Podcasting Advice from Spencer Critchley

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Spencer Critchley has written and broadcasted for National Public Radio and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Spencer Critchley is an award-winning producer and composer who has worked on Web content for David Bowie, Moby, Britney Spears and Yahoo!. He was also the news director at KUSP FM in Santa Cruz, where he taught a course on radio news production. For my article 'The Art of Podcasting' in the December 2005 Electronic Musician, I asked him what made a compelling sonic story. —David Battino

“I think the most important thing is a strong focus-an angle,” he replied. “The focus is a simple, active, emotionally compelling statement of what this story is about and why it matters to people. 'Water pollution' is not a good focus. But, 'When you wash your car, you're sending toxic chemicals into Monterey Bay,' is.”

Another skill podcasters can learn from radio is how to write for the ear rather than the eye, Critchley says. “There's a lot to unlearn about writing long, multi-clause, abstract sentences like we're taught in school,” he explains. “Instead, radio writers write short, active-voice sentences using concrete nouns, punchy verbs, and very few adjectives or adverbs.”

When asked to identify some national radio shows that make especially good use of music or sound effects, Critchley listed This American Life, The Kitchen Sisters, and American Mavericks. He notes, “You can also find examples of excellent TV and radio work at the Peabody Awards site.”