Author Archives: Jason Tougaw

Organizing Your Files

Be sure to make a folder for all the “assets” you’ll use for your episode. It’s a good idea to make subfolders too: Narration, Interviews, Active Sound, Ambient Sound, etc. Once you take a sound file and load it into Audacity, be sure not to move it from the folder it’s in.

You should name your files so you’ll recognize them, like such:

Intro New Lady Narration
Intro Music bed Sunny Day
Segment 1 Arrival narration
Segment 1 Ambient sound: chirps and clucks
Segment 2 Sound Effect Alarm
Segment 2 Narration
Segment 2 Active Sound New Lady Screech


Workshops: Discussion Episodes Rough Cuts

As you listen to to your group members’ rough cuts, consider the following questions–and be ready to talk about them during Tuesday’s Zoom workshop:

1. Is the episode topic focused? Could it use sharpening?

2. How would you fill in for X and Y in a story sentence: “This is a story about X, and it’s interesting because Y.”

3. How would you describe the episode’s structure–or arc? Does the arc contain any smaller arcs within it?

4. How might the episodes be edited to improve the structure?

5. How is the sound quality? Are the voices clear and free of echo? Is the volume of each voice consistent with the others? Would you suggest any production techniques for improving the sound?

6. How is the editing throughout the episode? Does the editing propel the story? Are transitions handled well? Do you have suggestions for polishing?

Today’s Workshop

As a class:

  1. Write for five minutes about any useful advice you found in either of the chapters we read for today.
  2. We’ll listen to a few of your example moments from the assigned Micropolis episodes.

In your groups:

  1. Touch base about where you are with your episode. What audio have you collected? What do you still need?
  2. Take a step back and consider what you have in relation to your story question: “I’m telling a story about X, and it’s interesting because Y.” Are you being specific enough with X and Y? How can you get more particular, more concrete, more human? Does your sentence make it clear what’s at stake–for whoever the episode is about and for the listener? (See examples below for guidance.)
  3. Discuss the bulleted list of questions on pp. 184 & 106 of The NPR Podcast Startup Guide.
  4. Now, return to your sound. Consider the advice we discussed from the chapters, along with editing techniques from various podcasts. What can you do with editing to advance your story in lively ways? How will you edit for STRUCTURE, and what techniques will you use for PARTICULAR MOMENTS OR SEGMENTS?

Strong Story Sentences

“I’m telling a story about the drama on real housewives of New Jersey. It’s interesting because my guest and I dig into the ways the show is produced to compel the characters to create drama, therefore reinforcing gender stereotypes.”

“I’m telling a story about whether or not Michael Jackson should be canceled. It’s interesting because people have such divergent views on whether or not artists’ personal behavior can be separated from the art they create.”

“I’m telling a story about the daycare center at Queens College. It’s interesting because it reveals the complex–and fascinating–lives of college students who are also parents.”

Weak–Too General–Story Sentences

“I’m telling a story about the real housewives. It’s interesting because so many people watch it.”

“I’m telling a story about Michael Jackson’s career. It’s interesting because he is controversial.”

“I’m telling a story about the daycare center at Queens College. It’s interesting because not a lot of people know about it.”

For Class Thursday, April 20

1. Read the NPR Startup Guide Chapter (12) on “Shaping the Story” and the Out on the Wire Chapter “Keep or Kill” (on editing for story). Choose a piece of advice from each that you find useful.

2. Listen to the assigned episode Micropolis. Come in with notes and time stamps for moments when the editing propels the story. 

3. Bring in a new draft of your “story sentence”: “I’m telling a story about X. It’s interesting because Y.” Be as specific as possibles with a target audience in mind. 

4. Bring any and all audio you have for your next episode. We’ll do a workshop on story shape and editing. 

Let me know if you have questions. I look forward to seeing you and hearing about your episodes. 

Tuesday’s Class–April 4

For class on Tuesday, prepare the following:

—A moment from “TV Theme Songs” you find interesting for its editing or sound design (with time stamp)

—A moment from one of the Micropolis episodes you find interesting for its editing or sound design (with time stamp)

—Two different drafts of “story sentences” (see calendar)

—With the “Collecting Audio Like a Pro” chapter in mind, think like an editor. Make a list of audio you hope to collect for your episode—guests talking about particular topics; music or sound effects; rapport between hosts; transitions; ambient sound; or whatever else comes to mind.

Group Projects: Tuesday, March 28

  • Choose one or two elements of good story ideas described by Abel and Glass and describe how they are at play in your chosen episode.
  • Be prepared to talk about your own story ideas, no matter how tentative.
You’ll be doing group presentations for Tuesday’s class. You’ll work with the same groups you were in for the previous episode. (See below) Your job is to choose a conversation episode of a podcast you all find interesting and break it down for the rest of us.
With that in mind, you should contact each other and come to a decision about the episode you want to choose—something interesting to all of you. It can be an episodes of a show we’ve listened to as aa class, but not the episode we listened to. Or it can be something you choose on your own. Once you’ve chosen, send me a link.
Once you’ve chose, you should all listen and take notes, with time stamps. It’s up to you whether you want to keep communicating during that process. For your notes, pay attention to the elements of audio storytelling we’ve been talking about:
  • Moments where guests or hosts tell compelling stories
  • Motive
  • Visual description / narration
  • Suspense
  • Empathy / connection
  • Humor
  • A story leading to an idea
  • Roles of those in the conversation (expert / student / curious person / other)
  • Elements of sound design that propel the story
  • Conclusions (resolutions / unresolved questions or issues)

You’ll have fifteen minutes to prepare your presentation and fifteen minutes present. You should discuss some of the elements listed above and choose at least two clips for us to listen to as a class.


Ariannna, Holden,  Carlos
Angelina, Monica, Kristina, Edwin
Tatjana, Shmyah, Eduardo, Loida
Alessia, Grazelle, Torri, Kate

For Class Thursday, March 23

Come to class prepared with notes and time stamps on the following storytelling elements in the episodes of Even the Rich and Code Switch we’re listening to:

—Moments where guests or hosts tell compelling stories


—Visual description / narration 


—Empathy / connection

—A story leading to an idea

—Roles of those in the conversation (expert / student / curious person / other)

—Elements of sound design that propel the story

—Conclusions (resolutions / unresolved questions or issues)

Tuesday’s Class

For Tuesday’s class, I suggest watching Ira Glass on storytelling first (see Calendar). Make notes about his most significant points about how good storytelling works—especially audio storytelling. 

Then, listen to the two assigned podcast episodes. Note moments where they use moments of storytelling that resonate with what Glass has to say. Note the time stamps. We’ll discuss all this in class, with an eye toward how to tell a good story in your conversation episodes. 

We’ll be on Zoom. Try to be in a place where you can turn on your camera and play close attention.

For Class Thursday, March 16

First, congratulations on developing, producing, and editing your first episodes!

Your next one will be a conversation episode, so we’ll start talking about and listening to examples of those now. For class tomorrow, prepare the following:

1. Listen to the episode of Switched On Pop about BTS—a discussion episode, like the ones you’re creating next. As you listen, note how hosts play certain roles—for example, the expert and the novice. 

2. Read Chapter 9 in Weldon’s NPR Podcast Startup Guide, on Audio Storytelling.

3. Choose a moment from the chapter that makes you think in a new way about audio storytelling—or give you ideas about it. I’ll ask you to share these with the class. Think about whether or not the idea you choose from the chapter is at play in the Switched on Pop episode.