Podcasts are not just replacing radio talk shows. They are also adding content that wasn’t out there before or was only available in large print publications, i.e. magazine features or trade journals. It also taps into the entertainment market, news market, and even fiction.
There are no ends to what could be in a podcast and content creators on all platforms are adding podcasts to their storytelling arsenals. Which means our students should be as well.
I teach Media Arts to high school students. We make daily shows for our local access channel, we learn photography, how to write a news story, and heavily focus on editing. In the past, radio shows were a part of the program, but over the last two years, I have replaced the radio assignments with podcast ones. Students will be much more likely to work for a company that does podcasting than a company that has a radio show, and the skills that go into making a podcast are easily transferable to the radio.
We spend a good chunk of time learning the elements of a podcast – from audio recording to interviewing, to finding sound bites and effects, and finally editing it all together into a package.
This whole process is the root of what media students need to learn – another way to tell a good story.
Stories are at the heart of what we do. Many students get caught up in the visuals in Media Arts. The effects, the editing, the technology. In podcasts, if the story is lacking, there isn’t much to hide behind. This helps students to see what elements make up a good story, so they can replicate that on a video story by adding visuals to amazing audio that already exists.
I have found a couple of resources that I use and have tweaked over the past couple of years.
Both NPR and the New York Times have websites dedicated to student podcasts and host competitions in the spring for podcasting. I have really delved into Story Corps on NPR and the lessons they have on this site.
And this NYT site, which is especially helpful for students to see a variety of kinds of podcasts.
Each year, I try to have students follow the guidelines of the NPR Student Podcast Challenge as close as possible, including uploading their final project to Soundcloud. The students who fit the criteria, meet the deadline, and agree to the terms, actually submit their pieces. This year, for the first time, one of my students was named on the Honorable Mention list: that’s the top 215 out of over 2,200 entries from all over the country. What made her podcast stand out, was her ability to add her own commentary to a national topic- what we in the industry call “localizing.” She critiqued the winner’s of this year’s Grammy Awards and noted the racism she felt was behind some winning and others not winning.
Her critique used sound clips from the Grammy’s had a music clip in the background, was well-balanced, quality audio and edited to be an easy, quick listen.
Her piece was called The Grammy’s According to Me and can be found here.
After seeing the winners in these relatively new competitions (I think both are only a couple years old), I’m confident students in my program and yours can have a place and a shot at this. They are great ways to boost student’s voices and make them feel heard.
I purposefully leave this assignment wide open. Students can do any topic they wish. Most of the time they chose pretty controversial topics. Which makes me excited. They dive into the research, present some great stuff, and get a voice. Or some chose to give that voice to others and highlight topics they see their peers struggle with. I have had students do topics ranging from NFL Draft picks to Gender Identity.
The competitions are not key, but teaching students how to research, interview, and compose a story together without visuals is a much-needed skill in media programs today. And in the job market, more and more people are using podcasts to tell stories, add content to existing publications or stations and gain advertising dollars that those older digital media models lost over the last couple of decades.
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