It has been a rough couple of months as I’ve had to replace four reporters. The process of soliciting resumes, reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates, checking references and making the offer is very time consuming. Combine that with vacation time for myself and covering for staff while they were off, as well as short deadlines and days off with the holidays, and I am behind in what I’d like to do in the ideaLab. With that said, I’ve renewed some of my earlier experimentation with Google Voice.
A podcasting project in cooperation with the Saline Area Historical Society is in the works. I am just waiting on scripts to be written based on research by the historical society on 10 historic places in Saline. I’ve been told those should be ready by mid-February, and then we will meet with my ideaLabHeritage citizen volunteer, Eastern Michigan University professor Michael McVey, to record the oral histories. The plan is to edit the audio using the free software Audacity and couple the audio file with a photo slide show of old and new photographs of the historic sites.
This project has me thinking of a simpler way for us to produce audio, and share more stories and information. I think Google Voice can accomplish this. For example, we could invite area senior citizens and residents at retirement homes to call our Google Voice number and record their stories. This could be based on anniversaries of historic events, Memorial Day or other themes. I could put together a questionnaire and they simply read the questions and then answer. They have a three-minute window to do this.
Beyond recording local history, we could do this to produce Q&A’s to complement stories online. For example, maybe we have produced a feature story on a local artist. The story is online with a photograph and a video interview of the artist demonstrating her craft, and then there is an audio clip of her answering questions about who is the most influential person in her life, the name of the artist she most admires, the tool she couldn’t do without, her favorite artistic medium, etc.
Since I’ve been working out at the health club every day for the last five months, I’ve noticed some people listening to their iPods and reading the newspaper while on the treadmill or stationary bike. I’ve also brought the iPad for my workouts and seen others using them to listen to music, check their Facebook news feed and read the morning headlines. This got me to thinking about incorporating an audio function on every story for people who would rather listen to their news than try to read it in print or on the iPad. So, I called our Google Voice number and read a story, then downloaded the MP3 file and uploaded it with the story online. I also had our 14-year-old movie reviewer do the same for his review of “I love you Phillip Morris.” Readers now have the option to click the audio player leading the story and listen, rather than read it. Check it out.
Those are my efforts for the month and I hope to step it up more. The next step, however, is to train the new staff on everything I’ve learned in the last five months, from iPadio.com to editing audio files to Google Voice and other efforts.