podcasticonCourse Overview

This course is designed to acquaint students with all aspects of podcasting and to help them become better storytellers. It will train students to think critically about stories they consume, and it will give them a working knowledge of current trends in audio production. There will be lessons on sound gathering using professional sound gear as well as cell phones, interviewing, script writing, audio editing and developing a “radio voice.” Each student will spend the semester creating one feature-length podcast on a subject of their choice.

Additionally, the course is designed to strengthen students in several areas: embracing creative risks, being fearless in the face of technical challenges, and working collaboratively to solve problems. We are not aiming for technical perfection but rather for interesting content and creative approaches to telling stories.

Students will upload, edit and mix sound using Audacity software, and finish the semester with one broadcast-worthy audio feature. All student podcasts will be published and promoted on the class website:, on SoundCloud and via the campus news outlet, the Campanil.

Professional audio journalists will visit for guest lectures and coaching. This class will have the collaborative atmosphere of a newsroom where students will share expertise, pitch and workshop stories together, and keep the conversation going on the class blog.


  • lively engagement, enthusiasm and risk taking
  • attendance and participation in all classes
  • contributions to the class blog
  • weekly listening and discussion of Snap Judgment podcast
  • weekly textbook readings
  • collaboration with classmates
  • a first-draft presentation of your podcast for class feedback
  • final podcast with revisions
  • a final self-review, which gauges your learning


  • 50% will be on active and engaged participation, as demonstrated in:
    • class discussions
    • meeting work deadlines (due today items)
    • blog posts
    • collaborating and helping classmates
    • completion of draft and final podcast
    • demonstrated risk-taking and creative problem solving
  • 25% will be on how much you have achieved in relation to your initial goals. You will complete a self-review in support of this portion of your  grade
  • 25% will be on the quality of your final podcast

Textbook and Podcast

There is one copy of each textbook on the 2-hour checkout reserve shelf in the Mills Library.


Digital recording equipment and in-person tutorials are available by reservation at the Mills Audio-Visual Technical Services, in the Fine Arts Annex 113, 430-2211, Students must sign the Mills College Equipment Reservation Policy in order to check out audio gear.

Highly recommended:  A 32-gig or higher flash drive to back-up your audio files


This course is taught by Meredith May on Fridays, from 9:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. in the Stern 101 Digital Humanities Computer Lab. Meredith’s office hours in Mills Hall 316 are Fridays from 12:30-2:30 p.m., and by appointment:

Teaching Assistant

Jesse Rosen is an Oakland-based audio-visual producer who studied digital technology at Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He has experience editing in Audacity and ProTools; and recording with Tascam equipment. He is available during and after class Fridays, and by appointment: text 415-964-9764;

Link to: Academic Goals, Integrity, Accomodations



Sept. 1 – HELLO            

Introduction to this course, the syllabus, class web site and blog, textbook, online readings and Snap Judgment podcast. Discussion about the podcasts that hold your ear, and why.

What are the five kinds of radio sound? (narration, interview, room tone, ambient and specific/characteristic sounds)

Sept. 8 – AUDIO GEAR 

Gear day. Shanna Sordahl and Anne Allison of Audio-Visual Services will open your audio gear bags to demonstrate the Tascam recorders, external and wireless microphones, wind screens. Learn to adapt your cell phone to capture professional sound. Practice with the equipment. SIGN THE MILLS EQUIPMENT POLICY.


  • Out on the Wire, Jessica Abel, pages 12-76.
  • Sound Reporting Chapter 2, Fairness


  • Goal sheets
  • Audacity downloaded and installed on your laptop. LAME MP3 encoder installed, too: Mac or Windows
  • Come to class with the free Voice Recorder app downloaded onto your Android
  • OR the free Voice Record Pro app downloaded on your iPhone

Snap Judgment Talk: Meredith


Play the 5 types of sound your team gathered for the class. What makes good sound? What were your obstacles and discoveries? Top 10 rookie mistakes.

Where do good stories come from? What elements do you need to tell a compelling narrative? Differentiating between a topic and a story; developing story focus. Class discussion on access, work flow, narrative arc, developing an audio wish list for your story. Is your story a good fit for sound? Does is make good noise? Come to class ready to pitch your story idea to the group.



  • Recordings of the 5 types of sound: narration, interview, room tone, ambient and specific/characteristic
  • Come ready to pitch your podcast story idea to class 


Guest speaker, Mills senior Taylor Simmons talks about her summer internship with The Kitchen Sisters – Peabody Award – winning podcast produced in Oakland. Learn what it’s like to work for one of the most popular podcasts in the nation.



  • Question list for your podcast interviews posted to class blog
  • A sound wish list for your podcast posted to class blog
  • A Fantasy Script. (turn in on paper, please)
  • Podcast Story pitch posted to blog, in X+Y=Story focus sentence format

Oct. 6 – ASK

Pair up and record interviews with one another about a hobby using open-ended questions. Upload sound file into Audacity. Learn to navigate the Audacity work station, and practice uploading, cutting, and pasting audio into a soundtrack.


Oct. 13 – WRITE

Writing for the ear. Log the interviews you have conducted for your podcast, and begin selecting the quotes you want use and lining them up in Audacity. Begin writing, recording and uploading your narration that will go in between the quotes. Jesse lesson on podcast workflow.



  • Interviews and/or narration you have recorded for your podcast


In-class Audacity training and work flow tutorial led by Jesse. Bring all the ambient sound, room tone, characteristic sounds and interviews you have recorded thus far, and continue assembling your podcast.


Lesson on transitions, fade ins and outs, inserting silence, removing noise. Inserting sound effects and other nifty tricks.


  • Out on the Wire, The Deep Sea: Sound, pages 147-165


  • DUE TODAY:  Your first draft story script – emailed to by 9am

Nov. 3 – MUSIC 

How to evoke mood with sound effects and music, while following copyright law. Audacity lesson on ducking music around spoken words, compressing sound to equalize sound levels. Continue working on your podcast in class.

No reading – spend this week working on your podcast

Nov. 10 – GUEST SPEAKER BRENDAN O’MEARA, founder of The Creative Nonfiction Podcast

Brendan O’Meara of the #CNF Podcast will visit via Skype to tell us how he started a podcast to interview famous writers. Learn how to put an idea in motion, develop radio voice, and ask good questions. Then we will apply what we learn to our own projects, creating narration and voice-overs.  Write, record and add narration to your projects.


Nov. 17 – DRAFT

DUE TODAYFirst draft presentations. Share your work-in-progress. Give and get class feedback

Dec. 1 – REVISE

In class work day on project.


  • Out on the Wire: Your Baby’s Ugly – The Edit, pages 169-202

DUE TODAY:  A title for your podcast. Final self-review, written and printed out. What did you learn and how far did you come in relation to the goals you set out at the beginning of the class?



Present your podcast in class. E-mail Meredith either your .wav file or a link to your podcast (in Google Drive, DropBox or SoundCloud, etc) BEFORE 9am. If you are sharing it with me in Google or DropBox, be sure to grant me access to it in addition to sending the link.