Dogs, Cats, Parakeets, a Moleskin, and The Squirm Test

Sally Rollins and two of her thirty cats. Photo by Katie Stohlman, courtesy Salt’s archive.

If Annie Larmon had asked me if it was okay to record with a mic in her pocket, I would have said “No.” Annie went to Salt in the spring of 2008. And, for a story on a woman who lived with nearly fifty animals, Annie wanted to record and write notes at the same time during one of her days in the field. To do both, she’d place the mic in her pocket so her hands were free.

I’d say “no” because I believe a producer should be in control of their mic. I’d also be concerned about “pocket noise” — the rubbing of the mic on fabric. Besides, can’t you write notes after the recording session?

But Annie didn’t ask me (for starters, I wasn’t her teacher that semester) and that was fortunate for her. 🙂  She did it and got great tape and excellent notes.

The observations Annie made in her Moleskin notebook made it into her feature and added a great deal of color to the story. The notes also helped Annie pass “The Squirm Test”* — the moment when a character in your story hears the piece you produced and you…. well…. squirm because you hope to heck you got the story right.

Listen now to Annie’s piece “Brighten The Corner” and her Squirm Test.



* I think Robert Krulwich of Radio Lab coined this term.

  1. One Response to “Dogs, Cats, Parakeets, a Moleskin, and The Squirm Test”

  2. By Ronan Kelly on Jul 7, 2010

    From someone who often snatches and runs – this was admirable.

    If we had heard Sally after she heard the piece that would have been something.

    The French meaning of the work “exploit” is to “use” – in making programmes we often veer between the French and harsher English versions of exploitation – with the connivance of the interviewee too.

    With regards,

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