WJI Blog Day 2 PM - Print vs. Sound Reporting

May 18, 2018

Maddi Miller, WJI Day 2 PM


Okay, Nick Eicher, I get it, you think radio is cooler than print. And, in some ways, this print writer enthusiast agrees.

Radio follows a different format than print. While print is meant to be experienced non-sequentially—meaning that the story can be understood through skimming—and has distinct word counts, pages and inches, radio must be experienced chronologically—minute by minute—to be understood. Every second literally counts, even if silent.

What I found to be the most interesting is in how the two differ in telling stories. In print, if using a standard news story structure, typically follows the inverted pyramid format—all the important information on top and then it files down to the details and the “why” of the story. Feature writing has more options for creativity but is also limited to only a few formats. I love telling stories through print. I’m so familiar with it that it might as well be like family—the normal kind, not like that cousin that you only met once at someone’s funeral when you were four.

But, like your grandma’s meatloaf, it gets a little bland after a while.

Radio offers so many ways to tell a story, and there are many other elements that go into a radio story than print. Ambient sound (or ambi) provides the sounds of the setting; it transports the listener to feel like they’re right there. A soundbite tells more than a print quote ever could. A long pause with a heavy sigh conveys more emotion and information than a 30-word sentence. Radio is “touch at a distance,” Eicher says. It uses the one sense to bring sense to everything.

While I’m still closely related to print, I think it’s time to make room for another family member.

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