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New ways of telling stories

Media careers insight week

What are the different ways you can tell news stories beyond print? How can numbers tell a story? How do you get into podcasting? We put these questions to Guardian staff.
Axel Kacoutié talks about sound design for podcasts
What does it take to make a podcast sound good? We spoke to Axel Kacoutié, Creative Director of Sound for Guardian Podcasts about what his role and how he got there

My role involves…

Sound design, theme composition, mixing, editing, producing and developing.

My route into journalism was…

A head hunt specifically for the role of being Today in Focus' sound designer. Before that I was Studio Manager at various radio stations before that including the BBC.

The thing I enjoy about my job is…

The creativity and collaborative aspects of bringing a story to life through sound and music.

My one piece of advice would be…

To pay attention to the patterns of the workplace and news cycles if you want to be a step ahead. What do people care about? What are people not talking about? Where are the spaces that would benefit greatly from your attention and contribution? What brings you the most satisfaction when the work is done?

The most important qualities of working in podcasting are...

Honesty, warmth, reliability, and consistency. Being funny is a plus but more importantly being kind is the ultimate trait. There are spaces that will demand you to harden. While there may be a practical use for that from time to time, remember you have a heart and you're not made out of stone. Keep it beating.

What does it take to be a data journalist?

While data journalism has a long history, the need for journalists who can interpret and interrogate data, and effectively communicate those stories to a wider audience has only increased in recent years. We spoke to Pamela Duncan, Acting data projects editor to learn more
I grew up in Donegal in Ireland and never in a million years did I think I would end up working with numbers every day. Now I really enjoy it. I had no head for maths (I still dont'!) but as it turns out you don't need to be a mathematician to tell stories with numbers. I love collaborating with colleagues, coming up with original ideas, learning coding and scraping skills and translating data into compelling news stories. Most journalists interview people; we interview data. Data journalism, like coding, is about taking logical steps to find the answers - a bit like doing a crossword - there's something very satisfying about that.

I did an arts degree (English/German), then freelanced for a local newspaper before doing a Masters in Journalism. Towards the end of that course I was accepted for work experience with the Irish Times. I (eventually) convinced them to give me a job through a combination of doing whatever stories they needed and pitching my own ideas, some of which were data-based. I eventually found that data was a niche that I enjoyed which gave me a lot of exclusives so I formally became a "data journalist" in about 2014. I applied for a job with the Guardian Data Blog in 2015. Somehow it is now 2021 and I am acting data projects editor! Along the way I have worked on a huge range of stories from health to housing, education to environment, sport to international investigations, from asylum to government U-turns. Sometimes you write a story which turns the dial or progresses public understanding of an important topic: that's most satisfying part of all.

Quick advice

What should you know when starting out?

Get a website for your work and run your work past friends and family at the start but don't be too precious about editing! / Impose deadlines so that things actually get done but give your work the proper time that it needs.
Courtney Yusuf
Audio Producer
Have fun with whatever you end up doing. Journalism can be a serious business, but editors like working with people who make the newsroom less tense
Danielle Stephens
Acting lead producer
Start early by on your school or uni paper. Ask your local newspaper editor what gaps they have in their news coverage and offer to fill them and then pitch them original stories that you have come up with.
Pamela Duncan
Acting data projects editor
Niamh McIntyre with her advice on data journalism
What makes a good data journalist? We spoke to Niamh McIntyre to find out…

What could a secondary or university student be doing now that might help?

A grounding in Excel, learning Python or R (coding languages) consider a Masters in Interactive or Data journalism

Where do you get ideas for your work?

From reading other journalists work, talking to friends. I'm particularly interested in transport decarbonisation so I set up dedicated twitter lists, google alerts etc so I can track developments in that area

What writing tips/production tips could you give a young person starting out?

Write things in the simplest way possible and assume no knowledge on behalf of your reader 

What advice can you give on pitching/presenting your ideas?

Always think of the "top line". This is vital in news: how can you sum up the story in one line, and make it as grabby/exciting as you possibly can to engage interest?

What is the one thing you've done that you feel has been most beneficial for your career?

Interactive journalism MA at City

Who inspires you?

Gary Younge - for all his work on racism in Britain

Latest: 5 top tips for working in podcasting
Ask questions to keep learning, work well with your team. You need to be inquisitive, and determined to get the best out of a story that you think is worth sharing with the world. Networking is absolutely key
Always think about the final product and edit in your head as you go. Think about which medium - video, audio, print - would work best for this story and why
Make your own content, whether it's recording videos on your phone or editing audio on free software. Build up a bank of sounds that you could use in the future (it'll save you on library fees) and Study YouTube tutorials. Start at your local radio station
Know why this topic is relevant to the platform's interests and be sure to communicate the feeling you are trying to convey. Start small and get to know people - Join the UK Audio Network. If your pitch doesn't land the first time, go back to the drawing board and stick with it if you believe in it
Listen to other podcasts, and read widely. Talk to people and see what they are interested in
Producing and editing podcasts
Listen to the Editor of the Guardian’s Weekly podcasts, Max Sanderson, and Acting lead producer Danielle Stephens got started in podcasting, and their top tips on getting into podcasting.

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