Choices students made for Blog Post 1

Sometimes I am surprised to see how students dealt with an assignment. I had some surprises when grading the first blog post assignment for this course (Blog post 1: Analyze a “beyond radio” story).

The phrase “beyond radio” refers to a chapter that students were supposed to read in the book Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production. The chapter describes many things that NPR is able to do on its website to enhance the stories that are broadcast on radio.

A number of students selected stories that had NONE of these enhancements, other than perhaps one photo or other image added to the Web story.

How does that make sense? When the assignment says, in part: “discuss the ‘beyond radio’ aspects of this story on the website,” it would make the most sense to choose a story that had some of those aspects.

Two examples (these are good choices):

(1) Can We Learn to Forget Our Memories?

Unusually, this story includes five links within the text, and all of the links lead to websites outside These links add information to the story.

The most interesting “beyond radio” thing about this story, though, is that the transcript of the radio story is quite different from the text story. Most students found that the NPR text story was usually very similar to the audio from the radio broadcast. (Most text stories on the NPR site do have a complete transcript of the audio.)

Comparison of the audio, the transcript, and the text story in this case provide very good lessons about the best way to tell a story on different platforms. One important element is the nat sound included in the audio. In this case, that nat sound is NOT “sound effects” (such as hammers, car engines, seagulls at the beach, etc.) but instead sound captured on site at the 2012 USA Memory Championship, including groans and applause from the audience. The nat sound brings the audio story to life.

The text story is structured much differently and adds a lot of new information not found in the audio story.

(2) Mekong Flows Along Troubled Myanmar’s East

This story is one of five in a series broadcast in 2010, when NPR’s Southeast Asia correspondent Michael Sullivan and freelance photojournalist Christopher Brown traveled along the Mekong River from the Tibetan plateau in China to the giant delta in southern Vietnam. In class, I showed the interactive feature accompanying this story. Outstanding “beyond radio” aspects of this story include the 9-image photo slideshow at the top of the story page, a map, and the interactive itself, which is linked to an image embedded in the story text.

Photos. And radio. That’s “beyond radio.”

Something else you can’t do on radio: The other four stories in this series are linked to this one.