When you started your career being compared to Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis, it’s pretty much guaranteed your future will be promising and feature more than a few twists and turns.
For 30 years, Jill Olmsted has taught journalism, but she started as a reporter with a longstanding love of local news. After several stops along the way, it came time to either “chase the next bigger market” or make a change.
Now, as a professor at American University, she’s dealing with undergrad and grad students who are either just starting out in the industry or who are making a career change.
These are students who are so heavily connected to technology and smartphones they have a hard time grasping the importance of having in-person, eye-to-eye interviews with sources, she says.
“The best way to interview is to look someone in the eyes, be able to read their body signals and interact with them in a real way,” she says. “A lot of students are uncomfortable with that.”
Students are also struggling with paying for textbooks, so when she decided to write a book, Olmsted decided it would be free.
Her new book, Tools for Podcasting, builds on her career and experiences while also diving into how podcasts work and warns of the lack of diversity in both the voices found in podcasts and the photos used to promote them.
“Originally, I was going to do just a chapter in a book about audio storytelling,” she says. “Then I started to do some research and found out all these fascinating things.”
Olmsted was inspired at the Sound Education conference at Harvard when she met literary professors who knew nothing about audio production but were going outside their comfort zone to create and produce podcasts.
The book includes “some interactive audio and video tutorials, exercises. I paid a good deal of attention to diversity in pictures, for one thing,” she says. “There are free resources out there for photographs, but a lot of time I was looking hard to find faces of color. There’s a great need for that. Overwhelmingly, the pictures were white, and white males. … Hopefully, whether you’re a journalist who wants to start doing a podcast or an anthropologist who wants to tell a story, this resource can tell you how to create a podcast of your own. For free.”
Producer Michael O’Connell is joined this week by American University professor Jill Olmsted to discuss her new book, Tools for Podcasting, the importance in working for diversity in all aspects of podcasting and reporting, and her early career comparison to Mary Tyler Moore.