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Reality Radio, Second Edition

Telling True Stories in Sound

John Biewen

Publication Year: 2017

This new revised and expanded edition of Reality Radio celebrates today's best audio documentary work by bringing together some of the most influential and innovative practitioners from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. With a new foreword and five new essays, this book takes stock of the transformations in radio documentary since the publication of the first edition: the ascendance of the podcast; greater cultural, racial, and topical variety; and the changing economics of radio itself. In twenty-four essays total, documentary artists tell--and demonstrate, through stories and transcripts--how they make radio the way they do, and why. Whether the contributors to the volume call themselves journalists, storytellers, or even audio artists--and although their essays are just as diverse in content and approach--all use sound to tell true stories, artfully.

Contributors include Jad Abumrad, Daniel Alarcon, Jay Allison, damali ayo, John Biewen, Emily Botein, Chris Brookes, Scott Carrier, Katie Davis, Sherre DeLys, Ira Glass, Alan Hall, Dave Isay, Natalie Kestecher, Starlee Kine, The Kitchen Sisters, Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder, Maria Martin, Karen Michel, Joe Richman, Dmae Roberts, Stephen Smith, Alix Spiegel, Sandy Tolan, and Glynn Washington.

Jad Abumrad, Radiolab
Daniel Alarcon, Radio Ambulante
Jay Allison, The Moth Radio Hour, Transom.org
damali ayo, independent audio producer
John Biewen, audio program director at CDS, Scene on Radio
Emily Botein, vice president of On-Demand Content, WNYC
Chris Brookes, independent audio producer, Battery Radio
Scott Carrier, This American Life, Home of the Brave
Katie Davis, special projects coordinator at WAMU, Neighborhood Stories
Sherre DeLys, 360documentaries, ABC Radio National
Ira Glass, This American Life
Alan Hall, independent audio producer, Falling Tree Productions
Dave Isay, StoryCorps
Natalie Kestecher, Pocketdocs, ABC Radio National
Starlee Kine, Mystery Show
The Kitchen Sisters, The Hidden World of Girls, Hidden Kitchens
Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder, Serial
Maria Martin, Latino USA, GraciasVida Center for Media
Karen Michel, independent audio producer
Joe Richman, Radio Diaries
Dmae Roberts, independent audio producer
Stephen Smith, APM Reports
Alix Spiegel, Invisibilia
Sandy Tolan, independent audio producer, Homelands Productions
Glynn Washington, Snap Judgment

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Cover

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Accolades, Half Title, Series Info, Title Page, Copyright, Foundations Info, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. ix-x

Foreword

Starlee Kine

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pp. xi-xvi

Introduction

John Biewen

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pp. 1-12

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Are We on the Air?

Chris Brookes

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pp. 13-24

There is one feature that distinguishes me from other radio makers: geography. I am the only one whose production studio is located on the cliff where radio, as we know it, was born. ...

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That Jackie Kennedy Moment

Scott Carrier

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pp. 25-33

My work in radio production can be traced to a moment when I was twenty-one years old, sitting in a college auditorium watching the Richard Leacock film Primary, of the cinema verité. I have not seen the film since, so my recollection of what happened is somewhat blurry. In my memory there’s a shot about halfway through the film where Jackie Kennedy walks across a hotel room. ...

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Talking to Strangers

The Kitchen Sisters (Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva)

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pp. 34-41

Someone at the station taught us how to use a razor blade, and we began to edit furiously. Whittling, honing little snippets of tape labeled with grease pencil, taped to the walls all around us. We began to work in a method that we have continued to refine over two decades. Sure, now it’s digital, but this too will pass. Our techniques seem to endure. ...

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Variations in Tape Use and the Position of the Narrator: Alix Spiegel’s Practical Guide to Different Radio Techniques

Alix Spiegel

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pp. 42-53

I remember the first time I ever listened to the raw tape of a radio interview. It was the very first interview for This American Life. Ira Glass had talked to a man named Kevin Kelly, and my job was to transcribe their conversation. I hadn’t been at the interview myself; I don’t know what I was doing, probably trying to set up computer equipment for the show’s real producers. ...

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No Holes Were Drilled in the Heads of Animals in the Making of This Radio Show

Jad Abumrad

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pp. 54-63

I have a great deal of trouble describing Radiolab to people. What I usually say is, well, Radiolab is a series of hour-long radio shows where co-host Robert Krulwich and I wrestle with big ideas (the “eternals” . . . like time, space, consciousness) and mash-up all the usual radio forms. ...

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Harnessing Luck as an Industrial Product

Ira Glass

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pp. 64-76

I started working at National Public Radio’s headquarters in Washington when I was nineteen, but I wasn’t competent at writing and structuring my own stories until I was twenty-seven. I’ve never met anyone who took longer, and I’ve met hundreds of people who work in radio. ...

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One Story, Week by Week: An Interview with Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder

John Biewen, Sarah Koenig, Julie Snyder

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pp. 77-89

John Biewen: This interview may be a touch nerdier than some of the interviews you do, as Reality Radio is primarily concerned with the craft, but we don’t see the book as instructional so much as inspirational . . .
Julie Snyder: [Laughs] ...

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Story Time at the Azteca Boxing Club

Daniel Alarcón

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pp. 90-96

In the summer of 2012, a friend of mine from Lima, Peru, called to let me know he was flying to Los Angeles to interview a very famous Peruvian boxer named Kina Malpartida. I was living in San Francisco at the time, and he asked me if I wanted to drive down and record the audio. ...

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Covering Home

Katie Davis

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pp. 97-105

Washington, D.C., January 1995
I hold my microphone in my lap as the cop turns up Fifteenth Street. “Lots of guns where I’m taking you.” I know he’s not bragging. The year has barely started, and D.C. is counting up shootings—on the streets and in schools. ...

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What Did She Just Say?

damali ayo

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pp. 106-115

The first work I made for radio began with an experiment about race at a very basic level, that of skin color. I wanted to uncover what people see when they look at my skin. Wearing a hidden recorder, I walked into the paint departments of various hardware stores to find collaborators in my experiment. ...

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Out There

Sherre DeLys

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pp. 116-125

This is transcript from a piece I made as my contribution to the Atlantic Public Media series Stories from the Heart of the Land. I recorded Yingiya Guyula and myself on a road trip to his ancestral home in Arnhem Land, 100,000 square kilometers of indigenous-owned wilderness in Australia’s Northern Territory. ...

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Cigarettes and Dance Steps

Alan Hall

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pp. 126-137

Walking along a levee in New Orleans late one afternoon in the summer of 2006, it struck me—just as a match was struck by my companion to light his cigarette—that the smallest details in a radio feature can be the most telling. They can also be the most elusive in a form that is itself somewhat elliptical in nature. ...

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Unreality Radio

Natalie Kestecher

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pp. 138-145

I’ll be honest with you. When I started making my first radio feature I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was in my early thirties, was totally sick and tired of teaching English, and was getting a graduate diploma in communication. My radio production class had been given an assignment—to make a full-length radio documentary. ...

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Finding the Beats

Glynn Washington

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pp. 146-153

I grew up in a rather odd religion. As a child, I knew that I was living in the end times. The pastor told us not to expect to make it to adulthood without witnessing the return of Jesus Christ. As kids we knew we were chosen because the apostle shared actual back-and-forth conversations that he had with the Lord. It was so much stunning nonsense. ...

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Finding the Poetry

Dmae Roberts

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pp. 154-165

When I started producing radio in college, I had no idea I loved sound. I knew I loved writing my own words or being onstage and speaking incredible words written by classical playwrights. But sound? At the time I was a theater major and wanted to find a way to support my acting habit. ...

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Everyone around You Has a Story the World Needs to Hear

Dave Isay

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pp. 166-174

When I was twenty-two years old, I was lucky enough to find my calling when I fell into making radio stories. At almost the exact same time, I found out that my dad, whom I was very close to, was gay. I was taken completely by surprise. We were a tight-knit family. At some point, in one of our strained conversations, my dad mentioned the Stonewall riots. ...

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Diaries and Detritus: One Perfectionist’s Search for Imperfection

Joe Richman

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pp. 175-181

Here is a story about a cough.
It was 1963, in a stuffy courtroom in South Africa, during the trial of Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists for treason. The prosecutor was just beginning his opening statement when somebody in the courtroom coughed. It was an ordinary cough; it lasted less than two seconds. ...

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Living History

Stephen Smith

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pp. 182-193

When it’s done well, history on the radio is like a ride in Mr. Peabody’s WABAC Machine: you end up somewhere you’ve never been before and meet characters you never quite imagined—and it’s all in color. To explain: on the 1960s television cartoon show Rocky and Bullwinkle, the canine genius, Mr. Peabody, would instruct his pet boy, Sherman, ...

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The Voice and the Place

Sandy Tolan

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pp. 194-203

In the summer of 1982, wide-eyed and pumped with a post-Watergate journalistic fervor, I climbed into a borrowed, beat-up Datsun and headed north out of Flagstaff, Arizona, into Navajo country. ...

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Crossing Borders

Maria Martin

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pp. 204-211

My mother was Adela Garcia Ríos, whose family came from the indigenous community of Texcoco and who worked as household help in Mexico City. My father, Charles McGlynn Martin, was a gringo escapee from a cold climate. He’d ventured south from Chicago after World War II to find sun and cheap living on the GI Bill. ...

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Adventurers in Sound

Karen Michel

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pp. 212-217

One of the better pieces of radio I’ve heard in many years was made by a blind teenager in a small town in New York’s Catskill Mountains. Not that I listened to it on public radio; the story was broadcast locally on a—get this—hydropowered community radio station. I heard it presented in a workshop for teenage radio producers at a conference of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. ...

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Salt Is Flavor and Other Tips Learned While Cooking

Emily Botein

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pp. 218-224

I came to radio through food. At age twelve I began cooking for a caterer, stuffing chicken breasts, baking chocolate chip cookies, and (this being the early 1980s) making pasta salad. After college I landed a job at the Quilted Giraffe, a four-star restaurant in New York. It was famous, among other things, for caviar beggar’s purses. ...

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Afterword: Listen

Jay Allison

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pp. 225-238

When I was small, I was quiet. Not shy exactly, but not someone with a radio future either. My father, on the other hand, was a wonderful talker. A big man with a big personality, he was full of funny stuff and everyone enjoyed him, including me. There was no sense in trying to match his affable, amplified self. ...

About the Contributors

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pp. 239-246

Editors’ Note: Hearing the Work

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pp. 247-248

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 249-250

Reality Radio had its beginnings back in the mid-oughties when Iris Tillman Hill, longtime book editor at the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS), floated the question. Would I be interested in developing a book exploring contemporary documentary radio? Well, I replied, the world certainly could use one. ...


E-ISBN-13: 9781469633152
E-ISBN-10: 1469633159
Print-ISBN-13: 9781469633138

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2017

OCLC Number: 972734377
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