Behind the Scenes: Editing for Story
Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer

"Like everything good in life, the art of editing takes time to learn and it never becomes a matter of rote mastery. You start out fresh with every interview and every interview presents its own distinctive challenges and idiosyncrasies….

Stories are magic. Be very slow to throw them out. That said, all stories are not equal. And some stories are too long and you’ll have to work and experiment with creative ways to keep them in…”
Krista Tippett from “Notes on Editing Speaking of Faith

Krista recently resurfaced some reflections about the “art of editing” for radio. With Shubha joining us as an associate producer, it was a good occasion to dust off some guiding principles that undergird SOF’s work.

Our production staff works collaboratively to whittle down Krista’s 90+ minute studio interviews into an hour of radio. With music, Krista’s scripting, and other elements like poems and readings, each produced show has room for 40-45 minutes of interview material.

So what stays and what goes? There’s no magic formula. But as Krista notes, “stories are magic” and so we listen for the jewels.

In Krista’s recent interview with Jacqueline Novogratz, she told so many good stories we struggled editorially with which ones to include. And our choices shifted as we progressed through the editing process.

The audio above is a story about an ambulance company in Mumbai that we liked but was left out in the early stages of production. The story comes at a juncture in the conversation when Novogratz shares a succession of examples of projects she’s working on. We decided that all of those stories would be too much for the listener to digest, so this is one we reluctantly cut.

Even though we didn’t use the story, Trent decided to use a photo of the ambulance company as the signature image for this show:

A Different Kind of Capitalism: Jacqueline Novogratz and the Reinvention of Aid
(photo: Acumen Fund/Flickr)

Then there are stories that get cut and we later pull back in. That was the case with what we nicknamed "the Jane story" — about a woman living in a Kenyan slum who saves to buy her own home. In our final listen, Colleen and others felt the final section of the show would benefit from another concrete story to ground Novogratz’s work and its impact. You can listen to the produced version of “the Jane story” here:

One of my radio mentors likes to say, “Who’s doing what and why do we care?” Good stories help to answer the “why do we care” question.

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