A look at the making of The News-Letter podcast

By MORGAN OME | April 20, 2017

If the last year has proven anything, it is that podcasts are steadily becoming more and more trendy. In 2016, more Americans than ever listened to podcasts and for good reason.

They are accessible, convenient to listen to, and given the plethora of available podcasts, there is guaranteed to be a show for everyone. People simply have to download an episode, slip in a pair of headphones and listen as the program whisks them away.

Making a podcast, however, is a little more challenging. And yet this semester, The News-Letter released its first podcast, called The News-Cast. How did we do it? Let me explain.

Last semester, one of my fellow editors, Rollin Hu, brought up the idea of a News-Letter podcast.

An avid podcast listener myself, I quickly agreed. Growing up, I listened to the radio on a daily basis while eating breakfast, sitting in the car or doing the dishes.

Audio journalism is one of my favorite mediums to obtain information. Since middle school, I’ve become a fan of many podcasts like This American Life, Radiolab and Fresh Air. As the number of shows continues to grow, so does the number of podcast subscriptions in my iTunes library.

So, when presented with the opportunity to make a podcast — something that is an integral part of my life — I had no hesitations.

It didn’t matter that I didn’t know how to use recording equipment or construct a narrative flow or really know the first thing about podcasting. I was just excited to start.

Rollin and I talked to Editors-in-Chiefs Amanda Auble and Will Anderson about the possibility of starting a podcast, and they were on board. The four of us worked for months to produce our first episode. When we finally released it on SoundCloud, it felt surreal. I was elated.

But before we released our first episode, there was a lot of planning that went into our process. Did we want to structure our show as a roundtable discussion like the NPR Politics Podcast? Or have more of a narrative structure like Serial? Who would serve as the hosts? How would we record and edit the show?

We decided to keep our first show on the smaller scale and craft an inside look into our own newspaper production. The episode, titled “Inside the Gatehouse” details the weekly process that editors undergo in order to create The News-Letter. We interviewed different section editors, recorded meetings and scripted voice-overs.

By keeping our first episode within The News-Letter community, we were able to learn along the way. We learned which microphone was the best for studio recording and which was best for capturing background noise. (Shotgun mic for background and Blue Yeti for studio in case you’re wondering.)

We learned how to monitor sound levels and edit clips on Adobe Audition. We learned how to conduct interviews meant for the radio, which was very different from interviews meant for print journalism.

It wasn’t a perfect or easy process. We made lots of mistakes along the way. Our interviews were not consistently structured and the mic failed during a meeting. At one point, all of our files got lost and for one of the most stressful hours of my life, we had to come to terms with the fact that we might have to start over from scratch.

Luckily, Amanda was able to find and recover everything. And we did our best to equalize the sound clips so that any irregularities aren’t too noticeable in the finished product.

I’m very proud of having worked on The News-Cast and hope that it continues to exist well past my time at Hopkins. The four of us — Will, Rollin, Amanda and I — had no experience, only the desire to create a podcast, and we made it happen.

In a small practice room in Mattin Center, Rollin and I would listen to Will and Amanda record multiple takes of their segments, offering direction and commentary until we got the right take. Rollin composed the theme song. I spliced together clips. It was a team effort, and we also had the help of the Digital Media Center (DMC), so a big thanks goes to them for their assistance.

If you have a chance, go check out The News-Cast. You can hear the clicking of keys as editors revise articles and perfect pages. You can listen to us laugh and talk through meetings. You can learn about why our editors are so committed to reporting on the Hopkins and Baltimore communities.

The News-Cast isa lot different from our normal print material but in a good way. The goal of audio journalism is to capture the current moment through sound, to use the medium to transport listeners into a different world. I think we successfully transported our listeners into the Gatehouse and into the crazy, chaotic but ultimately rewarding experience of being part of a college newspaper.

The News-Cast’s first episode was released on SoundCloud recently and is available to stream on that platform. More episodes will be produced in the future discussing a variety of topics.

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