NPR: masters of audio editing

My career in print journalism enabled me to do some very cool things, see some fabulous places, cover compelling stories — and it exposed me to the magic of other media.

I want to offer a good word or three to National Public Radio.

I was given an opportunity, as the editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, on three occasions to take part in NPR interviews. Two of them involved the 2008 presidential election. NPR wanted to chronicle the outlook on the election as it appeared to us in the Texas Panhandle; the other party in the interviews was Kevin Riley, editor of the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News. NPR sought the views of editors from disparate regions of the country: heavily Republican Texas and “swing-state” southern Ohio.

The other interview involved President Obama’s economic stimulus package and its impact on our respective regions.

Here is what I wrote in February 2010:

NPR reaches out to the heartland

What I want to recall briefly here is how deftly NPR edited my comments to make them suitable for airing on the public airwaves.

High Plains Public Radio — an NPR affiliate — had a recording studio in downtown Amarillo. I was able to go to the studio and take part in the interview with the Washington, D.C.-based “Morning Edition” program.

What astounded me at the time — and still boggles my mind to this day — is how well NPR edited my comments. They eliminated the occasional stammer and extraneous verbiage without changing the context of my statements to the NPR interviewer. Kevin Riley, the other person being interviewed, sounded much more comfortable with radio. As for myself, it’s not my thing and I was nervous as the dickens every time I took part in this process.

It’s a remarkable skill that continues to amaze me.

NPR receives criticism from time to time, mostly from conservatives who allege the network has a “liberal bias.” My own experience with NPR did not reveal any such bias. I found NPR to be professional to the “nth” degree.

Moreover, the editors at NPR exhibited a magician’s skill at making a nervous newspaper editor sound like an experienced hand at radio.

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