April 5, 2020 (Updated )
For Gaia Caramazza, the average day involves commuting for more than an hour across London to her office at The New Arab. The multimedia journalist works ten-hour shifts to put together the outlet’s new podcast, The New Arab Voice, which covers news and features from across the Middle East.
“So, I have to get up at six o’clock in order to make it to the office by eight,” the 23-year-old tells Journo Resources over the phone. “I have an hour and 15 minute commute, which for most Londoners, to be honest, is the norm.”
Now though, she’s producing the podcast at home in East London, scheduling her recordings around her flatmate’s Zoom calls.
She explains to Journo Resources how to produce a full podcast at home – and why your trusty essentials should include a sock, a duvet and some heavy duty headphones…
Before I thought I was at home just to sleep…
So, it’s really been a shock. Now I get up at like ten to eight when I start my shift at eight. And I often get to finish right on time at six o’clock.
But obviously your productivity gets affected when you’re at home – and my flatmate’s job depends on her being on the phone. And she’s the loudest person!
It’s just interesting, you know, having to balance that – your own personal space with your work, but with your flatmates who are also doing that with their work.
It’s funny because we have a living room that’s separated from the kitchen and that’s kind of like our conference room that we book with each other. Like, “Okay, at two o’clock I need the conference room, so can you please leave so I can be by myself?”
“Even if you have a tiny bedroom, set up some sort of working area that’s completely yours. Especially when recording a podcast, you don’t want to have to be dictated by other people’s work schedules.”
But to be honest, when you ask me what kind of tips I would have for others, I think it’s really important (even if you have a tiny bedroom like I do) to set up a little desk or some sort of working area. One that’s completely yours and you don’t have to share. Especially when recording a podcast, you don’t want to be dictated by other people’s work schedules.
You don’t need to be a big name to set up your own little recording studio at home…
You often see pictures of foreign correspondents under duvets, saying they’re just recording a voiceover for a segment on the BBC or Channel 4. It’s really simple actually. And I honestly believe you don’t even need the mic.
I saw a thread on Twitter the other day that was explaining how you can use your sock and a phone to record a podcast. Most phones nowadays have really good microphones anyway, and, apparently if you put your phone on the underneath and turn it upside down with the microphone underneath your chin [it works].
“I’ll be talking about these very tragic events while scavenging around my house for the best WiFi spot. It’s a big juxtaposition.”
When you’re talking into your phone, when you say ‘p’ sounds or strong consonants it’ll like, spatter into your microphone. I don’t know to explain it! But having the sock absorbs that and makes you sound really good. So some of my voiceovers I’ve actually been doing with my phone, because I’ve just had to do a short bit and I didn’t feel like taking out my microphone.
Ten minutes under my duvet makes me feel like I’m in Mexico…
A friend of mine is a sports journalist, so bless him, has leant me his microphone. I just put that up on one of my encyclopaedias at mouth level, and I take my extra duvet and just drape it over me.
I tried with a normal blanket, but duvets just work so much better because they absorb so much sound. It really makes such a big difference to your recording.
Honestly, I get so annoyed after ten minutes being underneath there. I have voiceovers which take me about an hour to record and after ten minutes, I feel like I’m in Mexico. I’m just like, “Please, make it stop.”
That’s the only downside really, you have to have patience, which I don’t have. But I’m working on it.
I do just call people on Skype, but it is a big contrast…
We report on the Middle East, so most of our guests are on the ground in Syria or Libya. Most of them I do just call on Skype, so that hasn’t changed that much. But I must say that it’s a really big juxtaposition. I’ll be interviewing experts on how coronavirus in Syria is like a ticking time bomb and talking about these really tragic events, while also scavenging around my house for the best WiFi spot and hearing my flatmates go out.
For journalists who do foreign news, it’s a very tragic time outside our bedroom, but when you’re inside your personal space you’re not confronted with it, you’re isolated. I’m recording a super important interview about the return to Aleppo and to my left is a picture of me and my best friend celebrating my 21st birthday drunk at a karaoke bar.
It’s inevitable that it’s weird, I think. It’s an interesting time to be reporting on these thing from my own little house in London.
It’s been a big challenges not to snack all the time…
I think one of the most things that often goes unnoticed about podcast recording specifically is something one of my university lecturers told me on my first day when I was learning to use radio booths. What you can drink beforehand or what you can eat beforehand. This has been such a big challenge when I’m working from home, because I can snack whenever I want to and that’s my dream. I eat all the time.
But on the days that I’m actually recording, I have to stop myself. I love cereal and I love chocolate, but anything with dairy in it will actually create more mucus and can irritate the vocal chords. It really does make a difference, especially myself as I often have throat issues.
For people making podcasts at home, just remember that. Don’t have any dairy before you record and try to just have a hot tea with honey or lemon or ginger.
It’s really important to invest in some good headphones…
It’s really changed my life, because obviously working in my bedroom I can still hear my flatmates moving about. I think having headphones just helps me not get distracted, or if they want to chat about something they’ll see I have my headphones in and won’t bother me. If I don’t feel like listening to music I listen to sounds of water or rain to get relaxed.
This story is part of our #MyHomeNewsroom series, a set of articles which looks at how life has changed for journalists in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. We’re touring newsrooms in people’s homes across the globe and sharing tips on how you can make the best of your working at home environment. Know someone we should feature or what to get involved? Email us.