Five reasons for audio journalism: actuality, debate, emotion, background, podcast

I’ve been grappling further with the issue of audio journalism and podcasting, and discussing the issue with ‘ podcasting expert’ Andrew Dubber. What is beginning to emerge from our discussions (audio versions in full below) includes the idea that audio does three things particularly well:

  • Actuality – the feeling of being there
  • Debate – the opportunity to interject, the tone of voice, another level
  • Emotion – the tone of the voice communicating more than words alone

What’s more, if the purpose of journalism is to convey what is happening, argues Dubber, then audio becomes a primary way of making your audience face the story.

There are other advantages to audio. It’s easier to edit than video – “it’s linear”. It’s less intrusive than a video camera if you want to record events.

Then we come across a fourth thing that audio can do well –

  • Providing background – in other words, next to an edited text interview the journalist can post the interview in full (what is sometimes called ‘wild footage’) much more quickly than if they were to transcribe the whole thing.

So here’s a question: should the online journalist just take a video camera with a view to only taking the audio track? “If you carry around a hammer everything’s going to look like a nail,” Dubber says – you run the risk of overlooking the audio in your search for images.

The fifth use of audio is really about distribution:

  • Podcasting. It’s about convenience – time shifting, people not having to visit your website.

But it’s also how the podcaster imagines their audience, about intimacy – “not announcement but conversation”. We should be thinking about the medium when we produce content, rather than producing content (e.g. newspaper news) which we stuff into different sized tubes.

So here’s some ideas: environment is important. The sound of heavy machinery behind an interview with a factory worker, for instance, or of field wildlife for a story about GM crops.

Leave the office, forget about the studio, and go out to record your podcast – ‘the sound of stuff happening’

Podcast #1: audio journalism (

Podcast #2: wild footage (

Podcast #3: podcasting (

13 thoughts on “Five reasons for audio journalism: actuality, debate, emotion, background, podcast

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