Audio Journalism


What was once called “radio” has been reinvented as a powerful, nimble and increasingly indispensable medium. Audio platforms are evolving, but the immediacy and intimacy of storytelling with sound make digital audio a dynamic vehicle for the best in journalism – locally, nationally and internationally.

The J-school’s audio training has evolved as well.

Berkeley's radio program began in 1983 under the tutelage of Professor William Drummond.

Old-fashioned reel-to-reel tape recorders have given way to high-speed computers and the latest audio-based software. In 2014, Continuing Lecturer Ben Manilla was named Academic Coordinator for Audio.

Intro to Radio students produce a weekly news-magazine show called North Gate Radio. This award-winning radio program can be heard here.

In addition to Intro, there are courses in Advanced Radio, Audio Storytelling, and Podcasting. One student podcast is The Bell Curve.

Audio students produce hard-news stories, investigative reports and cultural features. Plus, each and every J-School student receives basic training in capturing sound and creating audio narratives.

The program emphasizes professional editing, technical skills, and public interest journalism, along with top-quality documentary production, and helps with professional placement following graduation.

J-Grads have secured positions at major radio stations both public and commercial, podcast companies, and networks. In 2012 and 2015, alumni were selected for prestigious Kroc Fellowships at NPR.

Radio students learn their craft in the Madeleine H. Russell Radio Lab, using advanced digital editing equipment. From controlling and projecting their voices to writing concise and crisp audio scripts, the J-School prepares students to become audio journalists.

Advanced Audio students create their own podcasts, documentaries, or features. Established media outlets eventually broadcast student projects.

Students who elect to focus on audio story-telling are encouraged to pursue distribution partners by the fall of their second year and secure approved distribution partners by spring of their second year. The master's thesis project is incorporated into the curriculum of Advanced Audio.

Led by Peabody Award-winning producer Ben Manilla, the J-School course instructors have included Kelly McEvers (NPR), Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva (The Kitchen Sisters), Victoria Mauleon (KQED), Joshua Johnson (KQED), Anna Sussman (Snap Judgment) and Claire Schoen (Rise).

Regular guests have included Daniel Zwerdling, Tamara Keith, Neal Conan, Roman Mars, and Jad Abumrad.


  J212 Advanced Audio

The goal of this class is to produce captivating, narrative, long-form audio stories. Students will learn the fundamentals of creative audio, including: finding, mapping and planning narrative stories; successfully pitching major radio programs and podcasts; interview skills; editing and script writing for style. This class will leave students with a strong foundation for entering the emerging field of creative audio broadcast and podcast.

  J219 MINI: Sound Design in Documentary Storytelling 9/2-9/30 *click here for class dates

This is a 5 week mini class: 9/2; 9/9; 9/16; 9/23; 9/30

This is an instructional course for students to learn how to mix and sound design documentary
projects in film and audio. The class will also go over how to use sound design to enhance your
storytelling, and how to approach documentary-making with sound design in mind. In addition to lessons, there will be small projects to help students apply skills learned in class.

  J219 MINI: The well reported podcast 10/7 – 11/4 *click here for class dates

This is a 5 week MINI class: 10/7; 10/14; 10/21; 10/28, 11/4
The goal of this mini course is to give students a strong introduction to the podcasting industry and podcast production.
Students will be introduced to the fundamentals of creating, developing, pitching and producing creative and compelling audio with a focus on what’s in demand by major podcasting shops and platforms.
Students should leave with a practical understanding of the industry and good preparation for exploring job opportunities in the podcasting space.

  J219 MINI: This Audio Life 11/11-12/9 *click here for class dates

This is a 5 week MINI class: 11/11; 11/18; 11/25; 12/2; 12/9.


Audio is an integral aspect of today’s media. Podcasting in particular is exploding in influence. In addition to radio and podcasting, solid audio is vital to effective video story-telling. Under the audio umbrella there are multiple career paths, all of whom play a part in well-crafted journalism.

This five week mini spotlights the many varied opportunities for J-school students. The aim of the course is to have students interact with practitioners, many of whom would be J-School grads. Professionals share with students the challenges and rewards of their profession. Video and audio examples illustrate best and worst practices. Field trips are a possibility.

  J275 Intro to Audio

Intro to Audio teaches students the skills needed to tell stories in sound.  You'll learn how to write for the ear; how to use words economically and powerfully; how to conduct an effective interview; how to gather quality sound in the field; how to deliver a spoken script professionally; how to assemble and mix audio stories; how to edit and work with editors; and how to have fun with sound!

Students produce their own hands-on weekly radio show broadcast on KALX (90.7 FM) and add real-life pieces to their CV.  Many stories from this award-winning radio series have been re-broadcast on stations and podcasts across the country.

  J275 Intro to Audio

Learn how to report and tell stories for the ear, with rich sounds, scenes, voices, and writing that pull listeners in and keep them listening. This class teaches the basics of audio journalism: how to choose, plan and report your story; do effective audio interviews; gather great sound and scenes; write for the ear; what audio equipment to use in different circumstances; how to edit and mix audio; and how to use audio effectively within any journalistic story.  Students taking this class with J200 can report the same story for both classes, providing they record in the field while reporting their J200 stories. Students will work toward placing their stories on J-School podcasts, and possibly on local public radio stations. Course Material fee is $40. The fee is charged to the student account the fifth week of classes. Fees are used to maintain equipment used in the course.

  J298 Story Structures

In this class, we’ll learn about story architecture – how to craft your material to give it tone, meaning and style, and how to choose a structure that best matches your materials, reporting constraints and artistic intentions. In our 15 weeks together, we'll examine 13 commonly-used structures to understand how they are constructed and what effects they can achieve. Once we’ve got those down, we'll use our final two classes to look at some experimenters who are blowing up the rules. We’ll be studying work in all media – documentaries, podcasts, magazines and newspaper articles, multimedia presentations, even a bit of VR. Students from any year and any media track are welcome! This is a discussion seminar and workshop — each student will workshop two of their own reported pieces with the class. (These can be pieces you are reporting for other spring classes, for your masters thesis, or for freelance assignments. You are highly encouraged to “double dip” your assignments for Story Structures with work in another course!)

  J298: Freedom of Information

Freedom of Information

This class will survey the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, state public records laws, access to state and federal court records (with emphasis on understanding and opposing the sealing for court records) and emphasize the making of requests and obtaining access. We’ll also study major court decisions granting and limiting access, learn access tricks to records for which instant access is the norm, as well as explore the basic Constitutional access to court records.

Students will learn how to hunt down government information and how vet whether archived, third party information, is accurate and trustworthy. They will develop a document state of mind.

Classes will be split between lectures and work on a group project. No outside work will be assigned other than readings and occasional access maters that must be done during business hours. No papers will be required.

Students wishing to take a five week mini version of the class will receive full class lectures for the first five weeks of the semester with no group project.

Proposed class project: Use all available information to crack and dissect secret Delaware controlled by Donald J. Trump.   This will include examining, say, local and state records involving a Trump building project. Those records will include land use records, construction permits, liquor licenses, tax abatements, tax records, court records, OSHA records, and many, many more.


John Fecile


Ben Manilla


Kara Platoni


Anna Sussman



Student Work

North Gate Radio is a weekly radio show produced by the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley. Listen to shows from the 2016-17 school year.


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