• gdburwell

What I've learned from making a podcast for the first time

Updated: Jan 22

The cover art for my school newspaper's new podcast, the TidePod, made by Valerie Wang

This year, I got one of the best (and most challenging) journalism opportunities I've ever had. Staff from my high school's newspaper had decided to start a podcast, playfully named "The TidePod." The Arts section editors were looking for someone to become the editor in charge of this new development. I didn't apply when I first saw the application, only because I had no experience with podcasts or broadcast journalism at all, but the thought of getting involved stayed in the back of my mind for a while. One of my editors from the Arts section asked me if I would consider applying because she thought I would be a good fit since I'd already done so many articles and was familiar with the section. I applied, and got the position!

Now, let me tell you, becoming an editor of ANY section of a newspaper - whether it be a school paper or the Washington Post - is stressful. You have to step into a leadership role that you know little about (hopefully, if you're an editor at the Washington Post, you know more than a little!) Taking on this role was hard for me, not because I didn't feel like I could be a leader, but because I truly didn't know much about broadcast journalism. Of course, I'd listened to podcasts and seen our school's television production, RMBC, but I'd never been directly involved and I didn't dedicate that much time to the podcasting genre.

Learning how to upload the podcast online, post on the Tide's website and social media was one thing, but that was a fairly easy task after some practice. The hardest part about being the TidePod editor was learning the ins and outs of communication in a way that I hadn't been exposed to before. When you're in charge of broadcast production, not only do you have to do all of the things you'd do when writing an article, but those tasks are amplified even more, especially for podcasts. Take conducting an interview, for example. You don't have the ability to select the best quotes and frame them with your writing. You have to find a way to convey the essence of the interview without putting it in text. Making sure the conversation between the interviewer and interviewee is genuine and understandable is probably the most important, and it shows when you hear a good podcast. Since the audience can't see the people being recorded in person, it's important to make sure everyone articulates fully, and that the discussion flows.

Something that helped me a lot was attending the Columbia Scholastic Press Association spring convention (the CSPA) at Columbia University. It was only a few days long, but there were workshops there that taught me so much about the details of different types of journalism, including podcasts, that I might not have learned in my journalism class. I took this knowledge back to school with me, and it really helped me when going through the process of coming up with and making another TidePod episode.

Of course, there are struggles and slumps. Making sure the members of the podcast are motivated and continue to do interviews for episodes that they find hard is always challenging, and there are some technical difficulties too, but is it really a good podcast if there aren't any? The TidePod has already published five episodes in its first season and is working on more in season two, which I think is a great accomplishment for a first-time podcast, but I am eager and ready to amp up the journalism this coming school year.

One of the big takeaways I've learned from this experience, aside from everything else, is that I can't do it alone. Multitasking can work sometimes, but if you don't have someone - or a team of people - to help reach out to interviewees, conduct interviews, edit the recordings, and come up with new ideas, the whole process is a struggle. I learned that I need to rely on others to help because one person can't do it all! If it wasn't for the help of my amazing editors, journalism teacher, and dedicated members of the podcast team, I don't think the TidePod would be where it is now.

You can read about and listen to the TidePod here.


©2019 by Grace Burwell.