Leaving in the Pauses

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley


Ellen Weiss, NPR’s vice president of news

“Don’t be afraid to leave the pauses in,” my editor told me. “And it’s OK to have an ‘um’ or two in there.” I had spent a week editing audio for a soundslide highlighting a talk that National Public Radio’s vice president of news, Ellen Weiss, gave last week. To trim the audio, which included the voices of many, I edited out the “ohs,” the “ums,” the “wells,” to shorten the length of the audio. But it came out sounding rushed and choppy. So I edited. And edited. And edited.

I ultimately started over and let the natural cadence and flow of the conversation stand as it was. In listening to the final product, I could appreciate the breaks in conversation, the moments of contemplation, the little imperfections that make us human.

The fact that I tried cutting the ums and silences made me think about how often we do this in our day-to-day life — not the uming, but the cutting. We charge through life, pushing past the pauses, not giving ourselves time to stop and think. Rush, rush, rush through the rigmarole of life. Sometimes, it’s OK to slow down.

So, here’s the final product of the edited audio, pauses and all. My colleague Billy Kulpa took the accompanying photos and put the soundslide together.