Well it’s been coming for a little while now, but storytelling is definitely having a full blown renaissance.
I’m thinking here of live storytelling projects like The Moth: True Stories Told Live, which is also a popular podcast. Or This American Life, and the many imitators of the show’s intimate, story-centred approach to radio journalism. Closer to home, FBi Radio’s All The Best has been exploring audio storytelling, on the airwaves and onstage. As have Paper Radio. ABC have too – with project’s like ABC Open. And there are countless other examples I could mention, not least being the decade-long trend towards more vernacular, first-person prose in non-fiction writing.
The revival of the raconteur is interesting for media researchers because it gets at the heart of a couple of really big questions, a) why is storytelling important for social communication and b) what does that mean now, in an era of digital convergence, social media, big data, etc?
The questions are especially complex when it comes to community and public media, radio in particular, where so many of these new storytelling projects are being generated. How do you translate the intimate, live, ‘blind’ aesthetics of radio storytelling into multi-platform digital content (beyond a token web site and a couple of images)? How do you make the most of new platforms, not just for marketing, but to really progress the core values of community access, representation and engagement?
These are some of the issues Sue Schardt has covered in a recent article for Media Shift, “Public Media Reinvents Itself With ‘Full-Spectrum’ Storytelling”.
For Schardt, executive director of the Association of Independents in Radio, “public media is arguably in a life-or-death situation”. The revival of storytelling and experimentation with the form, she says, is an important way for community broadcasters to innovate.
“Storytelling” has emerged as a safe zone that allows media practitioners to circumvent, or at least loosen up, some of the traditional boundaries that may be confining the industry during a time of great change. It is, in part, a way for us to flex and experiment on the edges of the often strict parameters of journalistic practice and the fixed broadcast medium that defines much of what we do….
In other words, storytelling facilitates the kind of creative experimentation that the sector needs if it wants to remain relevant.
For Schardt, it’s not just about experimenting with how we distribute and share these stories that’s important, but also how we make them in the first place. To that end, AIR have been working on an initiative called Localore which is trying to “define a new, converged, space where broadcast, digital, and street platforms coexist”:
The latter — “street” — platform is especially key, since it represents public media makers moving beyond the traditional approach of going out into the community with a microphone or camera to capture a story, edit it into shape, and send it into distribution. This is where our producers are providing new, often intimate points of access for public media in the physical space of the community — portable booths, installations, moving onto porches and into backyards and haunts familiar to people living in a neighborhood –
You can hear more from Sue Schardt on these issues and the Loclaore project at the up-coming Co-Creative Communities in Melbourne.