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Journalistic podcasting

By Kristy Garcia
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"What makes something newsworthy and why is it important to engage with current/community events?"

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Brainstorm about what the class already knows about podcasts, and create a list for reference. Listen to and watch various podcasts as a class and list the similar components the podcasts have. Discuss the purpose behind the podcast and how it fits into the news elements they’ve learned about. (Use Podcast powerpoint as sample if necessary.)


In small groups, students will choose 2 video and 2 audio podcasts to listen to and evaluate. Students will fill out the "What’s in a Podcast?" handout and discuss the podcasts as a large group when they are done. 

This can also be done in a large class setting, although the easiest way to do this is with visual podcasts that you already have downloaded on a video iPod that you can plug into your T.V.  Students should still take notes on the handout so they are ready to discuss after each podcast (or after all the podcasts). 

Here’s a list of video and audio podcasts I have used in both my English and Journalism classes: Preview Podcasts


Given what they know about podcasts and journalism formats, students will create a description of what makes an A podcast, a B podcast, etc. Students will use the Podcasting Checklist to draft their descriptions, and the class will discuss which criteria will be used to evaluate their final podcasts. Here is a sample of a Podcast Rubric

Creating Topics

Here are a few ways to create podcast topics.  One of the main things to stress is that the topic must be substantial and interesting, since students should be covering something that their peers or the general public would be interested in, even if their podcasts won’t be widely published.

Current event podcast (Journalism):

1. Students will create a list of story ideas, including timely events, current issues and traditional happenings on campus. (Examples: Homecoming Week, search for superintendent, focus on a specific program or group on campus, particularly controversial issue like derogatory language.)
2. As a group, students will choose 5 of the best ideas and brainstorm ways this could become a podcast, now that they have the podcast elements and have looked at examples.
3. Given the definition of “angle" they have learned earlier in the semester, students will choose one of the podcast topics and come up with 3 angles that will make their podcast relevant and interesting for a long term basis.

Profile podcasts (Journalism):
1. Students will be assigned to pairs for this podcast.
2. Students will interview each other to find out more information about their partner--hobbies, interests, talents, anything interesting they can cover.
3. Using their interview info, students will decide which angle they’d like to cover on each other for their podcasts.

Debate podcast (English):
1.  As a class, students will brainstorm a list of topics suitable for debating (controversial issues either worldwide or on a campus level).
2.  Students will be assigned to pairs for this podcast.
3. In their pair, students will choose one of the topics to debate. They will focus on a piece of that topic and will decide who will take which side.

Preliminary Podcasting

Regardless of which podcast students decide to do, the first step is to organize their ideas.  Students will use the Podcast Planning Worksheet to organize their podcast and to determine which information they need to gather as they create their podcast. 

While this handout is primarily geared toward journalism students, it still covers the essential information students need to think about as they start their podcast. 


Once students have completed the podcast outline sheet, students will begin working on their podcast.   Students will have time to research their topic and create interview questions for each of the sources. (If students are not familiar with appropriate interviewing techniques, here’s a link for helping them develop good questions ASNE Lesson Plans: Open-Ended Questions.)  Even if students do not plan to interview the sources during their actual podcast, students should be encouraged to interview sources as a part of researching their podcast. 

Students will distribute interviews for each source among the pair and set up interview times. Students will also draw up a draft calendar with assignments and deadlines for the next five days, which they will submit. (Since my journalism students regularly get a calendar for the production cycle, they will be familiar with this idea.)


As a pair, students will create the podcast content, sharing their research and interview results and using the Podcast Script Outline sheet. They will decide which material is best for the podcast, using the same criteria they use when they write stories. 

Students will create a written script, including at least 3 sources and appropriate narration and transitions between sources if they are doing a current events podcast (they don’t need extra sources if they are doing a profile podcast).   With the sources, they should pull specific quotes from their interviews that they will have the sources record into the podcast.

Spend some time discussing transitions with students--they should not be creating a "Q & A" podcast, but one that is more like an interesting and engaging conversation. This is the hardest part for some students because they are most comfortable with using questions as their transitions.

Students will evaluate their script against the script checklist/rubric and will make changes accordingly. Students will also peer edit scripts from other groups.

A Sample podcast (audio) along with the Sample Podcast Script will give groups ideas on the structure and format of the various pieces of their podcasts.


Using GarageBand and the Snowball microphone, students will record and edit their podcasts, keeping them within the time limit. Students will also be able to use the iPod microphones to record information, which can then be imported into GarageBand. This may make it easier to record quotes from their sources.

If necessary, students can augment their podcast with pictures, preferably pictures taken by themselves or by a photographer for The Oracle, especially if the podcast focuses on a specific event or activity.  Podcasts will subsequently be published via The Oracle website or another appropriate site. 

Student reflection

Students will reflect on their podcast experience in a self-evaluation activity where they will respond to these questions: Podcast reflection questions.  These reflections can be used before starting future podcasting experiences as well. 

Profile Podcast Examples

Student Examples:

As part of my Beginning Journalism class for the 2006-2007 school year, my students participated in the profile podcast activities. Here are student samples of the profile podcasts:

Beth and Jeff garageband: Beth and Jeff discusses family life and athletics.

Two Unique Hobbies: Danielle and Noah discuss scubadiving and hackysacking.

Superhero Cast: Miles and Priya cast their interests in a more humorous light.

Molly and Bauer: Molly and Bauer discuss coping with celiac disease and moving from Taiwan to California.
Teacher Reflection:

While this is the second time I have used podcasting in my classroom, it was the first time I used it in my journalism classroom.  My students created their podcasts after they had written their profile assignment, which meant that they already had a lot of material to work with because they had technically already done a first draft of their podcast with their article.  However, it was still a lot of work to transfer what they had from their article into a format that was suitable for the podcast because they couldn’t just read their article into the podcast, they had to make it sound conversational. 

Before we started the podcasting itself, I gave them a mini-tutorial on Garageband. I am certainly not an expert in GarageBand, I merely show my students how to open a file, how to record using GarageBand and the built-in microphones, and how to access the jingles and other sound effects already included in Garageband. I also show them how to do simple editing, like splitting a track and then deleting part of the track.  Since some of my students are somewhat familiar with programs like Garageband, I make it clear I expect them to help others, and I also encourage students just to play around with the program before they start recording. I provide whatever technological support I can, generally by using the GarageBand tutorials or searching the web if I need to.

I would suggest, however, that you record a podcast yourself prior to the activity, just so you know what it’s like to use GarageBand. If all else fails, and I can’t figure out the problem, I just tell them to start over with a new file, which generally works.

The podcasting itself tends to go well because for most students, it’s the first time they’ve done an activity like this, and they are engaged in trying to figure out how to make their podcast interesting.  It requires a lot of collaboration because they are both learning how to use new technology, and since they both have to have equal "air time," it can’t be a one-sided project. 

The biggest frustrations for teacher and student will be the technological piece, so be prepared to spend a bit more time than you may have anticipated on the podcasts.  Allot between two and three weeks to complete the podcasts from start to finish, but recognize that most of the tech stuff will happen in class.

CUE presentation