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21 Things RadioActive Learned At Third Coast

KUOW Photo
RadioActive at the Third Coast International Audio Festival! L-R: Program Producer Jenny Asarnow, Youth Producer Madeline Ewbank, Production Assistant Ann Kane, and Youth Producer Nina Tran

KUOW's RadioActive Youth Media recently spent three days in Chicago with 550 of the world's most talented  radio makers at the 2014 Third Coast International Audio Festival.

“I washed my hands next to [NPR health reporter] Alix Speigel,” said youth producer Madeline Ewbank. "Once [former Planet Money reporter] Alex Blumberg passed so close to me that I could've tripped him. Not gonna lie, I seriously considered it.”

“It was amazing!” said youth producer Nina Tran. “Bias aside, it looks like radio is the new frontier for storytelling, and where it's headed right now is really quite unique. You can come from essentially any background and end up in radio.”

“I'd like to think that I absorbed some of the pure radio skill permeating the conference,” Ewbank added. "And some inspiration to achieve the level of radio greatness of all the people I could've potentially tripped.”

Read on to find out what RadioActive learned at Third Coast:

  • 8 best nuggets of advice 
  • 4 podcast recommendations
  • 3 Third Coast sessions you should listen to
  • 6 questions on our minds since Third Coast

8 Best Nuggets Of Advice

By Madeline Ewbank, RadioActive Youth Producer

[asset-images[{"caption": "Danish producer Rikke Houd asks fellow radio producers to consider \"Who are you in the story?\"", "fid": "98589", "style": "offset_left", "uri": "public://201411/Amazing_radio_thingie.jpg", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo / Madeline Ewbank"}]]

  1. Always ask that central question behind your story - the grand idea you'll end with - on tape when you wrap up an interview. (Laura Sullivan)

  2. If you can't summarize your story in one sentence, you need to back up or get out. (Laura Sullivan)
  3. Write down the fundamentals of your story and your favorite interview moments before transcribing your tape. Especially on a tight deadline, tape logs are a serious threat to your clarity. (Marianne McCune)
  4. Use mic distance to establish point-of-view in a story. The closer you can get to a central character, the better. (Rikke Houd)
  5. The actual sound of an action/event/setting is not always the most illustrative. (Brendan Baker & Kaitlin Prest)
  6. Irregular tape destabilizes listeners and demands their attention. (Alix Speigel)
  7. Successful pitches get personal. (Bob Carlson)
  8. In the beginning stages of a radio story, write down the thing that makes you most excited about it. At the end, in the editing room, read it again. (Leda Hartman)

4 Podcast Recommendations  

By Nina Tran, RadioActive Youth Producer

  1. The Memory Palace: Nate DiMeo’s use of sound in this podcast is really distinct and noticeably intentional.
  2. The infamous Serial: In my defense, living in the middle of nowhere at Beloit College has made me out of the loop on all news and pop culture.
  3. In The Dark: Danish reporter Rikke Houd recommended this one. Not a podcast, but a collection of great audio stories.
  4. The Heart: I already listened to this one pre-conference, but listening to producer Kaitlin Prest talk about the level of detail that she puts into editing the podcast really put things into perspective

 3 Third Coast Sessions You Should Listen To

By Ann Kane, RadioActive Production Assistant  

  1. [asset-images[{"caption": "Priorities: The cookie break.", "fid": "98588", "style": "offset_right", "uri": "public://201411/cookie_break.jpg", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo / Jenny Asarnow"}]]  “Turning Investigative Reporting into Artful Radio” - NPR’s Laura Sullivan talked about how to approach investigative reporting in a way that would make stories enjoyable to listen to. She gave tips on the best way to structure an investigative story and what to do with statistics.
  2. “Making News Stories Good Stories” – Marianne McCune produced two of my favorite news stories ever: “On the Lower East Side, A Woman Emerges From a Dark High Rise for First Time” and “Go East, Young Marijuana Dealer.” In her session she gave tips on how to turn ordinary news stories into memorable news stories.
  3. “The Amazing Radio Vertikalisator” Danish producer Rikke Houd encouraged radio producers to think about our stories from different perspectives in order to add depth. She placed a lot of emphasis on thinking about the position of the producer in relation to the story being told and how that can affect the way a story is told.

Third Coast archives all conference sessions. We’ll post links here once they’re up! 

6 Questions On My Mind Since Third Coast

By Jenny Asarnow, RadioActive Program Producer

  1. So many fabulous podcasts are now being produced outside of institutions like public radio stations and NPR. Is there (still) a need for shared ethics and editorial standards? What should they be?
  2. Can every interview we ever do from now on incorporate hair braiding
  3. How can we co-report more of our stories with listeners? (à la Curious City
  4. Why isn't RadioAmbulante’s Spanish-speaking audience considered the “public” that public radio serves? (to paraphrase Daniel Alarcón at the "Own Your Thing" session.)
  5. How can we support more racial diversity in public media? What can people on all levels – producers, reporters, managers, executives, audience do? (Good conversations about this at the Code Switch session.)
  6. Overheard: Are we in a podcast bubble? 

[asset-images[{"caption": "L-R: Jenny Asarnow, Maddie Ewbank, Ann Kane and Nina Tran on the last day of Third Coast.", "fid": "98587", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201411/Group_photo.jpg", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo"}]]Bonus: A Few Thoughts About Third Coast 

By Sara Lerner, KUOW Reporter and Afternoon News Anchor

My biggest take from Third Coast is this: Podcasts are where it’s at! I knew podcasts were growing but I didn’t realize to what extent. People who are doing the most creative audio reporting are no longer worried about getting their pieces on terrestrial radio.

Sure, they think radio would be great, too, but they’re trying to produce for podcasts, like Love + Radio or 99% Invisible. Or, they’re just making their own podcasts.

The greeting phrase at Third Coast is now, “What’s your podcast?” instead of “Where do you live?” or “Who are you with?”

RadioActive is KUOW's program for high school students. Listen to RadioActive stories, subscribe to the RadioActive podcast, and stay in touch on Facebookand Twitter.