by Jason Snell
Using Mac tools to build a ‘searchable news firehose’
Audio producer James Shield, who works on the daily news podcast of the Times and the Sunday Times (of London), details how he’s using digital tools to make it easier to cover breaking news:
We’ve been doing the bulk of our editing in Descript since we were piloting in January 2020. It transcribes all your material and you can edit the audio directly from the transcript and in collaboration with others. It’s like Google Docs for sound.
I used Descript to edit 20 Macs for 2020, and it was a revelation. Shield feeds audio clips from news sources into Descript, which automatically transcribes it all and makes it almost instantly searchable and clippable—important for producing a podcast.
But wait, there’s more—they wanted to be able to cover the U.S. presidential election using reports from major TV news sources:
Three browsers playing the live streams from each of the networks – plus a radio streaming app – were recorded into Audio Hijack. (To get the TV network streams I used my colleague Matt ‘TK’ Taylor’s excellent VidGrid, which every news producer should know about.) Audio Hijack started a new chunk of those recordings every 15 mins, saving them into a Dropbox folder. I used Zapier to monitor that Dropbox folder and – using Descript’s Zapier integration – automatically import the audio into a Descript project to be transcribed and made searchable.
Which I admit sounds like overkill for a podcast. But now it’s built, we can spin it up whenever a breaking news event is unfolding, as we did on 6th January during the insurrection at the US Capitol.
And the approach works for video, too.