Now, you can listen to our top news of the day

August 13, 2006|by TIM SHEA

In our continuing efforts to bring local news to more people in the Tri-State area and beyond, The Herald-Mail recently started producing daily podcasts with the top news stories of the day.

The podcasts came about through a partnership with Antietam Cable Television, which developed a Web site ( where anyone can listen to or download the day's top stories.

More information about the Web site will appear at the end of the column, but first, here is how we produce the podcasts.

The goal is to keep the podcasts short, but long enough to provide the basic information from the top stories. We keep these to about three minutes, so we determined that we could get about six stories onto each podcast.


Of the six stories, we typically choose the top four stories in Hagerstown and Washington County and one each from Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This changes depending on where the day's big stories happened. For example, on the podcast that was produced on July 30, there were two stories from West Virginia because a man was killed in a shooting in Berkeley County and another man drowned at a quarry in Jefferson County.

We put our heads together and look at the daily budget and determine which stories will make the cut for our podcasts. Once that is determined, it is up to our reporters to summarize their stories into three sentences. Nothing fancy - we just need to answer who, what, where, when and how in the summaries.

The summaries then are compiled into one file, with the biggest story of the day as the lead story and the other stories to follow.

Along with the top six stories, we add a news item from our "Can You Believe It File" at the end of each podcast. This is on page A2 of The Morning Herald and The Herald-Mail and takes a look at the lighter side of the news. The stories are not local stories - instead, they involve wacky items from locales from Wichita, Kan., to Japan.

On the weekends, we add a couple of "Weekend Calendar" events, and we will throw in the top local sports story if we think it is a big deal to our readers.

Once the script has been edited and it's ready to go, it's time to record the podcast. With the aid of a couple of computer programs and a microphone, one of our staff members goes into an office and records it. Once that person is satisfied with the finished product, it is downloaded to the Web site within a couple of minutes.

Most of the podcasts are done by copy editor Dave Rhodes, who did newscasts for several local radio stations prior to coming to The Herald-Mail more than 20 years ago. It's a trip down memory lane for him, and he has been instrumental in the podcast process.

Other voices that you will hear are those of Morning Herald Managing Editor Joel Huffer, Tri-State Editor Bill Kohler and several other members of the newsroom staff. It's not too hard to do this - even I did a podcast while Dave was "on assignment."

To listen to a podcast, go to our Web site ( and click on the "Podcasts" link at the bottom of our home page. You may also go directly to

Once on the Web site, go to the part of that page called "Herald-Mail Headlines." From there, all you need to do is click on the link for the headlines you want to hear and you can listen to it on your computer. There also is a link that says "Subscribe to this podcast" where current and future podcasts automatically are downloaded to your computer or portable device.

There are several other podcasts available at "Alan's Yak" is produced by one of the teenage contributors to The Herald-Mail's weekly Pulse section, and explores the "inner workings of the teenage mind." Also, Herald-Mail columnist Tim Rowland "takes shots at all the things he is too shy to criticize in print" in "The Rowland Rant."

So far, we have been happy with the podcasts that have been produced. We hope our readers - and now, our listeners - are pleased, too.

Tim Shea is Weekend Editor of The Herald-Mail. He may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2329, or by e-mail at

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