My introduction to audio journalism

  • August 1, 2019

By Joe McQueen

My interest in public radio came during my first semester at Stony Brook, in the fall of 2018, when I started listening to NPR on a daily basis. I started to really like it, and I wanted to learn more about the industry.

It was during January break when I contacted Terry Sheridan, whom I remembered from News Literacy, and I asked him how I could get started in audio journalism. He told me about joining Stony Brook’s campus radio station, WUSB, and then taking JRN 393, Audio Journalism, which he teaches. I joined WUSB in the Spring 2019 semester to start gaining experience, planning to take JRN 393 in the fall.

After meeting with a WSHU representative at the School of Journalism’s internship fair later that spring, I got an email from Terry saying he wanted to possibly take me on as an intern this summer or fall. I was so excited to hear that. I met with Terry in person at the bureau, and he offered me a summer internship on the spot.

Although it may sound a little unorthodox that I did this internship before taking JRN 393, I had prior journalism experience from my last college, where I primarily did primarily video production, and experience working for campus media both there and at Stony Brook, where I’ve covered news for The Statesman.

When I started my internship in late May, I knew absolutely nothing about audio journalism. I knew how to use Adobe Audition, but I didn’t know anything about writing for radio, how to use a Marantz recorder or how to structure stories for radio. I especially knew nothing about having a radio voice.

That was my biggest struggle. Terry and News Editor (and School of Journalism alum) JD Allen worked with me every day on perfecting my voice. Honestly, it was pretty frustrating at times because I was always having the feeling of what am I doing wrong this time? Even when I felt I was sounding good, JD would tell me that I was still doing something wrong. My voice would go up and down, and I would pop my P’s. JD and Terry always reminded me of just sounding natural, like you’re having a conversation with someone and you’re telling them the news. Looking back now, I see how artificial I sounded in the beginning.

JD always reminded me to let my voice drop at the end of a line and never to go high. Another part that I struggled with for a while was my tendency to swallow words. Certain words would be difficult for me to pronounce without sounding odd. Fixing that took time. As my internship went on, I gradually began to sound more natural, and my radio voice significantly improved. I still made a few slip-ups here and there, but my voice isn’t much of an issue like it was early on.

Since my internship has officially come to an end, I have to say that this was one of the best experiences I have had during my time as a college student. I learned so much in a period of two months. I know exactly what to do when I walk into the station. I loved the fact that it wasn’t like a typical internship when you are either just shadowing people or doing simple tasks. WSHU puts you to work and treats you like you’re one of the staff reporters. Whether it was going out to cover press conferences or doing phone interviews with sources for wraps or superspots, you do it all by yourself. I covered a variety of topics–local politics, the environment, business–and even produced my own feature story. I learned the job much faster and much more effectively by doing these tasks on my own.

I’d like to give a special thanks to Terry Sheridan for giving me this opportunity and the valuable experience that will help me with my career. I’d like to thank JD Allen for sitting down with me most days and working with me on improving my stories. What he taught me has made me much more prepared for a career in journalism. I’d also like to thank Jay Shah for helping me out when I needed it. He taught me how to cover press conferences, always reminded me on gathering natural sound and room tone and how important those are to your stories. He also gave me good career advice and valuable information on the industry.

This internship has given me much more of an interest in audio journalism and has made me want to get into public radio as a career.