Podcast Training Retreat 1: Burgazada

by Chris Gratien

The docks of Burgazada. Photo credit: Chris Gratien
For two days in July 2017, a small cohort of Ottoman History Podcast contributors gathered for a podcasting retreat and training exercise on Burgazada, one of Istanbul's Princes' Islands in the Marmara Sea. We funded the retreat independently using money from honorariums issued in connection with podcasting workshops conducted at different institutions during the course of the previous academic year (our thanks to Boston College's Department of History & Institute for the Liberal Arts along with University of California, San Diego's Middle East Studies, the Library & Institute of Arts and Humanities). The cost of accommodations and one dinner at a restaurant on the island was about $500. The purpose of this retreat was to create a space in which contributors could share feedback and work on new skills related to the podcast production process.

Joshua White discusses his book
Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean
Photo credit: Matthew Ghazarian 
The training activities of our retreat included three main tasks. In our first session, we conducted an interview with Joshua White about his monograph Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean (Stanford University Press). The interview preparation followed our standard workflow; each of our hosts read parts of White's book, and we worked together on a few pre-circulated framing questions in a collaborative GoogleDoc. Then, the recording was conducted as an organic conversation in our workshop space. In the interview, we discussed some of the main contributions of White's new book and explored questions regarding issues that were beyond the scope of the work but may serve as fruitful avenues of inquiry for future research. The interview session was followed by a relaxing afternoon on the beach of Madam Marta Cove and a dinner at a local restaurant.

The following morning, we convened for a feedback session, where we discussed podcasting strategies ranging from interview and question style to composition and radio presence. Each of our workshop participants offered constructive reflections on each other's past interviews. Through this conversation, we affirmed the importance of collaborative preparation to help devise more incisive questions and conversation topics for future interviews.

The afternoon session of Day 2 was dedicated to learning about audio recording and editing. One of my major goals over the past year has been to increase the autonomy of our recording team members by enabling them to carry out the painstaking task of editing podcast audio without my assistance. In prior years, all of the audio editing was done either by me or one of a few contributors (special thanks to Onur Engin, Taylan Güngör, and Michael Polczynski) who took on this task over the years. During the workshop, we focused on the anatomy of the digital audio captured by our particular recording setup and the basics of editing multi-track audio using a virtual non-destructive interface, in this case, Adobe Audition. To practice, we edited the podcast recorded the previous day with Joshua White. After a brief demonstration, each of our participants had the opportunity to try their hand at editing and gain enough experience to hopefully begin remote editing training on their own. We also began composing a brief audio editing guide (with Matthew Ghazarian) that will serve as a resource for future OHP team members and we hope to publish online in the future.

Our first OHP retreat was an important step in the continued improvements we make to our production process and in particular, a valuable opportunity to increase the individual autonomy and skills of our growing number of team members. It is just one example of how the small and informal forms of support we receive from different institutions are helping Ottoman History Podcast remain an independent and open source for serious discussion about the history of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East. We hope that this is just the first of many podcast training sessions we can conduct in the years to come, as the team continues to grow and our platform continues to develop.

Joshua White responds to questions from Chris Gratien, Taylor Moore, and Susanna Ferguson. Photo credit: Matthew Ghazarian


Chris Gratien and Taylor Moore interview Joshua White. Photo credit: Matthew Ghazarian

Taylor Moore and Ella Fratantuono after podcast feedback session. Photo credit: Chris Gratien

Susanna Ferguson edits podcast audio with Taylor Moore and Matthew Ghazarian. Photo credit: Chris Gratien


Ella Fratantuono, Susanna Ferguson, and Matthew Ghazarian during audio editing session. Photo credit: Chris Gratien
Scene from the docks of Burgazada. Photo credit: Chris Gratien

Scene from the streets of Burgazada. Photo credit: Chris Gratien

Scene from the streets of Burgazada. Photo credit: Chris Gratien

Unbridled horses at Burgazada's Madam Marta Cove. Photo credit: Chris Gratien

Evening sun at Madam Marta Cove. Photo credit: Chris Gratien

A kitten joins the podcast feedback session at Four Letter Word Coffee, Burgazada. Photo credit: Chris Gratien

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