AIR’s 2017 Better Edit Fellowship

Applications are now closed. Meet the 2017 Better Edit Fellows!

Join AIR to find mentorship, community, skill-building workshops, and funding opportunities.


One of AIR’s greatest assets is our collective brain trust—from the knowledge shared on the AIRdaily to the meet-ups hosted to gather regional AIRsters. Our peer-to-peer mentoring program is another way AIR orchestrates this passing of expertise. In this vein, AIR is pleased to announce that we are looking for candidates interested in becoming better editors through our Better Edit Fellowship. We’re pleased to be partnering with PRNDI – the Public Radio News Directors Incorporated – on this initiative.


What is The Better Edit Fellowship?   

The demand for good editors in podcasting, public radio, and audio stories outpaces the availability of ready talent. AIR hears this, so we’ve tapped some of the best editors in the business to give focused attention to 12 aspiring editors chosen through a competitive selection process.

If you’re chosen, we’ll match you with an editor. You’ll work for four hours over the course of 90 days to whip your project into shape and upskill your editing. Think of it as an extended story meeting where a great editor gives you insight into how their mind works and into how they help a producer structure a story or project.

What skills can I expect to touch on during the fellowship?

The Better Edit Fellows will learn how to pull diamonds out of the rough. Your editor-mentor will work with you to identify how to unfurl the pieces and then tie them back up together into something great. You’ll come away from the fellowship ready to apply this understanding of listening for editing and structuring audio stories to yours and others’ work.

Who can apply?

You must be either an AIR or PRNDI member in good standing. As an AIR member, you must also have been in the network for at least six months. Please read more about Fellowship eligibility here. Not a member yet? Learn more about joining AIR here. The strongest candidates are expected to be working on a specific audio project with concrete goals.

What should I provide?

In your application, please outline your project and its goals. We recommend you try to establish a proposed timeline and a clear set of objectives you want to achieve and may refine over the course of your 90-day Fellowship.

What does this cost?

Each four-hour pairing is valued at $600. AIR subsidizes the cost on a sliding scale. We believe in the value of our Fellows investing in their own professional development. You’ll be asked in the application what you can reasonably contribute towards the fee. The amount an applicant is able to contribute has no bearing on final decision-making.

What’s the timeline?

Deadline to apply is 5 pm P.T. on July 14th, 2017. The Fellowships begin August 14th and continue through November 16th.

Who are AIR’s mentors?

Hundreds of experts have served as AIR mentors since the program launched in 1995. The AIR mentors represent the depth of the AIR brain trust, and, when we need to, we go outside the network to bring the best expertise from across the country to expand the skills of AIR producers. Areas of discipline are far reaching—from training public radio newsroom journalists, to sourcing stories about agriculture in the Midwest, to giving story edits to Malcolm Gladwell, to building a new cohort of media entrepreneurs. Read on to meet our Better Edit mentors. Please note that all AIR mentors are compensated $300 for their time.

What if this isn’t exactly the right fit for me but I still want to upskill?

AIR offers self-directed mentorships to AIRsters in good standing who have met the six months vested membership requirement. Read more on our main mentorship page.

Additionally, check out these great editing resources from NPR Training and PRNDI, which honored editors at this year’s conference:

What Makes A Good Editor?

Front-end editing: the ‘secret ingredient’ of great audio storytelling

The audio editor’s resource: tips for shaping great stories


Mentor Bios:

Biography Headshot

Chris Ballman was born and raised in New Jersey. His first real job was running soundboards for rock and roll bands, a career cut short by his local draft board. Ballman began working in public radio in 1979 at WBAI in New York and has held reporting, producing, and editing positions at WFCR in Amherst, MA; WBUR, Boston, MA; Monitor Radio; and Living on Earth. His awards include the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award for Excellence in Radio Reporting — two years in a row. Ballman is currently managing editor for the NPR-WBUR midday news magazine Here & Now.

Biography Headshot

Julia Barton is the editor of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History from Panoply. She also edited Maria Konnikova’s series The Grift, as well as Slate’s Placemakers, and has been a broadcast editor for PRI’s The World and American Public Media’s Weekend America. Her reporting has appeared on WNYC’s Radiolab and Studio 360, as well as 99% Invisible, Life of the Law, and other programs. For more, see

Biography Headshot

Jeremy Bernfeld is the editor of Harvest Public Media, a collaboration among several Midwest public media stations that reports on food and agriculture issues, and is based at public radio station KCUR 89.3 in Kansas City. As Harvest’s editor, he runs a small, award-winning newsroom focused on the business of where our food comes from, and he works with reporters on coverage on-air, online, and on television. He has also covered blizzards and tornadoes and the natural disaster that was the Red Sox’s 2011 season. Bernfeld joined Harvest as multimedia editor in 2011 from WBUR in Boston.

Biography Headshot

Ibby Caputo is a multimedia journalist and was a 2014-2015 MIT-Knight Science Journalism Fellow. She is a content editor for several podcasts, including The Breakthrough from ProPublica, Us and Them, and the Jewish Women’s Archive’s Can We Talk. Caputo covered health care, transportation, and breaking news as a reporter for WGBH’s Boston Public Radio and WGBH TV. Caputo is an adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is a recurring guest speaker at the Harvard Divinity School.

Biography Headshot

Peter Clowney is executive editor at Midroll Media. He edits the parenting show The Longest Shortest Time, along with a variety of documentary and serialized projects. Before this, Clowney was head editor at Gimlet Media, editing Reply All and StartUp. He spent many years in public radio, editing shows like Studio 360 and Marketplace and documentaries for American RadioWorks. Clowney got his start cutting interviews for Fresh Air, and was one of the three original producers of This American Life. Clowney’s goal with any project is to draw answers and ideas and story surprises out of a producer, and build the beats of the story in conversation. He lives in Minnesota with his family, and comes to New York or Los Angeles pretty often.


Biography Headshot

Anne Donohue is an award-winning public radio producer and editor. She was the special projects editor at Monitor for five years, and has also been a contributor to NPR, the BBC, WGBH, WBUR, and other public radio programs, winning the prestigious duPont-Columbia Award for The DNA Files on NPR. She has won numerous journalism awards for productions on women and AIDS, population and women’s reproductive health, and treatment of women and girls in the developing world. Prior to her work in public radio, Donohue was a writer and producer in commercial television news at ABC News in Washington and the CBS affiliate in Boston.

Biography Headshot

Martha Little is senior producer on the Audible Original Team responsible for creating innovative audio storytelling. Little is a Peabody Award-winning producer who worked in senior positions on all the major public radio networks: APM (Marketplace), NPR (Day to Day, All Things Considered), PRI (America Abroad), and major local stations WBUR (news director) and WNYC (Studio 360). She delights in mentoring new talent as well as perfecting the structure of every story. She was once a Soviet nuclear arms specialist who learned Russian and got to troll around in Gorbachev’s archives.

Biography Headshot

Aaaron Schachter is Executive Producer and Editor for WGBH Radio News in Boston. He works with reporters to craft their stories for radio, assisting with all aspects of their pieces, from conception to final edit. Schachter’s own experience as a field correspondent included Middle East reporting for WGBH/PRI’s The World for eight years. In that role, he reported stories from throughout Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan. His stories have won awards from the duPont-Columbia School of Journalism and the Scripps-Howard Institute.


Biography Headshot

Rob Sachs is an award-winning journalist and the executive producer for America Abroad, AAM’s monthly radio documentary series. He has worked in the national radio industry since 2000. He’s been a producer at NPR on programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Tell Me More. In 2006, he launched his own NPR podcast titled What Would Rob Do?: An Irreverent Guide to Life’s Daily Indignities. Sachs has also reported for NPR, WAMU, KUOW, KCRW, and other radio outlets. Sachs received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and lives in Maryland with his wife and three children. His specialty areas include audio production, editing, writing, reporting, hosting, and putting together a show (radio documentaries).


Biography Headshot

Judith Smelser is the founder of Smelser Editing & Consulting. The organization provides news-related consulting services, training, and story editing to media organizations around the country. Current and past clients include KERA Dallas, Capital Public Radio Sacramento, WUNC Chapel Hill, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), Colorado Public Radio, WKSU Kent, KTOO Juneau, and many more. She is the co-creator and co-presenter of PRNDI’s News Manager Training and Certification course. She also offers an independent story editing service. In addition, she writes the blog Scribbles and Scruples about the craft and conundrums of modern journalism. Before launching Smelser E&C, Smelser was managing editor at Colorado Public Radio, where she led day-to-day operations of CPR’s 17-person newsroom.

Biography Headshot

Loretta Williams is an independent public media producer, editor and reporter based in the Los Angeles area. Williams started her radio career in Boston and eventually moved to D.C. to work as a producer for NPR’s Morning Edition and Weekend Edition Sunday. Between 1999 and 2006, she was an editor for NPR’s arts desk. She has taught advanced skills in story development, writing, and production to early career journalists. Williams is currently a freelance editor for the Center for Documentary Center’s podcast Scene on Radio. Her work as an editor and producer has been honored with two George Foster Peabody Awards, a duPont Silver Baton, and several other awards.

Biography Headshot

Alicia Zuckerman is the editorial director at WLRN in Miami, where she’s in charge of editing and programming feature stories and other long-form radio. She started making radio around age seven, using two cassette recorders. She has edited many regional and national award-winning stories, most recently stories about outsider art, dance, a Cuban American’s first trip to Cuba, the Zika virus in South Florida, and the Central American migrant crisis. She recently edited the WLRN radio documentary Cell 1: Florida’s Death Penalty in Limbo and a series on surviving youth gun violence. Zuckerman is also a longtime arts journalist and 2013 USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism fellow. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University at Albany (SUNY), where she studied English and music, and a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She lives on Miami Beach, where she worries about sea level rise.