Audio storytelling – Starting Somewhere

500 index cards, in five colours. Yellow for a topic, an actual thing we want to discuss. White for an area of discussion, probably with more topics underneath it maybe an episode. Exploitation on one yellow card, it moved from the Is Cleaning The Toilet Really my Internship? episode to the Say What Now I don’t get Paid?! episode. It ended up being an episode on its own.  After practically a whole morning discussing, arguing, figuring out, and changing things we end up with the image here.  Ten episodes, 37 or so topics and a roadmap for the next six months. Did it work out like that? read on to find out.

Some of them survived unscathed into the ears of listeners, nearly ten thousand at the time of writing. Others changed completely. When we scratched the surface of exploitation a lot of stuff came out, Amalia Ilgner who is suing her employer for unpaid wages, Jack Kenchington Evans is leading the charge on rewarding good internship providers to shame the others into pulling up their socks. And ‘Dodgy’ the mysterious figure behind the Dodgy Internships Australia twitter feed who is naming and shaming the most egregious offenders in the countless violations of the employment laws she finds on the internet.

That became a whole episode on its own and one of the best.

Along the way, we became experts, just by talking to 48+ people about Internships. Reading transcripts of the interviews and discussing the best piece to use to illustrate a point, in making the case for the arguments that we had found for both sides. Internships are good and bad, they can open doors for everyone, if you can afford to work for free, they are opportunities to prove yourself in a three-month job interview, and they are an excuse for free labour for unscrupulous employers. It’s a spectrum, and I feel we covered all the visible parts.

I listened to the first episode again and it still stands. It’s a touch didactic but there’s some great stuff in there, the history of the internship, how we got here, which pops up again later, and it’s pretty timeless. Unless the role of internships changes dramatically we’ll still be helping people get their heads around internships for a few years yet.

It was a good project, dreamed up by Dr Andi Horvath, podcast co-ordinator at the University of Melbourne it fit into their strategic plan, had management blessing “one of the best pieces of content we’ve created all year”. And my co-host and co-producer Buffy and I steered it from concept to ten+ mp3 files sitting on servers and phones all over the world.

We have a rock solid workflow, thanks google Docs. and we bow down to Google Backup and Sync which has needed only one tinker and has synced all the audio files on three computers seamlessly. we worked on scripts side by side on the ER Mezzanine watching the other person make changes. We typed back and forth in the questions doc live comments while recording in the 757 studio telling the one who was interviewing to ask the question again!

And our Reaper workflow is pretty good now as well, we use regions to mark the segments of an interview we are going to use, labelled with the Episode number and the grab number we know where it goes and can see if we are going to use something twice. The script has a list of audio files in it, with the names of the files next to the grab we are using, so one person can polish the script and another person can edit it together.

We found new and better ways to fine edit, getting an edit down to a drag and one keystroke from five. That must have saved us hours over the 250 grabs we used across the ten episodes. Using Reapers insanely customisable macros and chains of commands we can take out pops with two keystrokes.

Getting everyone to sound their best is the fine edit mantra, no umms ahs or pauses, you can cast around a while for the perfect word but it’s my job to show the sentence as you would want it to be recorded for the permanent record. And everyone sounds like there were recorded at the same volume, with the mic in exactly the same place thanks to some very clever compression from the good folks at Sonic Anomaly.

But it’s the people who have brought the story alive, they felt comfortable enough to share their failures and missteps at what is a very vulnerable time in their lives, I hope they can look back on their internships as some of our older guests did and see how far they have come.

Here’s my favourite episode of the ten:

Everything I had in my pocket.

I just handed it over. Across the table, it was an impulse donation, for sure. But he had me, without trying, without asking.

Here are my reasons why:

-It was a good story, well told,

-I had the image of tragic teen suicides in my mind, the school friend of mine who did the same. In front of a train, because of money issues.

-I identified with the local guy who steps up and does something about it. Who says ‘no more, not in my community’, I want that to happen. I want to be that man.

-He told the story with heart, He cared about it. You could see that, he told me about his connection with the ‘how’ they have chosen to deal with this rash of suicides. How he loves sport, how it had taught him things, how he coaches and how he believes it can help.

-He was also humble, with a modest goal, that he was nearly at, I wanted him to succeed, I believed in his goal. So I helped.

You can too: Tim Moon did a ten day marathon meditation cut off from the world, he did it for the Beehive Foundation, building resilience in young people.

Incredible everyday

I came across this quote today:

“Good proposals will tell (a grantmaker) what you see when you go to work everyday,” said Hicks. The sign of a good grant proposal is it reads like a mystery novel, he said. “You want to turn the page to find out what happens.”

And that’s the challenge. Exposing the extraordinary in the everyday. I’m trying to do it now, show an average case of what we see and do at work everyday but make it gripping, but mostly it’s not. It’s everyday. But that reminds me of another quote, Bill Gates this time I think “We all overestimate what we can do in a year, but underestimate what we can do in a decade”. Problem is an average fundraiser stays with an organisation for 18 months (the internet said so, but I forget where) so we are lousy at having that decade long view that can see the transformations that happen over decades.

We need to institutionalise the practice of recording stories about our long term achievements. I did this on a retreat a while ago. We all sat around the campfire at the end of a long day of cold BBQ and I asked everyone in turn what brought them to this field, and what their best experience at this organisation had been. I’m still using the stories that came out. They tend to come out relatively unformed, but the things that sustain people are what we should be talking about. And hopefully what will win us the big grants!

Here’s where some of the everyday incredible happens:

A creative and messy art room

The third of three art rooms at UPMO towers. Everyday incredible happens over years right here.