Critiquing Inauguration stories

picture-91Photo by Damon Winter/The New York Times

So consensus appeared to be: liked CNN’s live stream. Didn’t care for the Facebook stream. (Or would “hate” be the better word?). When we briefly saw what Current TV was doing you all really didn’t like the Twitter postings on screen. Page made a good point about having an audio stream with the text of the speech so he could listen to the words while reading them. Ben pointed out being antsy at only being able to listen to NPR. He really wanted visuals. And Sarah, Sarah, Rebecca (?) pointed out how when it comes to watching something like this, something so historical, being with people adds an extra, appreciated element. (Apologies if I left out anyone.) Feel free to comment in your own words on what worked, what didn’t work when we watched as a class today. And yes. Your assignment, since we’re talking about audio, is to find a story about the inauguration and write up 2 paragraphs critiquing whether it effectively used natural sound. Please also post the links so we can share. Thanks!!


13 responses to “Critiquing Inauguration stories

  1. NPR did it right. Just above the text of the speech they have the link to the inaugural address audio which pops up in a different window.

  2. Here’s a link to my blog:

    Clicking the lead photo or the link below it will take you to the short audio slideshow. I’m curious to see if it works properly on everyone else’s computers.

    Some things I noticed about multitasking the story:

    It will take a lot of practice to be able to effectively balance time between shooting pictures and gathering audio. I think the more I do this, the better I’ll be able to recognize when it is time to do one or the other.

    However, I think there are times when both would be desirable. For example, when I was doing this short story, the homeless woman’s cell phone rang and she answered the call. I didn’t record that sound because I was in the middle of taking pictures. Ideally I would have liked to have both the sound of her phone ringing and her voice saying, “Hello?” in addition to images of her talking on the phone. I’m just not sure how I could have done that. Maybe I just need to be quicker.

    Also, I think that the shorter time period one has in which to gather audio and pictures, the harder it will be to decide. It seems that if someone had several days or weeks to visit the same location, interact with the same people who were doing the same things over that period of time, then it would be easy. But in a spot news situation that might contain only one or very few peak moments, the journalist is forced to decide.

    I only had 30 minutes at this street corner to gather nat sound, do two quick interviews, and take pictures.

    I divided my time like this: 5 minutes to introduce myself and explain what I was doing, 10 minutes to interview Jamie, 10 minutes to interview Laura and 5 minutes to shoot some pictures. It all felt very rushed and I’m sure it will show in the finished product.

    Before I put it together I decided to limit the piece to under 90 seconds. It was a good guesstimate because it ended up being 81.

    I spent about 30 minutes on the photos in Lightroom, picking which ones I wanted to use and the order they would be shown in. I made slight adjustments to white balance and exposure. Other than that, nothing was changed.

    Audio editing took a little longer (about 2 hours), but with practice could be shortened. I made a really basic log of the interviews, then imported the nat sound plus the interview audio into Audacity. I then trimmed the fat from the interviews and arranged what was said into a sensible order. So on my screen I had three tracks of audio which I edited down further until it was under 90 seconds. Once complete, I exported the whole thing as an mp3.

    Back in Lightroom, I exported the chosen images as a flash gallery.

    Lastly I uploaded the entire folder of both audio and photos to my UW server space. (All students and faculty have this by the way). Then I just linked to it from my wordpress blog.

    The whole process was kind of quick and dirty, but was good practice.

  3. Add this one to the pileup:

    Cool photo of Mr. O today.

  4. Haha, yes, Rebecca! 🙂 Good job!

  5. I listened to a portion of NPR’s “Inauguration Day Wrap-Up,” which chronicled the events of the day by interviewing a few people who were attending, along with playing portions of the speeches that were made. The short contributions from attendees included interesting facts about where they were from and why they were there. The first natural sound I heard was that of the band who played at the opening of the ceremony.

    The most dramatic portions of the speeches were played, beginning with pastor Rick Warren. The host described each of the speakers – what they were wearing and their demeanor. The story painted a clear picture of the events and, to me, was comparable to watching a live broadcast, while the element of seeing the enormousness of the crowd was missing.

    The show captured a personal element with the individual interviews of attendees and natural sound was used wisely to create a visual for the listener. The chronological delivery of the events would have been helpful to one who hadn’t had the chance to watch the day unfold, or one who wanted a recap of the events but didn’t care to watch the whole program again.

    I didn’t listen to the full hour but the portion I heard was excellent! Here is the link

    It’s on the right side of the page.

  6. I, like Sasha, listened to NPR’s “Inauguration Day Wrap-Up.” It took awhile before they used natural sound in the story. The sound of the Marine Corps Band worked to illustrate the sort of ceremony it was. I think they could have added some crowd sounds before that, although you could hear the crowd faintly behind the first few interviews of spectators.

    Of course, later, during the speeches, you can hear the applause and cheering of the crowd which gives us a sense of the excitement at the event.

  7. A 105-year-old witness to history

    This story is short, but sweet!

    The piece did not have a lot of natural sound–you could hear some background noise of a road, and a little bit of people talking.

    The focus was definitely on the 105-year-old, Ella Mae Johnson, who came from Cleveland with her nurse. The reporter began by describing Ella Mae, her usual stately silver hair and distinguished outfits. At the inauguration however, Ella Mae was zipped up in a blue, squishy sleeping bag.

    You can hear Ella Mae and her nurse laughing as Ella Mae is zipped in. The piece also includes the people who stopped to comment on Ella Mae’s unusual outfit.

    Although there is not a lot of natural sound, the piece is descriptive enough so that it is easy to imagine a little old lady in a giant sleeping bag!

    National Mall no room for claustrophobes (NPR)

    This story is also short, just a quick bit about the immense crowds at the Mall and quotes from people there.

    The best background noise to this piece was music that accompanied someone that was dancing to keep warm as he awaited President Obama. The muted music and comments of spectators made that moment very real.

  8. I listened to NPR’s “Inauguration Day Wrap-Up” as well. Opening with the military band set a reverent and patriotic tone for the piece; it was a very calm way to interpret an exciting event, and I agree with Page that more crowd cheers and applause earlier would have helped capture the mood of the crowd. We get a little of the excitement showing through at the end of Obama being sworn in, but I felt the tone had already been set.

    I did like the interviews with attendees, the musical piece sung by Franklin and the portions of Obama’s speech that were selected. All captured the event well; though, like we discussed in class, it’s hard to replicate watching a broadcast, the selections all were effective at both relaying and transporting. More natural sounds would have been helpful at creating the setting, but I can’t think of any that could be included that would have added significantly to the news content.

  9. The only stuff I could find besides NPR was the radio stations that aired stuff before or after the inauguration. I listened to bits and pieces of Kirby on KVI 570 AM on the radio today which aired before the inauguration and during. And then a little bit of the one from Wednesday as well. The one on the day of the inauguration started with the singing of the national anthem. Other then that there is not any natural sound besides phone interviews (which there are numbers of) amongst the show. The two I listened two on the inaugural address started with the national anthem. It makes me curious what his show usually starts with. {Click the listen button on the second story down} or

    Other then that I couldn’t find any audio clips other then NPR’s or just simply audio clips of the actual inauguration. This place had a TON of clips of the actually inauguration:

  10. I checked out this audio story about people travelling from all over America and even out of American to be part of this historic event.

    There was natural sound of the observing crowd laid under the interview sound bites, and it got louder and more integrated with the interviews as the pace (and emotions) built up. This supported the story pretty well as you could hear the excitement of the crowd as the story moved along, and the interviewees also became more hyped up in their responses.

    This was not a story about the event, but a substory about the crowd watching the event, and their feelings about it. It did not have any of the historic speech given by Obama, nor did it have running commentary of the events that took place. Putting that into consideration, it could have been any event with a huge crowd. I kind of wished I heard Obama speaking in the background or the parade announcer say something significant, just to set the story instantly in context. There was some background sound of someone’s voice being amplified, but the low volume and lack of clarity made it impossible to detect any hint of familiarity. Fortunately the event was mentioned in many of the interviews, and so I could still recognize the context.


    I decided to check out what sort of coverage FOX News was giving to the inauguration just to see if it was fair and unbiased. One of the stories was about a 10-year-old boy named Damon Weaver who has interviewed numerous celebrities about the election, including Joe Biden, Oprah Winfrey and Samuel L. Jackson. While not strictly audio, I thought it was glaringly obvious that the clip was missing a crucial element: soundbites from the kid’s actual interview. I had previously heard a story on NPR ( about him. It was proof that a radio story can be more powerful than a television story. I believe this is largely because the interviewer(s) on NPR was able to ask more questions in a short period of time, getting more information from the interviewee. Also, unlike on FOX, the NPR interviewer was able to capture the humor in the situation: a 10-year-old’s hopes of interviewing the President. It was humorous without belittling him.

    However, and this might be due to time constraints, neither story had any soundbites of his interviews with the celebrities he mentioned. I think if it were possible, this would have improved the stories 10 fold. That is the appeal of the entire story. but they both fell flat in this regard. Some sound that would have been a natural fit for this story would have been the sound of children or laughter, as this is a humorous, lighthearted piece.

    I liked this commentary of a slideshow, a format I had not previously seen in online media:
    I, like many, wanted to see what Michelle Obama would be wearing for the ball. This slideshow allows an expert to discuss the details that would otherwise go unnoticed.

  12. For this assignment I decided to listen to the latest episode of Full Comment, the National Post’s weekly podcast. In the episode, the National Post Editorial Board discussed how Obama’s election will affect Canadian politics. While the podcast discussed the inauguration, and what Obama accomplished on his first day in office, unfortunately I did not find any natural sound during the discussion.

    In my opinion the podcast could have strongly benefited from the use of music or crowd noise from the inauguration for the initial discussion. During the portion talking about Canadian politics, Obama and environmental issues, natural sound could also have been used. As an issue described by one of the editors as the “biggest public policy shift” by the new Obama administration, natural sound (such as the sound of the bell when the stock market opens)could have added to the final discussion on the economy as well.

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