A Review of “Writing for the Ear”

The News University course “Writing for the Ear” discusses creating quality audio narratives for radio, podcasts, slide shows and video. It is about improving your audio writing. Writing for the ear is something that is completely foreign to me, as are all forms of reporting, so I learned a lot.

What I learned:

  • Audio stories have fewer words than print pieces. They tend to be narrower in focus.
  • When it comes to writing for audio, you must have a ruthless eye for telling detail.
  • Axx stands for a sound that is an actuality; they are snippets of a recorded interview included in a spot or feature. Traxx stands for a voice track. Nat stands for a natural sound.
  • By having a concise pitch, you will more easily be able to narrow down the focus of your reporting and know what you are looking for in an interview.
  • A focus statement is a one-sentenced statement that summarizes your source’s main message and motivation.
  • A question line is the list of questions you want to ask in the approximate order that you want to ask them. It serves as a guide in an interview.
  • The basic building blocks of all radio stories are host intro, axx and traxx.
  • SFX stands for sound effects and it is the way for the reporter to communicate mixing instructions to the sound engineer.
  • By using sound and your words you transport the lister to another place and create scenes. Each scene makes a particular point.

What surprised me:

  • Other than what is written on a script that will make up the axx and traxx, surrounding sounds and nats should be thoughtfully incorporated to help tell a story.
  • Radio has a high rejection rate; this makes pitching a story well especially important.
  • One piece of advice when it came to pitching a story was to pitch what you know.
  • In order to avoid having too much tape, a preinterview should be conducted in which you create a focus statement and question line for your actual recorded interview.
  • Writing short, punch, effective sentences is especially essential to writing for the ear because every word counts.

What else do I want to know:

  • What kind of writing goes on for talk radio?

Overall, this was a very thorough and detailed course. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about reporting through audio.


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