Gathering audio from across the ocean blue

For my internship with Marketplace, one of my hats is audio technician/engineer. I’m discovering every day the many ways stations are and can be connected to each other across the country and the world.

Part of my job is to set up audio connections and make audio test calls. As a radio show, we want to ensure we collect the highest quality audio for our stories and listeners. This means testing connections, troubleshooting with engineers and recording with high-end equipment.

I had my first experience making an ISDN call last week to interview a source for an upcoming story I’m working on (check back for the story). My source lives near Albany, NY, so getting to the NYC Marketplace bureau would have been difficult for her. Instead, I worked out a way for my source to go to the WAMC bureau in NY for the interview. I called WAMC via ISDN, and the source and I chatted like usual, as if it was a phone call.

“Any situation in which high-quality audio needs to be transferred over long distances in real time is a candidate for employing an ISDN link-up.”
Sound on Sound

Today, I had my second trial with ISDN. The BBC in London called the D.C. Marketplace bureau to test the connection. I sat in the studio making sure the folks in London could hear me across the pond. And they did! I suppose it’s not so exciting, seeing as we have telephones and cell phones. But there was no delay and we had the high-quality sound we needed. And yes, British people seem to use “brilliant” a lot. Like we use “excellent” or “great.”

Working with ISDN has broadened my understanding of the network of radio stations in America. Radio really is everywhere. There are small stations, large stations, membership stations (like the NPR model) — and all of them have the power to be connected. There’s Comrex, ISDN and other engineering terms I’m not familiar with that come into play. But the bottom line is, if I have a source in Chicago I want to interview, I can have her go to the local studio, call from the D.C. studio and still collect quality sound (meaning, not through a telephone). This is a great strength of radio. Having that ability to be connected to far places really matters.

Syncing with Marketplace

What is $6 BillionI just finished my second week in the Marketplace D.C. Bureau, a small and welcoming place. I’m enjoying getting back into radio after reporting for newspapers for the past few years.

Here’s what I’ve been up to.

Some pats on the back

I realized that Marketplace Tech was featuring a series on how technology has changed the way we read. I researched some other ideas and angles for the series, and ended up writing a story on my third day about apps and technology that help low-vision readers. Read the story: Beyond magnifying glasses: High-tech options for the vision-impaired.

I worked with reporter Scott Tong to show readers what $6 billion means. Scott reported on the possible $6 billion anti-terrorist campaign against ISIS, and I made a graphic to go with his story. View the graphic at the bottom of the story: What a $6 billion anti-terrorist campaign amounts to.

Reporter Nancy Marshall-Genzer was working on a story about the short congressional workweek. I attended a press conference by Congressman Rick Nolan to take photos and collect audio for her story. View the photo and listen to the audio in her story: On that three-day congressional workweek.

Tape syncs

A tape sync is an interesting, if a little outdated, method radio journalists use to record certain interviews. Say reporter AJ is located in L.A. and he needs to interview source Barry, who is located in D.C. Well, AJ calls Barry up and interviews him on the phone, and a tape syncer is present to record Barry’s responses. After the interview, the tape syncer sends the audio to the reporter.

This week, I pushed a microphone in two source’s faces while they were interviewed on the phone by reporters. Then I rushed back to the station to send the audio along.

The key to being a good tape syncer is to be quiet and have good equipment. Marketplace uses Marantz recorders, which are some of the best in the industry.

I know there are other options today for radio reporters. They could record the source’s phone call in Audition or Audacity. They could have a source speak into any number of iPhone apps and then save and send the audio to the reporter. But these pose challenges. Sometimes phones muffle and distort voices. And sources can hold the microphone too close to their mouth or accidentally delete a recording.

Radio is all about high-quality audio. Thus, tape syncs still exist today, in our digital, fast-paced world.

Learning from Education Week Teacher

Last week I wrapped up my five-month stint at Education Week Teacher and reflected on the projects I’ve produced and what I’ve gained from the experience.

Web production

Working with Bricolage has allowed me to see the variety of CMS capabilities. Some older systems, like Bric, can be more limiting to news organizations in the age of endless scrolling, magazine-style photos and interactive  graphics. Other systems boast their multimedia capabilities. But the staff at Education Week, especially the web team, find ways to make Bric work for them and still produce incredible interactives and multimedia stories.

During my internship, I used Bric to help produce the New Directions in Assessment report as well as the video collection page on classroom assessment techniques. For the report, I also designed an infographic explaining key differences in the PARCC and Smarter Balanced testing consortia.

Reader interaction

To engage readers during Pi Day, I created a crowdsourcing effort asking educators to share how they  celebrated the day. I compiled the responses into a Storify.

I also encouraged teachers to share classroom activities and resources for teaching poetry during the month of April. With these reader suggestions and my own reporting, I provided an overview of ideas for teaching National Poetry Month.

Blogging for teachers

Writing for a niche audience of teachers and educators on the Teaching Now blog was an incredibly challenging and fulfilling opportunity. I have written for specific audiences before, at my college newspapers, at The Writers’ Bloc literary-themed paper I created at the University of Maryland, and at The Gazette. But this was a higher level of specificity. The blog posts focus on education news, tips for teachers, and teaching trends. I tried to offer useful information for teachers in each post.

I truly enjoyed becoming a sort of poetry reporter for National Poetry Month in April. I pitched ideas relating to the month to my editors, led a crowdsourcing effort to find how educators teach poetry and eventually became inundated with pitches from readers and organizations. I wish I could have followed up on all of them. I covered a traveling poet who speaks in schools, an effort to eliminate gender-marketing in books and a freshman English class in California that self-published an e-book poetry anthology.  View my Education Week Teacher clips.

Thank you to the incredible staff at Education Week for all of these opportunities!

Elon alumnus took grunt work, worked his way into Baseball America

Marlena Chertock

March 11, 2011

Nathan Rode uses a radar gun to check how fast a ball is going when it is thrown or hit in baseball. Photo courtesy of Rode.

Nathan Rode was willing to do grunt work to get where he wanted.

He took a position with a lot of data-entry at Baseball America, which is one way he got into the journalism business.

During his senior year of college, he interned at Baseball America for 20 hours a week.

“It was mind-numbing stuff,” Rode said. “But I wanted to work there, so I got my foot in the door.”

He was a part-time student and worked 30 to 40 hours a week at the magazine during his last semester.

“I paid my dues,” he said. “I was willing to do anything and everything to get me where I am now.”

When he graduated from Elon in 2007, there was an opening in the magazine and he went for it. He told the editors he’d been working with them for a while, gave them his work samples and expressed his interest.

Rode has always been a very sports-minded person. He played high school baseball and wanted to go into sports writing in college. He got interested in the reporting aspect when he came to Elon.

Graphic by Marlena Chertock.

He served as a sports reporter on The Pendulum in his sophomore year, sports editor and editor-in-chief during his college career.

It’s important to keep stories fresh, according to Rode. The question is how to make each story different and not to write the same way, according to Rode.

“Maybe the players have similar statistics,” Rode said. “In terms of being a person, they’re really different.”

Rode wants to work his way up in the magazine, he said.

“I started there and I’m still there,” he said. “I’m in there for long haul. This is what I want to do.”

The editors-in-chief have been there for six years or more, so they will be there for a while, Rode said.

“Maybe one day that’ll be me,” he said. “That’s my goal.”


Nathan Rode talks about practicing writing to improve

Rode talks about giving your writing to different readers (Ex. his editors, his wife) to get responses and see if readers understand