Audio Story Guide

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Audio Story Guide

This guide is specifically designed to help with the construction of journalistic audio stories. However, two latter sections (audio, editing) pertain to the technical aspects of audio pieces in general and might be useful for non-journalists.

  • Does the story have one of the traditional news values? Your story should have at least one value from the following list, but the best stories usually have multiple values: timeliness, proximity, relevance, prominence, unusualness, conflict, or human interest. _________

  • Is the story conceptually relevant? Do not do stories that are too obvious, such as exercise being good for you. People already know that. If you do pursue a story in an area of common interest like this, be sure to find a very specific new angle (example: a new type of exercise or equipment that’s getting remarkable results and being implemented by campus athletics programs). _________

  • Does the story consist of original reporting? Do not do a story in which a substantial portion comes from a preexisting report. Similarly, do not do brochure-style writing to promote awareness of something.  If much of the useful information is available on the Internet or some other place on campus, it's not your job to make everyone aware of it as if you're advertising for an organization.  The audience should get something original from your report that they couldn't get anywhere else. _________
  • Is the story on a past event? Future stories can easily turn into PR, so avoid them unless it serves a useful purpose. If there is a really newsworthy future event, such as an anticipated campus visit by a prominent public figure or important policy decisions at upcoming meetings, that’s fine. _________


  • Do you have a minimum of 3 (for traditional stories) human sources? You have to get out there and talk to people. A good reporter is sensitive to the environment and can pick up useful information by being in someone's presence, seeing their expressions, noticing body language, hearing vocal inflections, etc. Also, the physical environment of the interview location may give you useful information. _________

  • Is it clear in your story how each of the sources is relevant? Remember, we do not want random sources. _________

  • Have you diversified your sources? Be sure to get interviews with different types of people. For example, if all your sources are from the same organization, that’s inadequate for thoroughly and fairly exploring the story. Another common mistake is to just get all students. While students can provide a valuable voice on topics, you should make every effort to interview people in positions of expertise or specialized knowledge. _________

  • Are your sources appropriately attributed? For people, it should be their full name on first reference, and only their last name on subsequent references. For non-human sources such as polls or research studies, you should give the name of the organization and date. _________

  • Does your story have adequate use of non-human sources, if necessary? Documents, either in print or electronic form, are used to support your stated facts. You must cite them in your story when included. This will help listeners do further research on the topics in your story if they’re interested. _________

  • Are your sources appropriate? No conflict of interest, please! _________

  • Does it clearly convey what the story is about? Can the reader glance at the headline and tell what the story is about, or is it too confusing? _________

  • Is it interesting? Does it grab the readers’ attention? _________

  • Does it have a subject and verb? _________

  • Is it in present tense? _________

  • Is it in AP style? _________

  • Have you consulted our headline guide to make it better? _________


  • Do the first 10 seconds of the audio compel continued listening? _________


  • Does the structure make sense and flow smoothly? Avoid jumping around from topic to topic since that tends to confuse the listener. _________

  • Are the sentences relatively short? A sentence that’s too long and winding, with multiple clauses, may be quite confusing to listeners. _________

  • Have you avoided redundancies after an idea is initially mentioned? Don’t repeat something. _________

  • Do you use effective transitions in your script? _________

  • Is the story free of irrelevant information? Just because you have some information doesn’t mean all of it needs to go into a story. You have to carefully decide what details make it into the story. _________

  • Does the story conclude effectively? _________

  • Does the writing (for your voiced material) paint a vivid picture? Does it take the readers right into the story, as if they were there at the scenes that you’re covering? Use descriptive, multi-sensory language to capture the essence of a story and put the listener in a “dream” where they experience the story rather than just hear it (especially for feature-style stories). However, keep the language tight, focusing on the most important details, rather than becoming overly descriptive or wordy. _________
  • For news stories, does the story avoid opinion statements? Do not editorialize in any story, including headlines. Save your views and passion for opinion columns, editorials, and reviews of things like books and movies. _________

  • Have you avoided hyperbolic language such as "always," "never," and "ever?"  It's fine if this is inside quoted text, but it shouldn't come from you. Your task is to be a level-headed journalist. _________

  • Have you avoided redundancy in wording? Check your script to see if you’re using the same words over and over again. Sometimes, you might even discover that you’re used a particular word more than once in the same sentence. This can be irritating to the listener, so be sure to diversify your word choice. _________

  • Is the script free of grammatical errors? _________

  • Does the script follow AP style or other established organizational rules? _________


  • Is the sound clear and free of distortion, ambient noise interference, etc.?


  • Is it clear what the sound actually is? _________

  • Are your voiceovers (if any) annunciated clearly? _________

  • Are the natural sounds interesting and relevant? _________

  • Is the music (if any) appropriate/effective? _________

  • Are sound levels appropriate? _________


  • Is the pacing of the story optimal? _________

  • Are the transitions smooth? _________

  • Is the editing creative or otherwise interesting? _________

Other important considerations:

Law, Ethics & Taste

  • Consult the legal guide in the AP stylebook for quick answers on common matters. If you can’t find an answer or need clarification, please consult with me. _________

  • Check all major facts to avoid libeling anyone. _________
  • Check the tone of your language as well as the context in which descriptions are presented to make sure you accurately represent someone or something. Even if all the facts are technically correct, it’s possible to present unfair or inaccurate representations if you don’t consciously go over the tone and context of your work, including any associated headlines, captions, images, etc. _________

  • Is the work in good taste? Please take your audience into consideration. Some things that would be perfectly fine in other communities may be considered offensive here. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid controversy. It just means that you have to be very thoughtful when approaching sensitive topics. Have a good reason for your choices in reporting and writing. If there are organizational policies on something, such as the use of profanity, stick to it. _________

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