Archives For May 2014

At this year’s Student Radio Conference I gave a talk titled ‘Editing is Sexy’. The first thing I said was perhaps more accurate:

Instead of ‘Editing is sexy’ this talk should really be called this: ‘Getting better at audio editing will give you better career prospects in radio’

I was talking to people in student radio, but I think it’s good advice for anyone working in radio. Below is a summary of my thinking. Basically: don’t neglect the art of editing audio.



A cheesy metaphor

If you work as a blacksmith you need to be able to use a hammer. Sure – if you’re starting your own blacksmith business these days you might need to have good people skills, management skills, marketing and social media skills. You might need to employ other people and be an all-round good entrepreneur and businessperson. You might want to run big blacksmith events and even stream them live online. But fundamentally, if your profession is blacksmithery, you need to be able to use a hammer.

A blacksmith works with metal and uses a hammer to shape it.

A radio employee works with audio and uses audio editing to shape it.

Cheesy. But true. And cheesy metaphors taste the best.


This really is top secret. Don’t tell anyone.

Are you ready for this?

A LOT of people who work in radio…perhaps even MOST people who work in radio…AREN’T that good at editing audio.

That’s the secret. The emphasis is important there.

And once you know that – you know that getting better at editing audio is an easy way to get ahead.

What do I mean by ‘editing’ here?

I’m mainly talking about the ability to edit audio. Do I mean video as well? Yes – I probably do, and the basic nuts and bolts of editing audio or video aren’t that dissimilar.

And getting better at ‘editing’ doesn’t mean becoming an editing ‘expert’. All I’m talking about here is giving audio editing the basic attention it deserves.

Here’s what I said at the Student Radio Conference:

All I’m trying to sell you is the idea that getting better at editing should be something you think about. If you do that, and the person sitting next to you doesn’t, you’re giving yourself an advantage over them that you didn’t have before.

Some of you will be complete beginners. It’s fine to practice editing just speech with no effects or music. You don’t need fancy software – get used to using Audacity – it’s free – it’s fine.

What I’m talking about here is just doing something, anything, to get better at editing. It might be running a podcast. Editing your station’s SRA award entries. Trying to make a few jingles for the features on your show. Just anything that gets you editing.

Me me me

My argument is, unsurprisingly, partly based on my own experience. I have no doubt that at every stage of my career thus far being slightly more proficient at editing than the person sitting next to me has helped me out.

Again – I stress that I’m not talking about really advanced editing techniques.

At the moment I get to create reports and packages for the largest current affairs programme in Europe. I have creative freedom and can only do it because I can edit audio quickly; the turnaround time isn’t long. I think this is great. Thanks, editing.

Thing I’ve made recently are over here. Below is one recent example where I was proud to bring together journalism and editing to deliver FACTS and SCIENCE to a huge audience. It’s nothing special but the fact I get to do this day in, day out, is.


(At the conference I was also asked about putting together radio packages like the above in a short space of time – the answer to which is in this blog post about making radio packages quickly.)

The radio industry agrees…

People working in radio who I spoke to about my talk wholeheartedly agreed with what I had to say. Whether in music or news, commercial or BBC – editing is just as important. Jacob for example, a brilliant producer at Radio 1, was clear that editing both audio and video are vital skills if you want to work there.

And in news-radio, here are a couple more comments I gathered ahead of the student radio conference. Jeremy Vine says that editing is vital for creating good radio packages and reports:

I attended a great event at the University of Lincoln yesterday (‘Headspace‘, April 2014) – a ‘general’ networking thingy involving media/radio/audio students and a bunch of people like me. Thanks to Zara Healy for organising it.

Headspace Poster

I had a few thoughts from the day to share, which might be of use to media students in Lincoln and beyond: 

At Q&A events, ask good questions

A lot of questions we were asked yesterday were about ‘how to make a good impression on people in the industry’. The whole event was built around students asking questions. And people immediately made a good impression when they asked a good question. So there’s one simple answer!

That is so true both at events like this, but also any time you’re chatting to people in your industry (ie. when you’re ‘networking’, as much as that word is slightly horrible). Ask good questions.

A lot of people yesterday didn’t try to ask any questions. Why not? Are you not interested? Not curious? Not passionate about your future career? Not confident enough to ask?

Then, a lot of people ask incredibly generic and predictable questions. There’s nothing wrong with this, if you have a question and want to ask it – good – it’s important that you do so, even if it’s not a ‘new’ question. These questions are along the lines of “how do I get a job as a radio presenter?”. “How can I get work experience?”. “What tips do you have to get into radio?”.

But the people who really make an impression ask precise and practical questions and are clearly interested in the answer. “I love driving radio desks; how can I persuade the manager at my local radio station to let me get some practice there?”. “I want to be a presenter. Should I send people a demo on CD, MP3, or with a link to my Soundcloud?”. These are still simple questions, but they are focused.

Even better/in addition – ask someone a question specific to what they do, and make the question interesting. “You do xyz. If I wanted your job one day, what’s the one skill you would focus on if you were me?”. It’s just a thousand times more interesting than the question “how do I get a job?”.

Email people!

This is an easy hit – and a really simple and non-intrusive way of doing the whole ‘networking’ thing.

There’s no doubt that networking is really important. Not just for helping get experience now. In ten years’ time someone you say hello to today could prove really useful in your career. That’s as true for you if you’re just graduating as it is for me – for all I know later in life you’ll be my boss.

So when you’re starting out and trying to get experience or a job, email everyone you meet in your chosen sector. Just say hello, say who you are, and perhaps ask a simple question to get advice and build a relationship. It’s amazing where it can lead, even if it seems a bit pointless at the time.

Take yesterday’s networking event, for example.

Perhaps the best thing an attendee could have done would have been to look at the list of speakers, and to email each and every one beforehand to introduce themselves and just say “look forward to meeting you”, or something similarly cursory.

I don’t think anyone did that.

Second-best is doing the same thing after the event. If you go to a conference or guest-lecture or shadow someone in their job – get in touch with everyone you met or heard from afterwards just to say hi and thanks.

I met a few people today who I know will do that – but it’s always surprisingly few. See my last post about getting work experience for more on that…

Is LinkedIn important?

I’ve never been the biggest fan of LinkedIn but I surprised myself by answering this question yesterday with an overwhelming ‘yes’.

This might sound slightly stalker-ish… But people from the University of Lincoln and elsewhere often get in touch to ask if I’ll be an interviewee for a project associated with their course. I invariably, out of curiosity, stick their name into Google to find out if this person has a Twitter/LinkedIn profile and I find myself making surprisingly quick judgements about them on this basis. A student getting in touch who has an up to date and comprehensive LinkedIn profile and an active and engaging Twitter page really, really stands out – because the vast majority don’t have these simple things.

I think increasingly there’s an expectation that if you’re part of the next generation of broadcasters you’ll at least be on Twitter and LinkedIn. If you’re not already, it’s never too late to start.

Don’t be passive

The above advice is all very simple stuff. Some people might read that and think ‘why do you even need to say that?!’. Yet some students were totally passive yesterday – happy to turn up, sit, and listen as if it were a day-to-day lecture. It was a day about networking, about asking questions, about being engaged.

Turning up and listening isn’t enough if you want a job in any highly competitive sector, and the media is most certainly one of those.

And I was so encouraged by many people who spoke up with good questions and looked excited just to learn more about the industry they want to work in.

So if you’re studying media/radio/audio/similar don’t be passive. Be active. Ask good questions. Email people. Be excited about what you’re doing. Understand that your course gives you vital skills but does nothing on its own to get you a job unless you get out there and make that happen for yourself.