It’s All Journalism host Michael O’Connell explains how to edit and mix down multiple audio tracks to create a finished podcast using the free open-source Audacity program.
It seemed like a crazy idea, traveling 7,000 miles to talk to Tajik journalists about podcasting. According to Reporters without Borders, Tajikistan ranks 149th out of 180 countries on the 2018 World Press Freedom Index — the U.S. ranks 40th. Podcasting was the last thing the country needed.
At least, that’s what I thought at first.
But spending 9 days in country talking to young people and media professionals, I realized that podcasting could be something of great valuable in Tajikistan.
Certainly, the country, its people and those journalists striving to tell impactful stories there, face many challenges.
From an economic standpoint, the country is poor. Many people emigrate to other countries in the region, primarily Russia, to earn money to send back home.
From a technical standpoint, Tajikistan does have the internet and many people own smartphones, but service is slow and expensive.
Much of the information the public receives originates from state-run media and there are laws against criticizing government officials, in particular President Emomali Rahman. There is an independent press, but it struggles, both politically and economically, under these restrictions.
So how does podcasting make a difference?
Podcasting is a bottom-up form of storytelling. It’s cheap to produce. You don’t need a big media outlet to create or distribute it. The creator controls the content.
It’s also a personal medium. Unlike video or text which requires the audience’s full attention, podcasting is consumed passively, often alone. Audio stories consumed this way have a powerful effect on listeners, they are moved emotionally by what they hear and inspired to take action.
The students and journalists I spoke to wanted to tell stories that made a difference in their communities. Most of them had never heard a podcast before. Those that had certainly hadn’t heard one in their own language.
Part of the presentations I gave involved playing American podcasts to demonstrate the different styles of audio storytelling. However, I quickly figured out what was more meaningful for my audience was to help them create a podcast in Tajik or Russian, the second-most commonly spoken language. Once they heard their voices in that format, it all clicked.
The highlight of my trip took place in Bokhtar, where we recorded two podcasts, one in English and the other in Tajik. While the first was a simple Q&A interview, the second was a free-form conversation about what things the six participants were most afraid of. There was no structure, just six young people talking and cracking jokes. It was a true podcast.
It’s All Journalism Producer Michael O’Connell travels to Tajikistan at the invitation of the U.S. State Department’s Speakers Program to train young journalists in podcasting.
The District of Columbia’s rich landscape of podcasting was on display Thursday, April 5, as It’s All Journalism host Michael O’Connell joined Mary Nichols of the FuseBox Radio Broadcast and Alicia Montgomery of NPR’s Morning Edition and Code Switch, for a panel on podcasting. HumanitiesDC, which aims to enrich people’s lives through the humanities and grants, hosted he event at Busboys and Poets. Jill Olmsted, a broadcasting professor at American University, served as the panel’s moderator.
I’ve been asking myself that question a lot lately, especially as we’re about to post our 300th episode. That’s what milestones are for, a time of reflection and looking at the direction you’re heading.
By the way, this is not an April Fool’s joke. This just happens to be the day when I found some time to write.
By any measure, It’s All Journalism has been a success. We’ve consistently posted weekly interviews for more than five years. Our audience has grown steadily all that time. We’ve had great conversations with many smart people about journalism, learning lessons that have certainly helped me in my job. The podcast has opened doors professionally — I got a book deal out of it. It’s provided a platform to discuss ideas and answer questions. Creatively, it’s been consistently rewarding.
So why quit?
The weekly show we launched in August 2012 began with lofty ambitions — we were going to talk to working journalists about how they did their jobs and learn together how we could face the challenges facing our industry. Ambitious, certainly, and maybe a little naive.
This last year has been particularly tough on our industry and the choice of guests has reflected that. We still try to book “how to” episodes to help people learn new skills. But more and more, I find myself seeking people out to talk about the bigger questions in our industry, topics about trust, transparency and “fake news.”
What got me thinking about the podcast’s future were three recent interviews, this week’s conversation with Ed Madison, author of Reimagining journalism in a post-truth world: How late-night comedians, internet trolls, and savvy reporters are transforming news, and two upcoming interviews with Carey Henniger of Storyful and Amy Webb, Future Today Institute.
All three conversations paint a bleak picture of where journalism is now and where it’s heading in the next five years, or more importantly, where it could be headed if things don’t change. I encourage you to listen to all three interviews and think about what decisions are being made in your newsroom and how you can affect real change there.
So, when will this podcast end?
Probably not for the foreseeable future. We’ll definitely do another year.
But the thing is, as journalism has changed in five years, so has podcasting. We’re doing our best to make every episode entertaining and informative. We’ve tried to tighten things up a bit from an editing perspective and keep the conversations focused. Still, I’d love to try posting shorter, more frequent interviews and bring more storytelling to the podcast, but that just takes time and effort. Most weeks, for me, but also the other producers of the podcast, it’s just enough to book and record interviews on a regular basis around a full-time job.
It all started last August when I met Miranda Spivack, an independent journalist and the Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. She’d just participated in a panel on government transparency at the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s annual conference in Washington, D. C.
I invited Miranda to come on into the studio and record a podcast. We had a great conversation. In turn, she invited me to visit DePauw to talk to students about podcasting.
That’s how it is sometimes. One invitation leads to another.
So, on Monday morning, Feb. 5, I showed up at DePauw with my laptop and recording equipment, ready to spread the good word about podcasting.
I had a blast.
First up, I talked to eight of Miranda’s students about how to put a podcast together. They’d each gone out and interviewed their fellow students about “fake news.” I helped edit the interviews down to a six-minute podcast and posted it to the It’s All Journalism SoundCloud account.
Later in the day, I gave two presentations about launching a podcast and what makes a good podcast. During the second presentation, rather than do a Q&A, I turned the tables on the audience. I handed out wireless microphones and ask them: “Where do you get your news?”
On this week’s It’s All Journalism podcast, Producer Michael O’Connell travels to DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, to talk about podcasting. In a live podcast recording, he asks a room full of college students how they get their news. It’s a fascinating peek how young people consume their news.
This column was originally written for the It’s All Journalism newsletter. Sign up for our weekly newsletter where you’ll receive exclusive content and learn more about future podcasts and live events, click here.
Last Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would be changing the focus of customers’ news feeds, giving priority to posts from friends and family over content posted by brands, businesses and media outlets. This decision, he said, was based on feedback from the social media platform’s customers.
As a Facebook consumer and journalist, I’m of two minds on this.
As a consumer, I welcome a newsfeed that displays posts from those with whom I have personal relationships over products or news sites with which I have only tangental interests. Having been on Facebook for over 15 years, I’ve seen how my interactions with friends and family have shifted as the platform altered its algorithm to try and match my perceived interests. Machine learning is great, but it’s still pretty imperfect. Yes, I was looking at graphic novels on Amazon, and, yes, I might be interested in reading an article about this particular artist or even purchase his latest book, but I’d also like to hear the latest from my Aunt Delores, who posts infrequently. I don’t want to see her content pushed down because I don’t talk to her that often.
As a journalist, though, who uses Facebook daily to post content from Federal News Radio and interact with our audience, I’m frustrated by this change. The reason? Well, Facebook has a less than sparkling relationship with the news industry. In the early days, it was eager to get newsrooms to post their content on the platform. Newsrooms, who were struggling to convert print readers to digital readers, were hesitant to post content there. Why should we send readers to your website when we need to get clicks on ours?
Over time, perceptions changed. The philosophy became that you used Facebook to engage readers, build your brand and entice them to come to your website and subscribe there. It made sense to bring your content to where the readers were and that place was Facebook.
In a perfect world, that made sense. But, it’s Facebook’s playground. They set the rules. If they think video via Facebook Live is the wave of the future, then they’ll give priority to live video over other posts. That forces newsrooms to scramble and invest in live video — even though there was no evidence that their readers wanted live video — just so they can have a stake in the game.
Facebook did give me a moment of hope last year. I had the opportunity to attend a Facebook Journalism Project training session in Washington, D.C. There was a lot of talk about live video, of course, but also discussions on how to use Crowdtangle, Instant Articles and other tools to help engage readers and improve your content on the platform. I came away with the feeling that Facebook finally was willing to listen to newsrooms, who were often frustrated by the company’s lack of responsiveness to their concerns.
However, Facebook’s change of heart probably had more to do with accusations that it had facilitated the spreading of “fake news” around the 2016 election. The Facebook Journalism Project and accompanying trainings were more of an olive branch to the news industry and PR stunt, than a true sign they were willing to listen.
And now there’s Zuckerberg’s news feed announcement — what does it all mean?
One thing that’s telling about Facebook’s announcement is that readers will be able to prioritize how pages they follow will show up in their News Feed. The posts from those pages that get the most priority are those that receive the most engagement. Guess what posts get the most engagement?
Videos, especially live videos. So, expect newsrooms to shift priorities and resources accordingly.
On a positive note, and I do try to be positive about these things, priority will be given to posts that generate conversations. So, rather than using a post to broadcast new content, newsrooms will have to engage in conversations with their readers, which is more fitting to the platform and will benefit more digitally evolved media outlets. That’s not a bad thing.
— Michael O’Connell
Casey Kasum made a career out of counting backwards. For decades, the famous deejay counted down the top songs of the week on his American Top 40 radio show.
Every December, reporters of all stripes begin counting down their top stories of the year. Heck, we here at It’s All Journalism did that just last week when we counted down our Top 10 podcast episodes of 2017.
Readers like these year-end lists and reporters appreciate the chance to recycle content and try to put it into some type of context.
In the spirit of counting backwards, Jason Fraley, entertainment editor at WTOP in Washington, D.C., and the co-host of the Capital Culture podcast joined It’s All Journalism producer Michael O’Connell in studio to count down the top movies of 2017. The pair discuss their favorite films, the top grossing movies of the year, movie criticism and how digital streaming has impacted the movie-going experience.
Jason Fraley’s Top 10 for 2017
- Get Out
- Lady Bird
- The Post
- The Big Sick
- Wind River
- I, Tonya
- Darkest Hour
- Wonder Woman
Full coverage of Fraley’s Top 10 movies for 2017 can be found on WTOP.
2017 was a busy year for the producers of It’s All Journalism. We moved to the PodcastOne network, updated our music and logo, launched our Patreon campaign, covered several conferences and recorded our first live event. We also celebrated the podcast’s fifth anniversary last August.
On a personal note, my book, Turn Up the Volume — A Down and Dirty Guide to Podcasting, was published in June and, in November and December, I taught my first podcasting class at American University.
Although 2017 brought a lot of change and growth to our podcast, one thing that didn’t change was our commitment to post a new podcast episode every week. That’s our main focus and the thing that continues to give us pleasure week-in and week-out. We don’t get paid for this. We do it out of love for the topic and the desire to learn how to be better digital journalists.
On Dec. 31, 2016, I was sitting at home, bored and looking for something to do. I decided to look at our analytics for the past year and put together a Top 10 list of our most downloaded episodes. It was a fun exercise that served to guide us in booking guests for the coming year.
This time around, we decided to do our top 10 list for 2017 as a podcast. Producer Nicole Ogrysko joined me in studio and our other producer, Amber Healy, called in via Skype, so we could share our thoughts on the past year and the podcasts you liked the most. Above, you’ll find the player to listen to or download the episode and below is a countdown of our top 10 episodes.
Thanks for supporting us in 2017. We can’t wait to bring you more podcasts in 2018.
— Michael O’Connell
On this week’s It’s All Journalism, producers Amber Healy, Nicole Ogrysko and Michael O’Connell count down the 10 most downloaded podcasts of 2017. Digital innovation and entrepreneurship dominates the list, but what topics didn’t?
#1 — Rich Gordon, director of digital innovation, Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism
After more than five years and 280 episodes, we’re proud to announce that we’ll be hosting the first live recording of our weekly It’s All Journalism podcast.
In partnership with the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, the Online News Association’s D.C. Meetup Group and the National Press Club, It’s All Journalism will be hosting a panel and live recording on Monday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m., at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Doors open for this free event at 6:30 p.m.
The topic of the panel will be: The Future of the Alternative Press. Panelists include:
- Alexa Mills, editor of the Washington City Paper;
- Andrew Beaujon, former editor of the Washington City Paper;
- Jason Zaragoza, executive director of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia;
- Lisa Snowden-McCray, editor-in-chief of the Baltimore Beat.
The panel recording will begin at 7 p.m., followed by a Q&A session, all of which will be recorded for an upcoming episode of It’s All Journalism. There will be a cash bar available for those who imbibe. The National Press Club is located at 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC 20045.
Come to hang out with other digital journalism enthusiasts, learn about the challenges facing the alternative press from a panel of experts and be part of a live podcast recording.