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Audio Academy: Frequently Asked Questions

AA Promo Lisa Wang

Thanks for your interest in the Audio Academy! Here are some common questions we get from potential applicants.

Q: Who is this program for?

This program is for any adult hungry to learn the craft of audio storytelling and/or break into the world of audio journalism. We prioritize people who are interested in working in the audio industry or who will incorporate the training we provide into their current work or craft. We’ve had Audio Academy fellows who are looking to make a career change to work at public radio stations or podcasting companies. We’ve had local poets and musicians who wanted to incorporate audio storytelling into their art. We’ve had people from a variety of professions who want to start their own podcast or freelance stories for media outlets outside of their other work.

Q: What makes a successful application?

We're looking for people who show creativity, a strong point of view, and a hunger to engage in audio storytelling, journalism, and media. We're looking for clear communicators who take initiative in life and have a proven track record of achievement in any field. We want applicants who are knowledgeable about the Bay Area, especially communities and geographic areas that aren’t already well-represented on our airwaves or in public radio in general. We give priority to people who are looking to break into the world of audio journalism or communicate a clear idea of how they will incorporate our training into their current work. We are also looking for people who may not be able to get the training we provide elsewhere (such as a graduate school program or a fee-based training program like Transom).

Q: Am I too old for this program? Am I too young for this program?

This program is for adults, ages 18 and over. There is no maximum age limit. We have had fellows from their early 20s to their early 60s. Our average fellow is in their early to mid 30s.

Q: Do I have to be a student to apply?

No, there is no requirement to be a student. Most people who apply are not students...other than students of life!

Q: Can I be a student to apply?

We generally do not accept full-time students, as we feel that the demands of our program are too rigorous to balance with full-time schooling.

Q: Can I work while I’m in the Audio Academy?

Absolutely. We are keenly aware that it is expensive to live in the Bay Area and most everyone needs to work while in our program. The vast majority of our fellows work at least part-time while enrolled in our program; some of our fellows work full-time, but have work that is flexible or outside of normal office hours to allow them to spend some time during the work week in our program. We have had people in our program who work full-time while also parenting. We ask that all applicants commit to working in our newsroom one day a week, Monday through Thursday, attend our Wednesday evening seminars, and commit to an additional ten hours of work on your own time. Those additional hours can be set by you. Like any educational opportunity, you get out of this program what you are able to put into it, in terms of both time and energy.

Q: I didn’t graduate from high school/college. Can I still apply?

Yes, there are no education requirements to apply. However, we want to know that you have a track record of success, defined broadly, and are committed to working hard and following through on projects. Perhaps you run your own business. Perhaps you’re a published poet or an in-demand local musician. Perhaps you are a retired, lauded high school teacher. We just want to see that you know how to translate opportunities into successes.

Q: I used to work at a college/pirate/public radio station back in the 70s/80s/90s. Can I apply?

Sure! We love the analog world and still own our old mix-tapes. We do require all of our applicants have computer and digital literacy skills. Our newsroom runs on Slack, Google Suite and you'll be expected to quickly familiarize yourself with those programs if you aren't already. You'll also be trained in editing in ProTools.

Q: What do you mean by “audio journalism”?

Audio journalism is the reporting of news and information with the use of sound. Newspapers publish articles and news radio stations air stories. We use sound, scene-setting, and storytelling to bring the news to life. The most obvious example of audio journalism comes from public radio programs like NPR’s All Things Considered, but you can also find audio journalism in many podcasts today like This American Life, Code Switch, and The Daily. The best way to get a sense of the work we do - and the work you’d be doing while in our program - is to listen to our show, Crosscurrents.

Q: I want to learn podcasting, but I’m not sure I want to be a journalist. Is this the right program for me?

We are a public radio station and Audio Academy fellows gain experience in our public radio station newsroom. This means your work will be held to our journalistic code of ethics while with us. Some of our alumni have gone on to work in media that isn’t necessarily rooted in journalism - like working for a fictional storytelling podcast or a non-profit advocacy group, but the skills that they learned through our program have served them well in those jobs.

Q: I live in [INSERT NAME OF TOWN THAT IS NOT IN THE BAY AREA]. Can I still apply?

Our hope is that the 2021-22 Audio Academy will be in-person. Fellows will be expected to work in our newsroom in San Francisco. Applicants who are willing to relocate can still apply. We do want applicants who are familiar with Bay Area communities and issues. We do occasionally have fellows who commute from Sacramento.

Q: What do alumni go on to do with this training?

Most of our grads go on to work in the audio industry. We have alumni who are now public radio reporters at places like KQED San Francisco, KZSC Santa Cruz, and Georgia Public Radio. We have alum who are podcast producers at shows like Snap Judgement, Reply All, and podcasting networks like Pushkin and WYNC Studios. We’ve had a scientist who leveraged our training to work for a science communication non-profit and a professional actor who used our training to go on to coordinate live events for KQED. We have a part-time physician who freelances health stories for news outlets on the side. We have also had alum who have gone on to study journalism in a graduate-level program.

Q: Can I expect to land a job in radio/podcasting right after I graduate from the Audio Academy?

Usually our alum go on to do one or two more paid internships after the Audio Academy before applying for full-time work in the industry. (There have been a few exceptions when graduates left the Audio Academy and immediately secured a paid, full time job in radio/podcasting.) Thanks to the experience gained in our program, our alumni are on par with graduates of journalism grad schools and go on to compete for the same positions. Many alumni go on to work full-time in the audio industry within one to four years of graduating from our program. We also have alumni who work as freelancers in the audio industry.

Q: I thought you had a training program for…. high school students, college students on summer break, people in prisons?

We do! Learn more about our other programs:

Summer journalism training program - a three-month advanced audio journalism training program for entry-level journalists

Uncuffed - ongoingradio journalism training programs for incarcerated adults in California state prisons

tbh - in-school and summer training programs for high school students

Q: OK I'm ready to apply! How do I do that?
Head back to our main Audio Academy page for directions and a link to our application form.