For those who still haven’t had enough about the sound-effect bed used in “Dateline: RIT – The Podcast,” read on.
The background sound effect (the “bed”) is a newsroom teletype. Old timers like Bob, Paul, Kathy and me once worked in newsrooms where the sound of a teletype machine—often multiple teletype machines, with bells signaling bulletins—was, along with police scanners, part of the 24/7 “soundtrack.” It was pretty cool being among the first to know about breaking news. (Aside: Teletypes, like the one shown here [from WGSU-FM, circa 1984], spewed copy non-stop from big spools of paper—leading to the phrase “rip ’n’ read” to describe newscasters who would literally rip copy from the wire and read it verbatim on-air.)
To recreate a sense of urgency—“breaking news” delivered direct from the newsroom—radio stations sometimes used teletype sound effects beneath live newscasts. It’s called ‘theater of the mind,’ and no medium does it better than radio—although podcasts have the same potential.
But, some people questioned, will listeners to our podcast—especially younger ones—“get it”? Well, that’s why I’m explaining it.
The bed also enhances the podcast’s energy level and quickens its pacing—creating what’s known as “forward momentum.” (A side benefit: A bed can also hide a multitude of sins—including undesirable background noise arising from the fact that our recording studio, studio 5A, doubles as, well, my office. In other words, it’s not a recording studio at all, and the mic tends to pick up ambient noise.)
Some quibble that the sound effect itself is “noise.” Fair enough. After all, music to one person’s ears is noise to another’s. Without restating the entire rationale given in my earlier post, Fun with sound effects, let me simply say: Knowing now what it is, I hope you can conjure in your mind a little ‘theater of the mind.’ (Heck, if Orson Welles was able to convince listeners that aliens had landed in New Jersey, maybe you can feel—just a little—as though you’re eavesdropping on a busy newsroom. Give it a try. Again, it’s only five minutes.)
By the way, while most of my remarks have been directed at the small handful of people who dislike the podcast sound effects, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the equally small number of people who’ve expressed that they like the effects. Yes, they do exist. They’re over there, right next to the huge group of people who don’t care either way.