab your earbuds and don your spelunking light. Our destination? Jad Abumrad's brain. Jad's a co-host and the producer of Radiolab, a science (and more) program produced at WNYC. This could get weird.

Nov 07, 2012
The Seance

Boo! Here's your Halloween edition of HowSound featuring "The Seance" by Bob Carlson.

Oct 25, 2012
The Green Lawns of Texas

Avoiding the pitfalls of "parachute journalism" with Marketplace reporter Krissy Clark.

Oct 10, 2012
A Trip to the Dentist

You'll probably get dizzy listening to "A Trip to the Dentist," a legendary, psychedelic story from Larry Massett.

Sep 26, 2012
Alleged Illegal Searches

Criminal justice reporter Ailsa Chang on her duPont-Columbia award winning story for WNYC.

Sep 12, 2012
Passing Stranger: The East Village Poetry Walk

Pejk Malinovksy on producing audio tours including Passing Stranger: The East Village Poetry Walk

Sep 05, 2012
She Sees Your Every Move

Finally. A LONG overdue HowSound on scoring --- using music in a story. I dissect Jonathan Mitchell's use of scoring in his provocative story "She Sees Your Every Move."

Aug 22, 2012
Dissecting Joanne Rosser, Papermaker

I hope you're not squeamish. On this HowSound, I take a scalpel to a profile on papermaker Joanne Rosser. Let's peel back the surface of the story to reveal its narrative and production innards.

Aug 08, 2012
One Species at a Time

Imagine spending 5 years working on your PhD studying killer whale vocalization. Then imagine deciding you don’t want to be an ocean biologist. That's how Ari Daniel got into radio. Hear his secret to clear and understandable science reporting.

Jul 25, 2012
The Secret

Initially, "The Secret" by Carma Jolly seems like it might be a story about Carma's brother and his near-death experience. Then, suddenly, story takes a sharp turn. In that moment, I was hooked by the story and Carma as a producer.

Jul 11, 2012

If NPR reporter Robert Smith isn't the king of the stand-up, he surely is the prince. Robert lays out his methodology for solid stand-ups.

Jun 27, 2012
Two Cape Cods

A few years ago, right around the time newspaper readership plummeted and papers shut-down one after another, Reporter Sean Corcoran left newspaper reporting for radio. He talks about how reporting differs in the two media.

Jun 13, 2012
The Gift That Was Brought To Us

There's a compelling story to be found in every day life, even a ukulele orchestra.

May 30, 2012
Happy Birthday Studs!

Studs Terkel, America's interviewer, would be 100 today! Happy Birthday Studs!! Syd Lewis worked with Studs for a 25 years. I chat with Syd about Studs and her documentary Working With Studs, produced by Atlantic Public Media.

May 16, 2012
Fact Check This

Seek the truth and report it. That's the core of journalism. But the truth needs to be checked -- fact checked. And when you don't.....well, just ask the folks at This American Life. Columbia University's John Dinges talks about fact checking.

May 02, 2012
Krulwich on Gorilla Cage Drama

Robert Krulwich's stories are always ear-catching and dramatic whether they're on radio, television, or in person at conferences. He practically forces you to want to know what happens next. How the heck does he do that?! I asked him.

Mar 07, 2012
A Dual Narrative

Radio stories usually aren't very complicated. Generally, you can place stories into two categories--the argument story and the narrative story. Whitney Jones produced a somewhat different story last fall while he was at the Transom Story Workshop.

Feb 22, 2012
Chorus of Refuge

Once you've finished producing a story, what are you supposed to do with all the tape? Just let it sit on a shelf? This HowSound will stretch your ears with a sound art piece by Kara Oehler, Jason Cady, and Ann Heppermann.

Feb 08, 2012
The Pirate

Kelly McEvers is a mic-slinger. Draws from the hip. Records with precision. Not afraid. (Okay, maybe a little afraid.) On this HowSound, she is unabashed about her adrenaline addiction, her critique of the NPR sound, & her approach to radio stories.

Jan 25, 2012
Different, Not Disabled

Radio storytelling is an excellent teaching tool for young people in practically any classroom. Here's a quick primer on youth radio and a commentary about Aspbergers syndrome by seventeen year old Ian Kathen.

Jan 11, 2012
99% Invisible

99% Invisible is my new favorite podcast. A little bit RadioLab, a touch of This American Life, and a lot of Roman Mars, the producer. Roman talks about a bit about the design of the podcast and podcasting writ large.

Dec 28, 2011
The Longest, Shortest Time

Hillary Frank launched a decade-long career in radio with an answering machine as a tape recorder. Hillary talks about microcassettes, boomboxes, podcasting, and motherhood.

Dec 14, 2011
A No Story Story

Imagine this: You've met a total character. She's kind of eccentric. She has forty-one animals in her backyard and it's not a farm. And, just about every time she talks, she says something amazing. But, there's no story. What do you do?

Nov 30, 2011
The Plane That Flew Into the Empire State Building

Listen to the audio in this video. It's perfect for radio. With some editing, narration, & other content, you could easily turn this into a radio story. Joe Richman on the power and pleasure of storytelling with archive tape.

Nov 16, 2011

There seems to be a trend afoot in documentary radio -- working directly with musicians to compose music for a story. Andy Mills won "Best New Artist" at the 2011 Third Coast Filmless Festival. Well deserved. Have a listen.

Nov 02, 2011
Edward Stephenson, Tobacco Auctioneer

Keys to good storytelling: strong, simple writing; solid voicing; professional recording & mixing; compelling characters; a seductive narrative; visuals.....What else? John Biewen describes "sure-handedness" in radio storytelling.

Oct 19, 2011
Seizure’s Lament

The Third Coast International Audio Festival is 3 days of ear candy. On this HowSound, I present one of the stories featured at this year's Filmless Festival, "Seizure's Lament" by producer Carma Jolly. You might want headphones for this one.

Oct 05, 2011
The Natural State

It's good to hear constructive (and, sometimes, not-so-constructive) feedback. However, a LOT of criticism, especially if it's pointed, hard to take. Dan Collison & Elizabeth Meister talk about how to handle tough reviews from listeners.

Sep 22, 2011
Inner-City Reality Check

Katie Davis doesn't look very far for the stories she produces. In fact, they often come to her.... on her front porch. We feature Katie's essay produced in the aftermath of 9/11 -- An Inner-City Reality Check.

Sep 07, 2011
The Five Percent Rule

The amount of effort Sally Herships put into her first investigative journalism piece….. well, it’s enough to drive you to smoke!

“The Five Percent Rule” is Sally’s 10-month-long foray into investigative reporting, a story on the under-pricing of tobacco on military bases. The piece aired on Marketplace in June of 2011 as part of a series on tobacco.

On this edition of HowSound, Sally talks about some of her behind-the-scenes work on the project. It’s a bit startling, actually. Huge spreadsheets, hundreds of phone calls…. even a new pair of special glasses to prevent the headaches she was getting from looking at a computer screen too long.

Sally says she received assistance from I.R.E. — Investigative Reporters and Editors. They were a tremendous help for this kind of deep reporting and exacting work.

Have a listen then let us know about your investigative work.

Here’s Sally’s blog for “The Five Percent Rule.” And, no, Sally doesn’t smoke.

This edition of HowSound was produced on Hindenburg software rather than ProTools, my usual audio editor of choice for a good dozen years. I haven’t switched to Hindenburg, but I sure like it a lot.

Aug 24, 2011
Fighting With My Dad

"I can’t think of anything more fraught than doing a story that explores intimate things about your relationship with your parents." On this HowSound, Richard Paul talks about interviewing his dad and the epiphany that lead to breaking all ties.

Aug 10, 2011
Four Feet Under

Here it is, the first HowSound, the backstory to great radio storytelling. We kick things off in a graveyard -- hopefully, that's not foreshadowing! Producer Clay Bolton digs deep for the universal in a story about gravediggers. (Pun intended.)

Jul 26, 2011