Posted tagged ‘audacity’

More experimentation with Google Voice

January 20, 2011

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.

Learning how to create podcasts

October 31, 2010

Reporter Gerald LaVaute edits audio for a podcast.

My ideaLab report for October is dedicated to podcasting, which I and my staff have learned to do with instruction from Eastern Michigan University College of Education assistant professor Michael McVey. The Saline resident joined me Oct. 20 at Marble Park Cemetery in Milan, where we gathered audio clips at a Trick-or-Treat Tour put on by the historical society. Members of the group, dressed in period clothing, shared first-person stories of some of the local leaders and people of significance buried there.

While we used McVey’s fancy audio recorder to gather the audio, it can be done with the iPhone, as well, using “utilities” and “voice memos.” The sound quality won’t be as clear, but it will work. The phone is actually quite functional because you can also shoot photos for a slide show to accompany the podcast, as well as video to complement your written piece.

On Oct. 28, I invited my staff over to my home for podcast training. Everyone either brought a laptop or used a couple that I provided. First they had to download free software at audacity.sourceforge.net. Each reporter was given a clip, such as local historian Martha Churchill playing the role of the wife of Milan’s first village president, Nathan C. Putnam, and Lance Smith portraying the town’s late police chief and historian, Warren Hale.

The training went well, as McVey gave individual attention to each reporter, helping them eliminate ambient noise and edit the clips down to under three minutes. They were then converted from .wav files to mp3 using audacity editing software. I will finish the project by embedding the mp3 files and photos in a story and uploading it to our website using our content management system, which allows one to embed mp3s under the “media” section, where photos are uploaded.

Eastern Michigan University professor Michael McVey helps reporter Jodie Mason edit audio for a podcast.

With that training under our belts, November will see us move on to a more complicated but socially and historically significant project as McVey and I work with the Saline Area Historical Society to record the histories of 10 local historic sites and share the stories behind them. I will shoot current-day photos and the historical society will give us older photos to use as part of a slide show to accompany the audio. My goal is to have this project completed no later than spring. I’d like to have a drop-down menu on our website or a button that can be clicked on, where the podcasts can live forever. After Saline, I’d like to add 10 historically significant sites in Milan, Chelsea, Dexter, Manchester, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Belleville, which are all part of our coverage area, collected by the reporters covering each community.

Here’s my official ideaLab report for October:

Goal: The goal of this month’s project was to explore podcasting and incorporate it into our news gathering tool belt. I’d like to see our reporters either use audio recording equipment or the ideaLab iPhone to gather audio to incorporate with their news stories online, just as they would gather video or photos to accompany their articles. Podcasting can also stand on its own or may be incorporated in a photo slide show.

Allies: My ally on this project, hands down, was professor Michael McVey. He has been very generous with his time, meeting me several times at a coffee shop to go over the details and logistics, and helping to brainstorm the entire project. To learn more about podcasting, check out his podcast on podcasting called “The Considerate Podcast,” which can be downloaded from iTunesU. He also offers tips on the College of Education’s website.

Obstacles: Obstacles would be resources. We don’t have any audio recording equipment, but we do have the ideaLab iPhone until next summer. I plan to explore the possibility of purchasing at least one digital recorder for staff to use.

Training Needed: We had our initial training with McVey and can do some follow up with him, if necessary, but the audacity software appears to be easy to figure out and you can download a manual.

Resources Needed: Resources needed would be a quality audio recorder with a microphone and head set with microphone for editing.

Accomplishments: The accomplishment is the training we received and using viable audio that we can incorporate online. The podcasting project from the graveyard tour, once I get in posted online, will be a nice accomplishment, with the crown jewel being a historic walking tour podcast series that we create for each community.

What you’ve taught: With the help of professor Michael McVey, we’ve taught reporters how to edit audio and convert it into mp3 files for upload on our website to accompany articles or photo slide shows.

What you’ve learned: I’ve learned how to gather audio on a recorder and the iPhone, edit it using free software from audacity.sourceforge.net, and upload it to our website.

Metrics: We won’t have metrics until I get the audio online and see what the response is from readers. Of course, we will promote it on social networking sites and in print.

Narrative: My narrative is above.