This semester, we’ll all work together to produce a podcast series in which we’ll share our thinking with each other and with listeners outside the class. Early in the semester, we will make decisions together about what we want this series to do and to sound like. We'll come up with a title and rules for episodes, develop a set of visuals, and draft and record an introductory bumper.
Read on for further details so you have a sense of what to expect.
As instructor for the class, I will be the Executive Producer for the series. In this capacity, it will be my role to consult with the individuals responsible for any given episode, to provide some guidance in order to ensure that each episode maintains the standards of the whole, and to provide feedback on the production.
Each student in the class will be responsible for serving as Producer for one single episode. The Producer initiates, coordinates, supervises, and controls all aspects of the podcast episode production process, including creative, technological, and administrative. A Producer is involved throughout all phases of production from inception to completion, including coordination, supervision, and control of all other talents and crafts, and publication and promotion of the completed episode.
Each student in the class will also serve as the Assistant Producer for one episode. As the title suggests, the Assistant Producer helps the Producer to create a finished episode. The Assistant Producer will come in at the beginning, with initiation of the idea for the episode, and will help to think through how to bring the Producer’s ideas to fruition, including providing assistance with research, storyboarding, recording, and editing. The Producer is ultimately responsible for final decisions and should be the primary coordinator for the entire process, but the Assistant Director should be included as a collaborator in the entire process.
Each student will also serve as a Line Producer for one episode — the creative decision-making process is reserved to the Producer and Assistant Producer but the Line Producer serves to assist them where necessary. The Line Producer probably does not need to be involved in the initial planning and research of the episode, but can come in just before it’s time to record and help with final steps in the process. In your individual teams, you can decide reasonable boundaries around this role, but I’m imagining that the Line Producer can be responsible for technological assistance and overseeing the recording while the two primary producers are in the midst of generating the content for the episode — they can watch sound levels and listen in on headphones while the producers speak to check that the sound quality is good. Probably it’s too much to expect the Line Producer to be the primary editor for the episode, that’s something the primary producers should focus on, but the Line Producer can offer suggestions during the recording and editing process.
The Producer and Assistant Producer will be together as a team for two episodes, taking turns as to who is in charge between them. The Line Producers can rotate however makes sense with regards to availability.
(Role definitions adapted from the Producers Guild of America.)
Episode Rules, Structure, and Content
Each episode should be 10-15 minutes in length. Once you deliver your part of the episode to me, I will add the series intro audio bumper, which will be the same for all episodes.
Your production will begin with the audio introduction for your specific episode, which will identify the title of the episode, its primary subject, and name the Producer and Assistant Producer. Then there will be the primary content of the episode itself, and finally a closing segment in which you thank your Line Producer for assisting you, provide credit for anyone else who was involved in the episode (for example, if you interview someone in the episode, make sure to name them in the close), and let listeners know that you’ll provide citations for all of your sources in the episode description.
For each episode, the Producer and Assistant Producer should attempt to schedule a conference with me in advance to brainstorm and discuss ideas and structure. I’m not going to make it an absolute requirement that you meet with me, in case schedules just preclude it, but if we can’t meet in person we have to at least touch base before you start recording. We can meet at whatever stage before recording is most useful for you — if you want to come in as soon as you know what your episode subject is and do initial brainstorming that’s fine, or you could also come in after you’ve done research and are pretty certain what the key aspects of your argument are. The goal of these conferences is for me to be in a collaborative space with you, where I can help identify questions or strategies that might be useful. I’ll also be ensuring that there is some consistency across episodes, so that the series as a whole coheres.
What you’ll need to turn in
Once your episode is completed, you’ll need to send me a finished MP3, including your episode intro, the body, and a close. I’ll add the series introduction and then publish it.
You will also need to provide the following, all of which I’ll publish along with the audio:
- A square image that is the cover image for your episode. Your image should be a creative visual image that represents your episode in some way.
- A paragraph that describes your episode — it should both serve as a summary of the episode, covering the questions and issues that you address, and as an invitation that encourages an audience to actually listen to your episode. This writing should be clear, succinct, engaging, and creative.
- A list of sources. Any source that you explicitly quote in your episode needs to be included, but you can also include other sources that readers would find useful if after listening they want to do further research on their own. The subject of your episode will probably greatly affect the number of sources you include, but I’d say you should have at least 3 and no more than 10 sources listed.
- Image and/or sound credit listing, if applicable.
- If you do interview another person in your episode, you will need to have that person sign a media release form and provide the form to me (I won’t publish the form, but I need to have it). Note that the media release form asks the person how they should be identified in the episode — please follow the wishes of the person you interview and use that name in the episode and in the close.
The Producer and Assistant Producer should each also write and publish to their sites a reflective blog post soon after submitting their materials to me.