FROM PHOEBE’S FALL TO THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE PONG SU: How an Australian newspaper made hit narrative podcasts

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The Routledge Companion to Radio and Podcast Studies


Following the remarkable success of the narrative true crime podcast Serial in 2014, prominent newspapers turned to podcasting as an accessible and effective way of showcasing in-depth investigative journalism. But moving from a print medium to an aural format is not an easy process. Audio requires consideration of tone, texture, and temporality, while in podcasting, the host traditionally adopts a vernacular voice and a personalized perspective, unlike the detached tone of a print article. To be compelling, an episodic audio story or podcast needs to deploy excellent audio production techniques as well as conventions of narrative structure: strong plot, fully-fledged characters, narrative twists, inviting language, flowing format. This chapter examines how Australian newspaper The Age made two acclaimed narrative podcasts. The author was a consulting producer on both, advising on how to adapt investigative journalism for optimal storytelling-through-sound, and assisting print journalists to transition to the audio medium. The chapter uses actual script iterations of the podcasts along with semi-structured interviews with the podcast production teams to reveal how the narrative podcast form allows rigorous investigative journalism to achieve increased emotional force, combining penetrating analysis with considerable audience impact.

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