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From the Excellence in Journalism convention: New tools, audio tips, delivery advice

Thursday, October 8, 2015
Notes from some great sessions at the Excellence in Journalism 2015 convention in Orlando, Fla. (To be cross-posted to the Rivet blog.)

From the great Al Tompkins at the Poynter Institute:
  • Ringr: "Lets you connect with virtually anyone on the planet, record your conversation, and instantly download it for editing, playback, and sharing. And the best part? The sound quality is amazing! In fact, unless you share your secret, no one will know the two of you weren't sitting right next to each other having a face-to-face chat."
  • PodClear: "Remote Interviews. Studio Quality Sound. … The simplest way to record your remote guests and cohosts with pristine audio quality. Separate lossless tracks for every guest and a mixed track for quick publishing."
  • An audio transcription tool called VoiceBase (50 hours of audio transcribed free). It's not perfect, but it's good enough to help search a big speech, debate, etc. to find cuts.
  • A list of other "cool new tools" for creating or editing Web content quickly. (Attached.)
New remote (video) smartphone reporting tools, recounted by Quinnipiac University Professor Mo Krochmal.

From audio wizard and NPR host Adam Ragusea (who's been a guest on Rivet), a wonderful presentation ( <— listen to that audio!) on Why you're doing audio levels wrong, and why it really does matter.

Ragusea's good recommendation for determining whether questionable audio will be intelligible for regular human beings: Layer in a clip of car noise or shower sound. If that masks the audio, your audio's not clear enough.

From talent coach Nick Dalley:
  • [Stop pronouncing] the "t"s at word endings rather than the ersatz "British" style of doing a glottal stop at the ends of words with final "t"s. "The presiden() sa() on his ha()." This instead of a nice little pop to articulate a "t" sound: "The president sat on his hat."
  • When it comes to pacing, if a mistake is made, too fast or too slow, I believe the typical mistake is going too fast. Hit the period and stop. Grab a little breath, then start the new sentence. Just a couple of pet peeves. 
  • For those who have trouble distinguishing "-ing" from "-een": Practice the phrase "ping pong." ("No one would ever say 'peen pong.'") Also: "Jean has seen beings sing. From Mr. Bean to Chandler Bing, their voices ring."
Broadcast delivery tips from University of Mississippi Professor Deb Wenger.

What is vocal fry?


Three secrets for writing and reading the way you talk

Monday, September 28, 2015
 [Prepared for a forthcoming installment in the Rivet blog.]

One of the toughest jobs in the world of audio and broadcasting is to sound like you're not reading. Even when you are.
But your goal should be to write something that, when read, doesn't sound like it was written and doesn't sound like it's being read. Because when you sound like someone talking about something you know instead of reading something that's written, you sound more credible and authentic.

Here are three keys to writing and reading conversationally:

1. Use contractions whenever you can. If it helps, run a find-and-replace to swap out (for instance) will for 'llis for 'sare for 're, would for 'd, etc.
2. Use pronouns whenever you can. That's the way we talk. Take a quiz.
3. Don't stress prepositions (of, by, for, in), conjunctions (and, butor articles (a, the). In musical terms, they're the grace notes of speech -- present, but just barely. Save your emphasis for nouns and verbs. (Exceptions: "... OF the people, BY the people, FOR the people.")

Bonus tip: The word "the" is pronounced thuh except when it appears before a word that begins with a vowel sound. (Thee elephant, thee NFL; but thuh cat, thuh president.) The word "a" is almost always pronounced uh. (Exceptions: For emphasis, as in "He's not just A man, he's THEE man.") Take a quiz.

Flashback: Chicago Comicon, 1976

Tuesday, August 11, 2015
As another comics convention nears in Chicago, a look back at my coverage of the first big Comicon in the city. (Someday, I hope for a bigger scanner.)

Science fiction writer Greg Bear in 1994: The Internet's future

Sunday, March 1, 2015
Science fiction writer Greg Bear in a 1994 interview with me, on the future of the Internet:

"It's going to be a huge intellectual telephone line, with graphics and library materials, all available at a few minutes' notice. That, I think, will be revolutionary. ... We have a lot of people from the entertainment industries thinking it's going to be a lot of the same old, same old -- where they can simply market movies in new ways, and I don't think it's going to be that way at all. ... The people who are loosely called Generation Xers are going to have their say on this. And I think we may not be able to predict what they're going to do with it."

Wynton Marsalis, interviewed in 1994

Sunday, March 1, 2015
The time in December 1994 Stan West and I interviewed the great Wynton Marsalis -- and I disobeyed Ramsey Lewis' advice and asked Marsalis about Kenny G.