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How to tell an audio story without narration

Standard audio stories have a host introduction, narration, voice tracks and actualities (such as natural sound). But you can also use non-narrated pieces, stories that don’t include the reporter’s voice or storytelling. Non-narrated pieces aren’t usual, but they can be effective when paired with the right story. These stories can take several forms.

  • First-person essays. This works well for commentaries, when a particular point of view is presented.
  • Man on the street. In this non-narrated approach, a reporter asks people’s reactions to a question or issue. Plan to ask each person two or three questions. Back in the studio, you’ll create a montage of the best responses.
  • Voice collages. This structure incorporates many voices into a tight space. It provides different answers to a single question. Usually, the answers are provided in succession, after an initial setup. This format works best with a very specific subject. It also works best in short form: 30 seconds is a typical length for a collage.
  • Features. You can also present a person’s responses to a set of interview questions without the reporter speaking. This formats works especially well when people tell a story about their life or something they’ve done.

Use a non-narrated approach with a particular purpose in mind. It won’t work for every topic, so don’t force it on a story that would benefit from another approach.

Taken from Writing for the Ear, a self-directed course by Dan Grech at Poynter NewsU.

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Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current position as marketing communications manager. She is the author of Cleaning Your Copy: Grammar, Style and More – a self-directed e-learning course that consistently is ranked as one of the most popular courses at Poynter News University. Other work includes producing “Best Newspaper Writing,” the annual collection of the ASNE Distinguished Writing Award winners and finalists, and editing “Aim for the Heart,” a book by Poynter’s Al Tompkins for TV reporters and producers. You can follow her on Twitter at @vkrueger and @newsu.

(via Poynter)