Emerson newsrooms go portable with podcasts

by Beacon Staff • October 19, 2005

Jennie Palluzzi, a sophomore print journalism major, spent hours crafting a story for her Covering the Day's News class-and now she is slashing it line by line. As adjectives are cut and paragraphs dwindle, Palluzzi reads her work aloud, shakes her head and continues to pull words. Only when her story is raw news sprinkled with a few quotes is Palluzzi satisfied that her print article is ready for the broadcast media. She reads through again, taps her microphone and flips the record switch on.

Taking stories students have written for Emerson's Journalism Students Online News Service (JSONS) Web site and rewriting them for audio, Palluzzi has helped to create one of Emerson College's first official news podcasts.

Fellow podcasting pioneers at WECB have also launched a podcast program, the Fred Freddy Podcast. It is now available on iTunes. This program stars Fred Young, a sophomore media arts and political communication double major. According to Young, his program was technically the first Emerson podcast, aired on Sept. 29, a day before the first JSONS broadcast.

Many other media outlets are racing to take advantage of this trend as well. Podcasts are free online audio shows in mp3 format. Much like downloading music for portable media playing devices, users can browse the Internet for audio programs to listen to with mp3 players.

The term "Podcasting" was created from a combination of the words "broadcast" and "iPod," according to Journalism Technology Manager Jonathan Satriale. Owning an iPod, however, is not necessary to listen to a podcast, as the audio files will work with any mp3 player or computer with audio software.

"Podcasting is an important technology for Emerson as it fits squarely with our mission to bringing innovation to communication and the arts," said Satriale, who helped Palluzzi and her professor, Emmanuel Paraschos, put together the JSONS audio program. "A podcast is one of the latest technical innovations and we are now applying that to the journalism craft."

Adam Curry, a former MTV jockey in the early 90s, created the concept of podcasting in 2004. An Internet entrepreneur since he left his MTV gig in 1994, Curry used news feed programs developed by software scriptwriter Dave Winer. According to Satriale, the two are known in the tech world as the Podfathers.

Since podcasting's inception, major news organizations and average audio-recording PC owners alike have created thousands of programs that can be downloaded for free from host Web sites called "podcatchers." Podcatching Web sites operate as "aggregators," or collectors of information on the Web, which are programmed to gather syndicated Web content and regularly check for updates. The Apple media downloading portal iTunes and www.iPodder.org, a site independent from Apple, are two examples of popular host programs.

Computer users can "subscribe" to a podcast and have it automatically downloaded each week.

"Like someone who is committed to doing a radio show on a regular basis, a podcaster would post their show on a regular basis too," Satriale said. "The difference is that the whole world, or at least those on the Internet, could tune in, giving any individual the power once reserved for big media."

Emerson's journalism classes and organizations are beginning to pick up this emerging form of communication as well.

"JSONS is in its tenth year and by remaining a cutting-edge site, it allows students to do things they may have never done," said Paraschos, who oversees the student Web site. "We were the first to stream video and go live. We wanted to try podcasting because it's new, exciting and serves a purpose."

Palluzzi is the student leader of the JSONS podcast. Each week, she takes stories that are posted on the Web site and rewrites them for broadcast. Using Adobe Audition software, students update the JSONS podcast every Friday. It can then be downloaded from the Web site at www.jsons.collegepublisher.com.

"I had never worked with audio before so I was a little nervous at first and was worried about talking too fast," said Palluzzi, who started listening to podcasts over the summer through iTunes. "But podcasting [is] amazingly simple and the equipment is easy to use. Just put your headphones on, talk into a mike and click."

The JSONS podcast averages about five to eight minutes in length, but Palluzzi is hoping to garner enough interest in the future for longer segments. She would like for podcasting to become a recognized extracurricular activity, she said.

According to Satriale, a WERS podcast is in the works, which will be an extension of the daily news and will incorporate news from other student media sources.

While Emerson media organizations are looking for ways to enhance their news delivery with this technology, many students have not explored the podcasting feature.

"I've heard of podcasting but I don't really know much about it and I've never subscribed to one," said iPod user Melina Ambargis, a freshman TV/video major. "It's never come up in class either."

Young said he plans to conduct a workshop soon for fellow student journalists who wish to learn this new technology.

Others wonder how this new technology will impact the future of the media and if other forms of journalism will be harmed as more people begin to get news through this form of communication.

"If everyone just starts podcasting it might cloud the industry with nonsense," said Julie Kennedy, a senior audio/radio and marketing communications double major.

Satriale said there is an argument that podcasting may take listeners and readers away from traditional media because of convenience, but he believes that existing media outlets must work with new forms of technology and use them to augment what is already around, rather than fight it.

"It's just like in 1994 when everyone thought magazines were dying out because of an interest in TV news programs," he said. "But they learned how to survive with the changing currents and soon print reporters were making appearances on TV to talk in-depth about their fields of expertise."

He added that when big trends appear in communications, media companies must adapt to meet consumer need. "In this age, the consumer has control and they dictate how, when and where they want to get their news," Satriale said. "There's a time and a place for everything and each of the mediums excels in [its] own way, but you can't stop the technology."

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