It has been a very long road, starting way back in 2011 when RETN and VCAM were approached by a small group of community members who knew that the FCC was going to open up a new (and probably the last ever) low power FM licensing window the following year. We formed a committee and applied for a construction permit to build a radio station here at the Media Factory. Our construction permit was approved by the FCC in September of 2014 and station-building began in earnest.
Our deadline to get on the air and complete our filing with the FCC was in November of this year and we made it! with the invaluable help of our volunteers and staff, we were awarded an LPFM license from the FCC on December 12, officially bringing the “station building” phase of WBTV-LP to a close.
Now begins the job of putting all the hard work and planning into a continued, sustainable effort to keep WBTV-LP not just on the air, but a valuable, needed voice in the community. That’s where you come in! There are several ways you can get involved at the station. Here are a few ideas:
Stay tuned as we roll out several new local radio shows in January and February of 2018 — the first round of officially-licensed programming from WBTV-LP, Burlington!
I’m excited to announce our first ever multi-part workshop: The Art of Radio Documentary. In it, we’ll learn about radio documentary by actually making one, from start to finish. It’s a bit like will be a little like radio documentary boot camp, but warmer and kinder with no judgement attached. Here’s what it will look like:
We’ll hit the ground running with the first workshop (2/1, 5:30 pm). We have already picked a topic and done a little legwork. As a group we will create a focus sentence for the piece, and do some story structure work. Then we will have a crash course on recording gear and interview technique. We will give out some phone numbers or emails of people who have agreed to be interviewed, and send you off.
In between workshops you’ll meet with your subject and interview them for the piece. Don’t worry! I’ll be right there for moral and technical support. You can send me your interview questions to look over, and give me a call if any complications come up.
In the second workshop (2/17, 5:30 pm) we will cut the interviews that we recorded, taking out the most interesting quotes, and the ones most relevant to our story plan. I will go home with these and assemble a rough cut of the story.
In the third workshop (2/23, 5:30 pm), I will come in with a very rough cut of the story. We will listen to it and do an in-depth group edit. The group edit is the secret weapon of radio producers, the thing that makes a story really really good.
Then I will go home, incorporate the group edits, and send out an audio file for you to cherish eternally!
These workshops will be accessible if you’ve never touched an audio recorder in your life, and will still be useful if you have. You can register here. Hope you can make it!
We are working hard to create programming guidelines that will diversify the sound of community radio in the Burlington, VT area. To help inspire the possibilities of radio, here is a sample schedule we dreamed up. Learn more about our programming process here and get involved with developing the guidelines now!
Haven’t been able to make it to our radio workshops? Here are some great resources to check out if you want to make produced radio.
Out on the Wire by Jessica Abel: A non-fiction comic investigating how the creators of This American Life, Radiolab, The Moth, and other great story based shows make them so good. This book and the accompanying podcast are some of the best tools for making quality radio, or really, any creative work.
StartUp episode 16: The Secret Formula: This episode is a super accessible breakdown of what goes into making a podcast at Gimlet, the podcast company that puts this show out. A good place to start if you’re curious about how produced storytelling radio/podcasts are made. It captures the editing process better than anything else I’ve heard.
HowSound: “The Backstory to Great Radio Storytelling” This podcast dissects great radio pieces, talks to the creators, and extracts juicy lessons about how they made it so good.
Out on the Wire: This is the podcast that goes with the book ‘Out on the Wire’. Start from the beginning. Each episode introduces another tool to cut to the heart of storytelling. You’ll come out the other side of this podcast with a much better grasp of how to put together an engrossing story.
transom.org: An amazing resource. Articles about everything radio related you can think of. Super useful for technical stuff too, recorders, etc. It’s the first place most radio producers go when they have a question about how do something, or want advice.
thirdcoastfestival.org: Like the Oscars for radio. They have an amazing audio library with lots of great radio pieces, and also talks from their conferences, where radio people geek out about sound design, storytelling, interviewing, etc. etc.
http://earbud.fm: A new curated selection of podcast episodes. A great way to discover new podcasts to listen to.
So I’m working on a blog post of educational resources for making produced radio pieces. But in putting it together, I noticed that they mostly focus on the nitty gritty work of it. It can be easy to walk away thinking, “Jeezum, that can’t be worth it.”
Please please PLEASE don’t let the descriptions of endless edits discourage you. Even though it can be tough at times, there is so much that is exciting, fun, and fulfilling. You have an incredible opportunity to go into other people’s worlds, find anything interesting, funny, or important, and follow your curiosity as far as you want. People will tell you incredible things, just because you have a microphone and seem interested.
That’s Part 1.
What most of the resources are talking about is Part 2. The part where you take this incredible bundle of things you’ve learned, experiences that you or your subjects have had, and try to communicate them clearly and engagingly to your listeners. If you want to do this as well as, say, This American Life does, then it may well take years of practice. It’s a ton of work for each piece.
Just remember that no matter how eventually sounds, you still got to do Part 1. And you probably learned some things that will make Part 2 easier next time. That makes even the most muddled, amateurish pieces totally worth it.
Here’s my suggestion: Put as much work in on Part 2 as you can while still remaining enthusiastic. Your enthusiasm is your fuel. If you are super excited about your piece, then you’ll want to put in more work to communicate better with your audience. Each extra edit makes it that much better.
But for all that is holy, if you get to the point where you completely dread working on your piece, set it aside. Go take a walk. Listen to a podcast for inspiration. Do anything you need to recharge your enthusiasm. Come back to your piece when you’ve had some space. You’ll see what you liked about it in the first place, and know what to do to make it better.
And remember that we’re all in this radio-making game together. When you’re getting frustrated on a piece, have a friend or someone at the station listen to it. We can see what a piece needs much clearer when we haven’t been immersed in making it. It can be nerve wracking to get honest feedback, but no one is judging you. No one’s pieces are very good for the first 90% of the process, even the professionals’.
We want WBTV-LP to be a big radio sandbox for you to play in. Get out there with your recorder and explore the world. Experiment. Have a ball. Make weird pieces that only you can make. Work towards professional quality, but remember to keep yourself excited.