I got to accomplish multiple ‘firsts’ and discovered a love for editing audio
By Colleen DeGuzman

Reflecting on the past five days, I can’t believe how many “firsts” I’ve been able to accomplish. I used professional audio equipment for the first time; I conducted an interview for audio purposes for the first time; I edited audio clips for the first time; and I was reporting in front of a camera for the first time. 

Through Next Generation Radio, I was able to discover that I really, really enjoy editing audio. It was my first time downloading Adobe Audition, and now I feel really comfortable using it! I say this genuinely: I was sad when I finished editing my audio piece. I had so much fun rearranging the clips and listening over and over again to make sure a new listener would understand my story. Selena Seay-Reynolds, one of the program’s audio engineers, told me I picked up Audition pretty quickly and encouraged me to continue creating content through it. I hope this isn’t the last time I make an audio piece. My mentor suggested I work with my university to get equipment and sign up for a subscription to the software.

One of the coolest parts of the past few days was watching Selena and Tinu Thomas, another audio engineer, make fine edits to my piece. We went through the whole thing slowly and carefully, making sure each second benefitted the story. It was incredible seeing how tedious the work is: making sure each transition is smooth and that room tone seamlessly weaves in and out of clips. 

I learned that conducting an interview for audio is much different than talking to someone for a print story. First, there’s the gear. While practicing for my interview with Juan Lopez, a human remains transporter in McAllen, I was worried I would intimidate him with all the equipment I had: headphones, a mic attached to a long boom stick (to social distance), a recorder and a mask. I knew he was a really kind and understanding person, but I wanted him to feel comfortable talking to me.

I also learned to listen out for any disturbing background noise – and I learned this lesson by making a few mistakes. A quarter way through my interview with Juan, his grandfather clock rang, and I hadn’t realized it had been making a ticking noise all along. Then halfway through the interview, I noticed a ticking noise was still occurring – from a fan. I’m lucky these noises didn’t cause any problems in editing, since Juan’s voice is pretty loud. However, it was wrong of me to assume that since we were alone in his living room, there was no need to worry about background noises. 

Doing this program also showed me one thing that I don’t really enjoy doing: being on camera. Though it was just for a 30-second stand-up, my nerves consumed me almost all day. I was so worried about having to take dozens of tries and wasting people’s time. I might have made it more of a problem than it was, but maybe television and videos aren’t my specialty. 

When we were told this program would be intense, they meant it. We wrote a story, composed an audio piece, took our own photos, made audiograms and coordinated with other editors to make everything happen. That’s a lot for someone new to the field to get done in four days, and I had so much fun doing it all. I was apprehensive about joining a program that would be held completely online, especially since this involves so many skills with technology. However, I can confidently say I never felt lost or alone. I always knew whom to ask questions, and I always knew what I had to get done. I felt supported the whole way and knew everyone I was working with was doing everything they could to help me tell Juan’s story. 

I can’t believe how lucky I got to have Mònica Ortiz as my mentor. She was so patient with me throughout the program, teaching me first how to use the equipment and how to edit using Audition. She helped me make decisions throughout the process of composing my audio script, and I can’t express enough how much it helps to have someone who is just as motivated to tell a good story by your side.

One of the most important things I learned in this program is that people are more willing to help journalism students more than I thought. The experience of everyone I’ve worked with in the past week, and the knowledge and skills they have, has just blown me away — and they were all open to teaching me about what they know and sharing their thought processes with me. 

This week has gone by so fast; it really felt like a sprint. I wish this program was a few days longer, not just because having more time on the project would be helpful (as every student says), but I would have loved to get more time to get to know everyone better.