The Amazing World of Radio Storytelling

And now it’s time to hear from Ira Glass of This American Life about storytelling basics! In Glass’ video, he emphasizes understanding the main building blocks of an exceptional story, the anecdote and the moment(s) of reflection. An anecdote is another word for the sequence of actions within a story that keep the plot flowing. Even if the anecdote seems boring at first, the listener can feel the story moving somewhere, and this keeps the audience wanting to know what happens next.

The moment of reflection is an aspect that supports the anecdote. When you establish a moment of reflection, you explain to the listeners what the content of the anecdote means and what the point of it is. For example, imagine if the story of Cinderella were just a constant sequence of actions and no explanations whatsoever: A woman is cleaning a filthy kitchen; 3 other women enter the room, 2 of which throw dirty dishes on the ground, then leave; some mice make a dress; 2 of the women destroy the dress then leave; some old lady appears in front of the original woman and gives her a magic dress and a pumpkin car. This story would make no sense without some time to reflect upon the events. “Who is this woman and why is she cleaning the kitchen?” “Why do the mice make a dress for her?” “Why did the old lady give her a pumpkin car?” The moment of reflection is used to ask these questions and answer them so the audience can stay connected with the story.

Part 2 of Glass’ video discusses finding a good story to work with. He talks about what a good radio storyteller would do to in order to keep a story interesting. Most of the material the show receives, such as interviews and anecdotes, tries to be boring and unstructured, but it’s up to the writer to turn it into something great; in other words, separating the meaningful from “the crap.” This video not only talks about how to attain success when telling a story, but also how to attain it in the real world. It reminds us that failure is a huge part of success, and “if you’re not failing all the time, you’re not creating a situation where you can get super lucky.”

Now for something completely different; another point of view on radio from Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad. In Abumrad’s video, he explains how radio can convey a sense of empathy between the station and the listener. He uses the phrase “co-imagining” to describe this connection, where both the storyteller and the listener paint an image of the story together. If the speaker is able to successfully put images and emotions into the listener’s head, than the 2 individuals can share a connection. He also brings up how the concept of radio is much different than television and movies because the viewer is restricted to what is literally on the screen; there is no need for imagination to create an image of something that is already being displayed. This is why radio is still around today, because it can do something that television cant; Have the audience create their own unique characters and settings that is incomparable to the mental image of another individual.

DS106 Radio Bumper!

Best with headphones!!


Woah, this assignment was so fun that I started it immediately after it was assigned. I’d grown up listening to different radio stations (mainly the ones my parents and older sister played in the car,) and I would pay attention, not just to the songs, but to the commercials and promos; so much so that I began copying the ads word for word (driving my mom crazy.)

I created this bumper using Garageband, which is a program that comes with Mac computers, and all of the sounds were from the built-in sound library. I based the bumper after the general radio stations that say their station’s name like 3 or more times, sample a clip from one of their shows, and offer to connect with the audience online. There were 8 tracks total, each one having a different audio output or distortion. I also layered the recordings over one another to reduce the time in between. Radio stations do this to get as much time into their promo as possible since they only get maybe 15-20 seconds. The best way to learn the format of radio commercials is by listening to all the commercials whenever they come on (and not turn to a different station!)

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