Intro to Audio Reporting for Journalism Students

Tips for Recording Audio with Your Smartphone

Easy Voice Recorder (Android) – Free or $3.99
This simple app records WAVE and .mp4 files. You can share and manage your recordings and access files via your device’s external storage.

soundcloudjpgSoundcloud – (Android and iPhone) – Free
The app lets you record interviews and upload to your Soundcloud account or share to Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. Soundcloud is also the best way to embed audio to a WordPress.com account. NOTE: If you want to edit your audio, this app will not let you transfer clips to your computer. You need to record them some other way and then upload them via the Soundcloud.com website.)

voice+memo

Voice Memo (iPhone) – Free
The built-in iPhone Voice Memo utility does a decent job of recording audio. It features a simple sound level display and the ability to label, trim and email sound clips.
To access, go to Utilities>Voice Memo

Compare the sound of a Voice Memo to an Olympus WS110 audio recorder:

Tips:

  • Make sure your battery is fully charged.
  • Note that if you are not using headphones (and many smartphone audio apps won’t let you listen while you record), you have no way of hearing the quality of the audio you are recording. So do a quick trial first. And check your levels.
  • Find a quiet place for interviews. Phones pick up a lot of background noise. If outside, move out of wind.
  • Cell phones can overheat on hot days. Be careful in direct sunlight.
  • Practice with your phone and apps before you go out to interview.
  • Test the quality of your phone in different situations: inside, outside, and at various distances from your subject.

Step-by-Step:

airplanemode

Turn your phone to Airplane Mode so your audio won’t be interrupted by calls or texts.
To turn it on, go to Settings>Airplane Mode

Locate your phone’s microphone.
For example, on the iPhone, the grill on the left is the microphone. The one on the right is a speaker used to play music.

Test your phone before you begin interview. Check your levels.
Press record. Make sure it is recording and you can see the meter registering sounds. Move your device closer to subject until you are at correct levels.

Place phone about four inches (or the width of a fist) from person’s mouth. 
If it’s further away, you won’t get quality sound. Sitting the phone a table is fine if you are writing a story and want to transcribe quotes, but it won’t produce audio worth hearing. Don’t hand your phone over the person you are interviewing.

Keep your hand steady.
Fiddling with your phone may be audible on your recording.

Get and ID.
Have source say name, age, hometown, occupation. Have them spell their name.

Be silent when source is speaking.
Don’t say “uh huh,” laugh, or react audibly. Maintain eye contact. Give nonverbal cues.

Record multiple files or use add markers.
If you have a break in an interview, stop and then create a new file. It makes it easier to find good quotes later. Some apps allow you to add markers while recording so you can identify key places in your interview.

Record 30 seconds of room tone.
Press record and let your phone capture the sound of the room. This can come in handy later when you edit and want to fill in gaps.

Record natural sound effects from location.
Capturing the natural sounds of a location – eggs frying in a kitchen, dogs barking in a yard, a dentist drilling teeth – can make your audio stories more vivid. Label each one after you record it.

When you are finished, make sure you have a saved audio file.
After you hit stop, don’t shut off your phone and walk away. Look at the file. Make sure it recorded and saved. Play some of it back so you can hear it. Then name it so you can find it later.

If you want to share audio directly from your phone…
With the Soundcloud app, you can upload raw audio clips to your account or share them on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. (Note: It won’t let you upload audio clips from other applications on your phone.)

If you want to edit your audio, transfer audio files from your phone to your computer to edit…
If you want to edit audio, you’ll want to transfer your files to your computer and edit it in a sound editing program.

For small files, you can often email them to yourself. Use the Share>Email option.

With many Android phones you can plug it into a USB and then drag and drop audio files.

iPhones require that you sync with iTunes in order to download audio. (WARNING: Don’t do not synch your iPhone to a university iTunes account. This can erase your phone.)

Some apps, like the VC Audio Pro allow you to transfer files from a iPhone to a computer via a WiFi connection.

Other Audio Reporting Resources:

On Interviewing – Alex Blumberg, Transom.org
Audio 101: A quick and dirty guide to recording your story, Common Language Project
Gathering Audio by Brian Storm, MediaStorm.com

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About Nick DiUlio

My name is Nick DiUlio, a freelance writer and editor from New Jersey. I have been passionate about the craft of writing since I was old enough to spell, and this love has led to a successful career in journalism and creative nonfiction. As a freelancer, I have covered a wide range of topics and personalities, as my published work has focused on everything from profiles of artists and important political figures to hard-news stories with both national and local appeal; from restaurant and beverage reviews to tips on fashion and finance; from health and wellness pieces to celebrity Q&A’s. My work has appeared in several local, regional and national publications—both in print and online—including Philadelphia Magazine, Slate.com, Miller-McCune, New Jersey Monthly, Eating Well, and Delaware Today. Additionally, I am the South Jersey Bureau Chief for New Jersey Monthly and an adjunct journalism professor at Rowan University. To be sure, the broadness of my body of work seems only to be matched by my boundless interest in almost every subject imaginable (except Warren Zevon). Check out some of my most recently published work here.
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