NPR chooses audio slideshows to create compelling stories for the Web


On Wednesday, Sept. 12, Keith W. Jenkins, the supervising senior producer for multimedia at National Public Radio, will teach a Poynter Institute Webinar on how to create powerful stories with Soundslides.

Jenkins’ one-hour online Webinar is part of the Poynter Institute series “Essential Skills for the Digital Journalist.” The class will teach more than the basics of Soundslides; it will enter the next level of audio slideshow production by showing students how to stay focused on the story narrative while creating the simple layers of photos and sound. (For those who can’t watch the Webinar live, the video will be archived for downloading to view anytime later. Check out thePoynter Institute course.) We reached Jenkins in his Washington, D.C. office this week to get his take on Soundslides.

Why Soundslides?

Jenkins also teaches the audio slideshow software to his multimedia students at Georgetown University. Soundslides is easy to learn and use, he says, and yet “you can still create a pretty nuanced presentation.”

NPR’s sweet spot

“At NPR we do a fair amount of video,” Jenkins says, “but our sweet spot has been found in the audio slideshow range.”

There are three reasons for this:

  1. “We have such great audio storytellers here, and it’s a huge part of our news tradition,” Jenkins says. “Building on that strength made more sense than trying to create a very different competency by shooting video. Whether it’s right or wrong, a lot of folks feel that the emphasis in video tends to be more on the visuals and less on the storytelling. We work with the story first, and complement it with great visuals.”
  2. Audio slideshows allow more flexible reporting. “With a video camera you are getting locked into getting sound and picture at the same time,” Jenkins says. When an audio slideshow is the final product, reporters have a choice of capturing audio recordings and visual images separately. “It liberated us tremendously from having to gather sound and images at the same time.”
  3. And then there’s speed. “We have a small staff,” Jenkins says. “In the news division there are two videographers and two full-time Web multimedia producers. Doing audio with photographs allowed us to move a lot faster.” Video requires more time in post production. “The choice was between doing a lot well and being able to move the needle significantly on NPR’s Web presence, or doing a few great (video) productions, but really not having an overall impact on the Website, except occasionally.”

“For medium-sized to smaller organizations who don’t have the time, or if they’re definitely sticking closely to their slideshow roots, Soundslides is a pretty impressive product delivering a lot of bang for the buck,” Jenkins says. “For people who are just starting out or have operations with a small budget, a Website or a blog, this is a really great way to create a good product. There isn’t anything else out there that can do what Soundslides can do.”

Poynter Institute webinar

Check out the Poynter Institute Webinar. (It costs $29.95.) The Poynter Institute is one of the leading schools for journalism. It has an extensive series of online courses for people interested in all aspects and levels of journalism.

Keith Jenkins’ audio slideshow pick

This NPR Soundslides production achieves in beauty and drama what no video could ever do. It’s about how China selects and trains its future Olympians. What do you think? Please comment below.


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