Editing audio files with Audacity

Audio files and interviews can add impact to news stories on the Web. Like any other element of a news story, audio files must be polished and engaging.

Journalists who are unfamiliar with working with audio files can find online lessons and tutorials for creating and editing sound.

Mindy McAdams, a professor of online journalism at the University of Florida, offers an excellent basic tutorial for editing sound files in  Audacity — a free downloadable sound editing program.

Sound files that are opened with audacity appear as a waveform. The waveform reflects the high and low decible moments within the audio.

McAdams suggests thinking of the waveform as a line of text in a Microsoft Word document since several of the editing functions in Audacity are similar. The cursor can select specific instances of sound which can be deleted or copied and pasted just as text in a Microsoft Word document can be.

I chose to edit a wav file I downloaded from the data base of Creative Commons licensed audio files on freesound.org. My file contained audio recorded during a game of street basketball. The file was about to minutes long and the sound of a crowd, basic game banter, the shuffling of shows and the bouncing basketball can be heard. By selecting specified parts of the audio and either deleting them or copying them to other parts of the waveform, I was able to create a 12 second file in which a basketball can be heard bouncing every two seconds.

The trickiest part of editing in Audacity is what McAdams calls the “pesky pause button.” Most editing functions are unavailable while the audio file is paused. This quirk tripped me up a few times while I was editing my file because it was a natural reaction for me to pause the sound when I found a section I wanted to edit. Of course this was editing impossible and it took me a minute or two to discover what I had done wrong.

Overall, Audacity is a very simple sound editing program that anyone can use to create effective audio files for online news packages.

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One thought on “Editing audio files with Audacity

  1. Ellen Mrja says:

    Freesound.org is a great find. Thanks for sharing that one. Also, try the tutorial at the Knight Digital Media Center if you want more on Audacity: http://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/audacity/ 10/10

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