Such a view was a radical antidote to the turgid, formulaic reportage that had infected much of US public radio, whereby “documentary” had become associated with “worthy”.
The revolution gained traction in 1995 when the American radio personality Ira Glass co-founded This American Life, a one-hour narrative journalism show.
Glass refuses to use the term documentary: Glass’s “movies-for-radio” approach has been a spectacular success, with more than 2 million listeners a week for This American Life on more than 500 public radio stations in Canada, Australia, Ireland, Germany and the US, and a further million podcasts on i Tunes.
Much of its charm derives from the riffing between the urbane Robert Krulwich and the musically creative Jad Abumrad, who interact in micro-produced, fast-paced stories loosely related to science, culture and philosophy, crafted as finely layered slivers of voice and composed acoustic. they challenge how you’re used to hearing scientific topics, complicated things, talked about,” Shapiro told me.
“But mostly it’s skill, chemistry and a little bit of magic, really.” A recent Radio Lab episode, Blame, features a deeply affecting tale about an elderly man, Hector, who develops a close relationship with the crack addict who raped and killed his daughter.
In print, Hector’s story would seem unbelievable, almost perverted.
As television, we would be drawn to the differences in colour, age, background, of the grieving white father and the jailed black murderer: appearance trumping story.
I can't say enough great things about what John and Allie are doing with this podcast.
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The Conversation UK receives funding from Hefce, Hefcw, SAGE, SFC, RCUK, The Nuffield Foundation, The Ogden Trust, The Royal Society, The Wellcome Trust, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Alliance for Useful Evidence, as well as sixty five university members.
View the full list In a cultural milieu dominated by long-form television dramas such as Breaking Bad and Madmen, how has the apparently simple activity of audio storytelling gained such clout?
In the US, documentary radio programs such as Radio Lab, This American Life and Radio Diaries enjoy sold-out stage shows telling real-life stories that combine serious journalism with compelling personal narratives, philosophical discourse and an irreverent but always engaging tone.