Innovation in 2017

Audio in Journalism: A technology on the rise

Written by Courtney Gallert

Audio is everywhere in journalism and is used in a variety of ways. It can stand alone, be used to enhance a piece or even as part of a many-layered multimedia package. The versatility of audio makes it an appealing journalistic technology.

Podcasts are a popular use of audio within journalism. Brian Reed, producer of popular podcast S-Town, had an extraordinary story to tell when he received an email with the subject line John B McLemore lives in Shittown Alabama. Working on the This American Life podcast for several years, Reed was attuned to the art of storytelling and knew that the man behind the email had a tale to tell. Although he didn’t respond straight away, Reed kept John in mind and some time later decided to find out exactly what his email was all about.

Effectively, Reed could have told John’s story using any type of media. He could have written a series of articles on the happenings at Shittown Alabama. He could have produced a film or even developed a photo-essay. But Reed’s decision to produce a series of podcasts on John’s story was integral to S-Town’s success.

Within radio, effective storytelling is paramount. Listeners cannot re-read the same line if the wording is clunky and they must be given clear descriptions in order to create the scenes in their own imaginations. Reed’s radio experience was helpful in this regard, as vivid scenes are set for listeners and we hear audio extracts from those directly involved in the story. This multi-layered aspect is intriguing for listeners as the sense that S-Town is real is firmly established.

Following the success of the S-Town podcasts, photos and text were released in relation to the story. Other Woodstock Alabama residents were profiled and their stories were told as well, for example Ann Stone, the local librarian. In this sense, Reed’s podcast told not only one, but opened the door for many stories to be told. Podcasts as storytelling is one example of their usage.

Audio can also be used as a news media platform and provides a convenient way for consumers to keep up with the days’ events. The ABC’s AM and PM packages are produced daily and are popular with busy commuters who can tune in whilst on their way to work. Should a story be of particular interest, listeners can then visit the ABC AM website for further information.

Journalists who file with ABC AM and PM are required to provide listeners with clear and concise information; like the audio equivalent of a newspaper. News podcast streaming is on the rise due to smartphones, which adds another layer of depth to the role of a journalist.

In all, audio reporting is a necessary skill for both upcoming and seasoned journalists. Whether produced to stand alone or with other media, audio is a prevalent journalistic technology.

About the author

Courtney Gallert