By Stacy Fernández
Through good writing, you can almost hear what’s going on.
Key word: almost.
After working with audio for three days, writing a text story was harder than usual. I can write in familiar sounds: the whir of a microwave, pots clanging and kids’ laughter. But, no description will capture the deliberate steadiness in Jan-Juba Arway’s voice when she revisits the difficult parts of her journey after leaving an abusive husband or the “mom” voice she uses to reprimand her children.
Doing the interview with an experienced reporter with me, my mentor Richard Yeh of WNYC, taught me how to be a better interviewer. After the first interview, he gave me feedback on the audio we’d gotten. It was a lot of what happened and why rather than how Arway felt throughout everything.
We have to feel like we’re in her head as she’s going through pivotal moments, Richard explained. The next day I had new questions and new ways of asking them. I also got to see how Richard went about asking his own questions.
When recording audio, the journalist isn’t supposed to react in any way that will be picked up by the mic. For someone who’s been referred to as an excited chihuahua, keeping my reactions to a minimum was new. I lingered in the silence, not wanting to ask questions or interject too quickly for the sake of the audio. Journalism greats often recommend this technique. Silence is awkward, so people keep talking. This is something I intend to keep doing since some of the best quotes came from these silences.
Before this program, I had plenty of ideas for audio but little implementation. Now that I’ve heard what’s possible (see what I did there), I’m excited about integrating audio stories and clips into the stories I produce.