Music to the Ears

Even in the hands of the most talented journalists, words on a page sometimes can’t quite do a story justice. And like they say, where words fail music speaks. Here’s a look at how the KnightLab’s tools craft a world for your reader by integrating music and sounds directly into the writing.

What is it?

Thanks to SoundCite JS, you can listen to a classical sonata by Vivaldi while reading this week’s Tech Corner.

The program lets you play audio right under the text you’ve selected without directing readers away from the story. It’s free and only requires three steps — find the audio clip you want to use, select start and end points and tell SoundCite what text is linked to the sound.

Our Thoughts

Of all of KnightLab’s tools, SoundCite is easily one of my favorites. Combining audio and text in your story helps create an entire world for your reader, immersing them in the action, whether you’re covering the hottest new band or a political rally in the streets. Incorporating audio into a story often means linking readers to another page or embedding a player in the middle of the text, meaning readers have to decide — do I read or do I listen? With SoundCite, they can do both. Not to mention it saves you time and frustration. Rather than finding the right words to describe what music sounds like, just let your readers hear it for themselves.

The Bad

When SoundCite first premiered, it had a few noticeable bugs, but KnightLab has released a new version that fixes those. To be honest, there’s not much to complain about. It now lets you host any audio you have an MP3 file for, rather than only allowing Soundcloud links. It’s biggest critique was its inability to work on mobile devices. That’s largely fixed now, although there can still be some trouble if your Soundcloud link doesn’t start at the beginning of the track. It’s minimalist design does a good job of not detracting from the text, but it might leave something to be desired if looking for customization.

Use Cases

SoundCite was originally designed for articles about music, and the tool still shines for playing a tune alongside your story, like The New York Times’ coverage of two influential musicians from the 1930s. It’s not just limited to music, though, It works great for spoken word, either public speeches or interviews, bringing your subject to life, like the Washington Post’s coverage of Texas Senator Wendy Davis’ 13-hour filibuster. Finally, it’s perfect for natural sound, simply the sound of something happening in your story, from ringing bells and chirping crickets to the sounds of thousands protesting in the streets.

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