Text, Audio, and Editing: I Stand Somewhat Corrected

In my recent article, The “Pod Peopleâ€? Are So… Human, I wrote something that I’d like to retract, clarify, and take another stab at.

Here’s what I wrote: “Listening to unscripted speech provides a more direct experience of how the speaker is thinking. It’s about the act of thinking, rather than the product of thought. There’s less opportunity to edit. (Well, you can edit the audio, but that’s generally less surgical than editing text.)”

Kristopher Smith, who does the podcast Croncast, called me on this remark – and rightly so…

Smith commented briefly on this in my blog, but he went into greater depth in his Dec. 15 show. (That’s a direct link to the MP3 file, so right-click on it to download it to your computer, and then play the audio.) Listen to the first segment of this show.

In a nutshell, Smith pointed out that I seemed to be saying that I thought audio requires less editorial work than text. I can see why he got that impression.

Hey, I was writing that article at 4am, that’s my excuse for lack of editorial precision!

…Seriously, I realize that audio and text content both provide ample opportunities for editing. They are different types of editing, however. With audio, my understanding (and I may be wrong) is that much of the editing is a matter of inserting clips, dealing with sound and noise levels, removing undesired uhms and ahs, layering sounds, etc. That is indeed very complex and even “surgical.” Audio production and editing probably involves even more work than text editing.

The point I meant to make, but bungled, is this:

In text editing, the editor can literally rework the wording of sentences, the types of comparisons which are drawn, etc. The actual words can change. This can also be done in audio editing, but it means re-recording. Even then, it may not work. For instance, if you’re doing a fairly informal, conversational podcast – or if more than one person is involved in a live conversation – it’s far more difficult if not impossible to wordsmith.

It seems to me that given the relative difficulty of detailed wordsmithing in audio, most podcasts are not very tightly wordsmithed.

That’s OK. I don’t mind it. Again, to me such editorial rough edges only make this new medium more human and engaging. Certainly I couldn’t tolerate incoherent rambling, but the occasional awkward sentence or slightly derailed train of thought doesn’t bother me in a podcast. That’s just my own personal taste.


In his podcast, Kris made the point that so far I am representing the perspective of a listener, not a podcaster. He’s absolutely right. I am by no means an expert in podcasting. In fact, for the record, right now I know very little about the techniques of recording audio. I do have some minimal radio training, and I know several radio journalists, so I have a rough familiarity with at least some of the main issues involved. But at this point I am not a practitioner.

I do intend to learn audio recording and podcasting as fast as I can in order to offer my own podcast. But for the time being I am sure that I will make occasional misconceptions and false assumptions about podcasting.

Podcasters and other experts, please feel free to correct me when I misstep. That will help me learn. I’m not afraid to occasionally eat my own words.

OK, I hope I’ve expressed my editorial comment more clearly here. Please do listen to Smith’s podcast and feel free to comment here or on his blog with your thoughts.

2 thoughts on Text, Audio, and Editing: I Stand Somewhat Corrected

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  1. I’ve got writer’s block. I have been trying to respond to your post for over an hour and have nothing. Thank you, Amy, for taking my comment, podcast and horrible punctuation in stride. I am always worried that I am going to open a can of worms that doesn’t exactly have worms in it and get . . . maybe less desirable critters. I think I could use some editorial precision here.

    The point that you make about wordsmithing is correct and poignant when it comes to where podcasting and blogging differ, especially in the wordsmithing realm. Which is one of the quirks that makes podcasts what they are, asymmetrical forces that are beautiful because of their inherent imperfections. I guess that is an unfair paraphrasing of that section on wordsmithing differences but I make it nonetheless.

    Wow, this comment is nearly and incoherent as my blog. I give up. Thanks for the links and kind response. Come on over to the podcasting party! I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about software, hardware and the like for getting your own podcast together. Cheers.

  2. Amy,

    Still not quite there. Your impression is not correct on the audio editing. I can and do work at the subsentence level when I edit audio. I generally don’t reorder words but I do remove some sometimes. This might be a phrase or even a lone word. In fact, it’s not much harder than using a word processor. You select the word in a wavefore editor, play it to make sure you have the right one, and Crtl-X and it’s gone.

    People have this persistent erroneous belief that you have to rerecord audio. I’ve remediated plenty that didn’t say quite what I was after without rerecording it.