by Marsha Little Matthews

Last fall I discover NPR’s RadioLab.  I know, it’s been around a while and I bemoan that it took so long for me to be in my car at just the time it was airing. (I guess I really need to either drive longer distances more often or turn my radio/internet on when I’m not in the car.) The episode was Finding Emilie and after listening to it, I couldn’t wait to share it with my Literary Journalism graduate class. The structure of the episode seemed so akin to the structures we were studying with regard to literary journalism, even though this was an audio mediated narrative.

So, this summer I decided to teach a topics course over narrative theory and aurality. I wanted to explore mediated narrative storytelling, especially non-fiction narratives constructed with minimal to no reporter narration. There was no requirement that a student have any production or reporting experience. And there wasn’t a lot of time as the summer session only lasted five weeks. We met two evenings each week for a total of nine sessions.

The class consisted of four graduate students and five undergraduate students. Of these, only one graduate student had any production experience and four of the undergraduate students had taken at least a multimedia production course that I teach covering basic video and audio production. I quickly decided that to produce a video in five weeks with limited production experience was out of the question. I decided the narrative project would be an audio interview narrative, created utilizing the theory and knowledge acquired during the first three weeks of the course. The students had a one-session tutorial on Audacity audio editing software during the seventh class meeting – one week before the project was due.

This class exceeded my hopes and expectations for what could be accomplished in such a short period. The students analyzed short video documentaries and audio narratives using the theoretical concepts and structures we studied. They each interviewed people they hoped would have a story sufficient to craft a non-fiction audio narrative and not just a traditional Q&A reporter centered interview. Most had to go back and get additional questions answered, and then apply the theories and structure to the resulting transcripts. Most of the students then discovered the story they thought they were going after and the story rich with potential narrative meaning were quite different.

I’ll be sharing these audio narratives in sets of three, beginning with this first post from my new Narrative Storytelling Across Media blog.

The first three audio narratives are stories about relationships, challenges, and finding meaning in the events of life. Jessi Reel is a graduate student in the MA in Communication program at The University of Texas at Tyler. She interviewed Ruth Stone, her grandmother. JaHavon London and Matthew Crawford are seniors in the bachelor’s in Mass Communication program. JaHavon interviewed co-worker Greg Newland about how his life changed direction while on the football team at Texas A&M Commerce University. Matthew interviewed Ronald Crawford, his father, who has Parkinson’s Disease.

  • Production: Fate
  • Producer/Writer/Narrator: JaHavon London
  • Executive Producer: Marsha Little Matthews
  • Storyteller: Greg Newland
  • Transcript: Fate Production Transcript
  • Production: Ronald Crawford’s Story
  • Producer/Writer/Narrator: Matthew Crawford
  • Executive Producer: Marsha Little Matthews
  • Storyteller: Ronald Crawford
  • Transcript: Ronald Crawford Story Program Transcript


Copyright 2013 Marsha Little Matthews