Getting ready to plan out the LISten New Year's Eve special episode

Alrighty. Where do I even begin? Now that Christmas is past it is time to start planning the year-end special for LISten, the LISNews.org podcast. The year-end special to be released on New Year's Eve will not count towards the total of six episodes that comprise the trial run.

A reasonable listener might wonder what the normal planning process for an episode involves. First and foremost there is a ranks page I check to look at stories. Normally I start checking on Wednesday to see which way stories are going. With an initial check done I start reading the stories users have posted about. I try to get an idea of what the stories are and what I would want to hear in a radio news bulletin at the top of an hour. Having driven on lonely roads passing through BLM-owned land and driving through lonely parts of Utah I have learned what I prefer to listen to from the iPod over the car radio via FM transmitter. Days with eight to ten hours of driving are not pretty.

As the week goes I see which way stories go in the ranks. If there is a story I personally like quite a bit I keep an eye on it even though it might fall off in the rankings. An example of this is the painted walls piece posted by Great Western Dragon.

As the week draws to a close I start writing up my script. The point during the weekend when such happens varies due to circumstances on the ground in Las Vegas. Scripts remain subject to change up until an episode is actually posted. Once a rough first script is written such is sent to various persons for review and/or information. Over the course of writing I follow links back to the original sources and assess whether something should be in the script or cut. I have yet to cut something out that way but as the concern has been raised I do note that if things do not look right I exercise judgment as to what makes the podcast. This process is variable in length. As a former print reporter it gets rough at times writing copy for a broadcast setting rather than a print setting. This can take a couple hours on average if the original sources are difficult to track down. If I am not at a loss for words the time taken to write can be short, too.

Recording is rough. Even though I have written the script I do have problems at times reading what I wrote. Anywhere from three to five takes are required before the episode is considered "done". Things devolve into comedy sketches at times and sometimes laughter breaks out. When recording I have a pen in one of my hands while I am trying to use both hands to actually hold and flip through the printed script. From time to time difficult passages are rewritten by me in longhand and sometimes big chunks are just cut out of the script. The audio engineer will comment upon things that sound strange and we do discuss parts of the script with a view to revision. This whole process can run two to possibly three hours.

Once a final take is settled upon the file is saved on the isolated, non-networked, hopefully Cylon-free audio computer. The file is copied to appropriate media and then prepped for posting at a networked computer to the Drupal implementation that powers LISNews as well as sites like TWiT. The target upload time is 2101 PST on Sunday so that the file is officially released on Monday morning on the East Coast of the United States.

With the normal process being described it is perhaps best to discuss where things are going for the year-end episode. For this episode the ranks used will be from the Hall of Fame that anybody can access. The tops of the year story recaps for 2006 and 2007 that appear at the top are thrown out of consideration. I will be looking at the other stories that do appear there. While I was not able to secure an original music piece for the podcast there will be another surprise in store. I plan to have a set of blog picks independent of Blake's set that I think are good reads even if not necessarily strictly LIS-related. I will also suggest some podcasts one might to subscribe to in the new year. Other things may appear in the script depending upon what catches my interest from the world of news.

There will be a fundraising pitch at the end of the episode. While folks who read this post may wonder what is going on I can only ask that patience be exercised. Details will be mentioned at the end of the special episode.

And finally, I should mention that LISten can be accessed by way of the iTunes Music Store's podcast directory. Some work still is needed. With time things may get better as Drupal's innards and the Apple podcast specification are explored.

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