Voices from the crowd: Bringing user-generated audio into the newsroom

As media outlets constantly seek new ways to involve their audiences, getting readers and listeners to contribute crowdsourced audio into radio news can pose a worthwhile challenge, according to panelists at the ONA 2013 Conference.

Matt Berger, the digital director at American Public Media’s Marketplace, said radio should adapt techniques of other media in encouraging interactivity with audiences.

“In radio, we’re trying to go from one-way communication to two-way communication, and we’re always looking for tools to do that,” said Berger, who appeared on a panel called “Audio Everywhere: Radio in the Digital Age.”

Crowdsourcing user-generated audio and incorporating it into radio news could bridge the interactivity gap.
He also said crowdsourcing improves diversity of content and sources.

“We’re looking for new ways to gather sound and ways to reach diversity,” he said, “getting a lot of voices on the air that you don’t normally hear.”

Collecting sound digitally could enhance the work of reporters by giving them more sources of audio. For traditional newsrooms and audiences, there may be a challenge of adopting and using modern tools.

John Davidow, executive editor at WBUR, who attended the presentation, agrees it’s a challenge.

With the various social media tools available that allow engagement, it’s easier for people to send pictures versus audio, he said.

When asked about why some radio newsrooms might be skeptical of integrating user generated audio, another panelist, Tiffany Campbell, managing digital editor at WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station said quality is a concern.

“I think there is always concerns about retaining quality,” Campbell said. “It’s not about using everything; it’s about picking and choosing what works best for you.”

Too much attention shouldn’t be focused on the technique, according to reporter Sarah Alverez, of Michigan Radio, who also attended the panel, “It’s just a tool.”

During the session, panelists Berger and Campbell challenged the audience to submit audio digitally, using Audio Boo, a tool used by audio producers to record, upload and share audio.


To practice what the panelists preached, the ONA Student Newsroom is doing an audio crowdsourcing project for the conference. We want to hear from first-time attendees what their favorite part of the conference has been so far.

If you’re a first-time attendee, call 717-74-ONA13 (717-746-6213) and leave your response after the beep. We will feature responses in a later post on the ONA Student Newsroom.

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