Editor Julia Barton starts her process at Revisionist History practically cold. “I might know generally that he [Malcom Gladwell, the host] is working on this or that,” Julia says. But, I haven’t seen the script until we’re all gathered in a room and we do what’s called a table read.”
Julia has been a radio and podcast editor since 2009. She has worked at Weekend America, The World, Origin Stories, Life of the Law and elsewhere. Her editorial “fingerprints,” if you will, have been on Revisionist History since it launched in 2016. And the way she and the team at Revisionist History edit episodes is not only interesting, it may be helpful for the stories and podcast you produce.
At the table read “the producer has been gathering the elements and putting them in order,” Julia shares. “Just checking the tape and things like that. We’ll all hear it together. I’ll run a timer during that session so I can kind of get a sense of how long it is…
“And then there will be a conversation around it. I’m not dominating that conversation though maybe other people will say I do,” Julia laughs. “I just want to hear what other people [have to say] because I know at some point it’s just going to be my problem.”
Julia says the group tosses ideas around. They talk about what’s confusing and what’s not effective. Sometimes that leads to Malcolm recording another interview. Or, rewriting.
“And then there will be a second draft,” Julia continues. “And that he just sends to me. Then I just send it on to the producer. The producer again pulls tape. But this time it’s just for my ears. So, I’ll be listening to the tape. I’ll be giving line edits. I’ll be putting notes in the comments like ‘This raises the question of blahbitty-blah.’ Things like that.”
Julia sends her notes to Malcolm. He runs through them and responds.
“If it’s looking decent then we’ll send it off to the fact checker,” Julia told me. “Simultaneously we’ll ‘scratch’ it. We have a male producer… read the tracks and we’ll just do a dry mix.
“And then there will be another round of notes where I’ll be listening to the scratch mix and I’m listening to the assembled elements without much scoring, if any. Just to see how it’s flowing as an audio story as opposed to one on the page…
“So, if there are problems in that draft,” Julia continues, I’ll put another round of notes and incorporate the fact-checkers notes. And that’s sort of round three of edits.”
At that juncture, the script is not done. Julia says they open it up to anyone on the team for further ideas. Then, Malcolm will head into the studio and track his narration.
Believe it or not, there will be more conversations during tracking. Malcolm might say things like “No. That’s not right. Wait a minute.”
“And he’ll just rewrite it right there in the studio,” Julia says. “And then we’ll go back and forth about whether that’s working. And then we’ll note all those changes in the script.”
That becomes their mix script. They give the piece another listen, make a few more changes, and finally, Julia says, that’s when the episode goes out into the world.
Julia offers a lot more insightful information about editing Revisionist History as well as general thoughts on editing on this episode of HowSound.