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

Interviewing Across the Globe

A talk with an Indian journalist

by Marlena Chertock

“Challenges come, face them as they come; that’s the way it is.”

Shaili Chopra is a correspondent for ET Now (Economic Times), a business channel in India. She reports on business stories, corporate behavior, political policy and economics.

Q: What is the state of press freedom in your country?

SC: I think it’s pretty strong in India because it’s one of the world’s largest democracies. There is also a great sense of respect for the press in India. There’s a market balance because there are so many channels in India. It’s a very vibrant market right now in India. There’s a mushrooming of channels because television and especially satellite television has not been extracted to the fullest. We have new channels. We are a country of a billion people and therefore, even if a couple of people are watching a channel, you might still do well. So I think the state of press freedom is pretty strong.

Q: What are the biggest challenges for women journalists in your country?

SC: There are important challenges that women journalists face, and I’m guessing to an extent that male journalists face. Journalists do not have access to safety measures. They risk reporting; a lot of them do not get a chance to take basic safety standards when they are going out in conditions to report. For example, if I was going out to report in an area where there are billions of mines in India, there would be fear around me because [people] are aware that I’m not protected. I was reporting on a seriously dangerous [story], the biggest terror attack ever in India, in 2008. But I was still a business journalist. I happened to be the first woman journalist to report from the Taj terror site. And when I started reporting, I reported for 72 hours nonstop. I was barely 200 yards away from where the actual event was unfolding, not knowing if they could chuck a grenade and it would be over. There is no premium on precaution. …Journalists are inspired by the passion. Just because they want to report and be a journalist, you have to be cautious you are not putting your life in jeopardy. I think there’s no security system in India for journalists. It is worse as a woman because it makes it harder to gain access to places.

Journalism in India is male dominated to an extent, but the ability for men to go into the field is much higher. But women are making strides. Six, seven years ago I would believe there were not too many women reporting. Today there are. They’re not only holding important positions in media organizations, but they are also doing reporting. Women flourish in journalistic things such as business, social, environment, sort of across the board. I don’t think one can say it’s skewed. As a nation it’s skewed, because as a nation we still have a gender bias; there are people who are still not educated. But not necessarily in journalism anymore. Women are really at the forefront. There are no suppressed conditions; that is not something one finds in India. India is a democracy; … it’s just a question of how they make their mark like it would be anywhere else. Most women journalists would like to believe they are equal to men journalists for sure.

On a scale of one to 10 in the world [of women in news rooms] if you look, we’re probably six and a half to seven. If you look at the ratio of women to men in journalism in India it would probably be 50/50. Journalism across the country, I would say 45 percent women, 55 percent men. Print is where a lot of men work. There are women, but print is definitely a male-dominated place. And in regional media and non-English speaking media, it’s a male-dominated space.

Q: How do you and other women journalists face these challenges?

SC: Journalists in India in the moment, I don’t think they have a rulebook to follow. Each one follows their own ways of doing it. Because you just have to be cautious. At every point in time every journalist thinks about the story and the impact of the story instead of the safety. Most journalists do not follow a rulebook, they just take it by themselves as they can, everyone is as cautious as they can be. There is no organization that can help you on the subject. Challenges come, face them as they come; that’s the way it is.

If you are going to a forest kind of region to try and report as best, you could probably take some support like from an NGO or the government, depending on what kind of reporting you’re doing. It’s about finding a way around it with the right people.

I think I can report accurately and honestly and then I can make a difference, so that’s definitely my passion. Passion, and also the fact that I’ve been one of the few women able to report and consistently report, certainly more than 10 years ago. …Economic, social, cultural and behavioral impact makes me go on wanting [to be a journalist].

Eat and be merry, according to this traveling food truck

by Marlena Chertock

I love trying new food.  Middle Eastern, Mexican, El Salvadorean, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Greek, Indian, and other types.  The new tastes, aromas, atmospheres, cultures—it all appeals to me.

Photo from the Speak Foodish blog.

Last Tuesday at my internship with the IWMF in D.C. I was getting ready for lunch.  I remembered the other week a bunch of the women in the office had gone right outside to a food cart.  I went online and found the traveling food cart they had raved about—the Fojol Brothers. This food truck travels around Maryland and D.C. during lunch hours, serving hot Indian lunches to hungry office workers. I checked their website and they were right outside of my office. The Fojol Brothers updates its whereabouts on the website or Twitter. I went out to try my first Fojol Brothers meal.

The truck was easy to spot—the Fojol Brothers travel around in a silver and blue van with speakers on the outside, pumping out fun, funky carnival-style music. This all goes along with their Folosophy: bringing a traveling culinary carnival to the public.

When you eat the Fojol Brothers food, you can be assured that you are eating healthy, well-portioned meals. The Fojol Brothers also use recyclable materials in their trays, utensils, napkins and bottles. And a portion of the proceeds are donated to at-risk youth programs in D.C., according to the Fojol Brothers website. “Children are the future, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that they have a fair and equal opportunity in this world,” it is stated on the Fojol Brothers website. Eating a great meal and helping others out at the same time—that is exactly the kind of food that fills me up fully. I seem to flock to social justice programs.

“I want his mustache!” I heard a girl say as she passed by the truck. I walked up to the first window of the truck, and sure enough, the man staring out and asking for my order was wearing a fake mustache. So was the rest of the staff in the truck—the ones cooking the food, handing out the money, taking the orders, even the girl working in the truck wore a thick, white mustache. The Fojol Brothers served me my food in a very friendly, conversational way. They certainly added some comedy to my food and day.

I ordered the Chicken Curry and Spinach and Cheese—you can order two different or two of the same types of food for $6, a very inexpensive meal. The food was given to me on a Styrofoam tray, with a napkin and a spork dug into the rice. I was surprised by how much food I was given for $6—not only did I get my curry and spinach and cheese, but I also had a side of rice with a spicy sauce drizzled on top.

I took the food over to a bench and sat outside in the sun. The food was incredibly spicy—spicier than I had anticipated. I drank a full bottle of water with my meal. My favorite part of the meal was the spinach and cheese—it was smooth, filling and a perfect balance to the spice of the curry.

The Fojol Brother’s fun and friendly way of handing out food made me want to go back again. And their food is something to rave about—cheap, filling, healthy and a nice change from the normal, boring sandwich. I will keep checking their website on the days I intern to see when they’ll be back. I encourage you to check out where they travel and try some of the food for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

Cultivating Leadership, Honoring Courage, Pioneering Change

A DC non-profit pushes the status of women in the media

by Marlena Chertock

This summer I’m interning with the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) in Washington, DC.

The IWMF was founded in 1990 in order to honor women in the media and support the freedom of the press.  An international conference in Washington, D.C., News in the Nineties, prompted the creation of the IWMF.  Prominent women journalists from 50 countries attended the conference and felt it was necessary to create an organization that would enable communication for women journalists around the world.  Conferences such as the one in 1990 are held every few years to mark anniversaries of the foundation and to bring women journalists together to reflect on and examine the impact of women in the news media.

The IWMF’s mission is to strengthen the role of women in the news media worldwide.  Four strategies are utilized by the foundation in order to achieve this mission: building a strong network, cultivating effective leaders by offering training and classes, pioneering change, and honoring courage.

The IWMF has built a strong network of women and men in the news media through its website, newsletters, pamphlets, conferences, and awards.  The foundation conducts research on women journalists around the world.  This research is compiled on the IWMF website.  Not only does the research help the staff decide which journalists should be honored, but it also serves as a way to check if journalists are in danger and need assistance.  The IWMF’s network has created an international dialogue among women in the media.

Djire Doussou of L’Essor at the 2010 Leadership Institute in Mali. The Leadership Institute was held for African women journalists. Photo from the IWMF website.Djire Doussou of L’Essor at the 2010 Leadership Institute in Mali. The Leadership Institute was held for African women journalists. Photo from the IWMF website.

Various training sessions and classes are offered worldwide by the IWMF.  There are leadership institutes that the IWMF offers for women journalists.  These institutes offer career advice, journalistic skills, networking opportunities, and information to help women move up the career ladder.  The IWMF also grants Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowships to full-time or part-time journalists reporting on human rights or social justice issues.  The fellowship offers selected journalists to work on a nine-month research program held at MIT’s Center for International Studies Massachusetts with access to work with the Boston Globe and New York Times, as well.

The IWMF prides itself on pioneering change.  The training that IWMF offers aides journalists who report on global issues.  Such reporting has the ability to improve lives.  For instance, the IWMF is leading a four-year initiative that is helping African journalists increase coverage of agriculture, rural development, and HIV/AIDS.  This initiative is called the Maisha Yetu project.

The IWMF also honors courageous women journalists from around the world.  The Courage in Journalism and Lifetime Achievement Awards are given out each year to several women journalists who have shown outstanding courage.  The Courage in Journalism Awards recognize heroic women journalists reporting on difficult issues or in dangerous situations.  The Lifetime Achievement Awards are given out to veteran women journalists who have “shattered glass ceilings, elevated the principles of journalistic practice, and (become) worthy role models for young women—and men—in newsrooms around the world,” according to the IWMF website.

This summer, I will be helping them with finding potential Courage in Journalism Award candidates.  I have been researching women journalists around the world that have put their lives in danger for their jobs, freedom, press freedom, human rights and message they feel necessary to spread.

Past Courage in Journalism Award winners can be seen here.

I am impressed by the quality of work the IWMF does.  As I continue on in my educational and journalistic career, I see more and more that I am drawn to work and writing that relates to issues of human rights and social justice.  The IWMF’s mission falls clearly under this category.  The staff is extremely passionate and dedicated to the mission and to ensuring human rights relating to journalism around the world, such as a free press.  Their work causes positive change and brings issues to light.

My supervisor, Samantha White, graduated from Elon University, where I attend now.  It is great to see an alumna in a position I can see myself in in the future.  Though I want to be more involved in writing and journalism at a newspaper or online, it encourages me to keep up my studies and activities and that dream will eventually be realized.

I will be writing about the work I’m doing for the IWMF and any writing they may have me do.  Keep checking back for updates!