On Friday, my latest travel piece for BuzzFeed — “7 Sounds From Italy That Will Fill You With Wanderlust” — went live. The piece is a collection of audio recordings I made late last year while traveling in the Veneto region.
It’s a fairly simple piece: audio paired with images and a small amount of historical context. But it was actually one of the more challenging pieces I’ve written lately.
For starters, I had to sift through dozens of recordings I made while in Italy and figure out how many people might actually want to hear. When I initially started writing, my working title was something like “15 Sounds From Italy,” which is to say I planned to include many more recordings.
After I began putting them in, however, I was reminded that audio is unique; whereas a reader can skim a lengthy written piece and still get something out of it, audio requires a specific time commitment. Honestly, seven sounds is probably still too long — did you listen to them all? — but in any case getting it to that number included writing drafts with both more and fewer sounds, images, and words.
Here are a couple of recordings that didn’t make the cut:
Another big challenge with this piece — and probably with a lot of travel writing — was sourcing. When you travel, you inevitably learn a lot about a place just by reading guide books, looking at museum pamphlets, taking to locals, etc.
When I actually sat down to write, on the other hand, I quickly discovered that very little of that information actually stood up to the same journalistic standards I have to use in my other (news) writing. I may have read about Venice’s Jewish ghetto on an old wall plaque, for example, but I can’t link out to that plaque or prove that it’s actually reliable.
Which meant that even the modest amount of writing included in this latest BuzzFeed piece required an enormous amount of research to verify information I’ve casually assimilated on multiple visits to Italy. I also had to find reliable links for that information, which wasn’t easy. Case in point: it’s surprisingly difficult to find a comprehensive and chronological online history of rail travel in Italy (or, at least one that had the info I wanted).
In the end, some of the written sections were shorter or included less historical background than I originally planned because I just couldn’t find sufficiently credible links.
There were other challenges — some of which I’ll discuss later — but this blog post is probably long enough already. And if you haven’t yet, feel free to read/listen to it here.
— Jim Dalrymple II