Do a ‘Sound Edit’

This is a simple but powerful technique to help you tell better stories. Use it after all facts and audio are gathered for a feature, but before writing the script.

  1. After gathering all audio for the feature, isolate or “pull” your preferred actualities.
  2. Using your audio editing software, arrange the bites in the sequence you plan to use them in the story.
  3. When you are ready, invite your editor to sit with you to hear this “audio skeleton” of the feature.
  4. Talking out loud to the editor, tell the editor your story while playing back the cuts from your computer. In other words, say generally what the anchor introduction would be, how you would set up the first bite, make a transition, and so on until you tell how the piece ends.
  5. Try not to interrupt the story for a conversation with the editor until after you’ve gone through the entire series of audio clips.

Several helpful things are accomplished by this exercise:

  • The power of the sound itself is laid bare. We better respect the sound’s tendency to drive the story.
  • It becomes instantly clear if the bites are in their “natural order.” Every story has a certain arc to it and the bites must support that.
  • Likewise, it will become eminently clear if you are lacking an essential voice.
  • Finally, if all is on track with the story, the reporter has now carried out a dress rehearsal for the actual writing of the script — writing that will approximate the conversational presentation just concluded.

Should the sound edit reveal a problem with the story, both the reporter and editor are in a much better position to make adjustments than if the reporter had already invested significant time in writing a script.

It should be said that this technique is not meant to replace the script edit. That should always happen prior to producing the final story.