Radio documentaries: Exploring American culture through sound

Students in the seminar "Audio Journalism: Storytelling for Radio Documentaries and Podcasts," taught by journalist Joe Richman, traveled the United States to report on compelling stories and develop journalistic skills.

Curiosity, a desire to tell stories and a course assignment recently led Princeton students to communities from New Jersey to California.

In the fall, nine undergraduates took part in the seminar “Audio Journalism: Storytelling for Radio Documentaries and Podcasts” (JRN 450). The course was taught by Joe Richman, a producer and reporter, and founder and executive producer of the Radio Diaries production company. As discussed in the video above, students focused on developing journalistic skills in audio storytelling such as advanced writing, interviewing, sound-gathering and multi-layered audio production.

Over the semester, they created broadcast-caliber radio stories that aimed to convey more than information, exploring the sensibilities and skills needed for narratives to capture listeners’ imaginations. The best stories have been pitched to WYNC, NPR and other broadcast and podcast outlets.

The course was one of Princeton’s Ferris Seminars in Journalism, in which students work closely with award-winning journalists to explore nonfiction storytelling and deep, serious journalism. For 60 years, the Ferris Seminars in Journalism at Princeton University have forged new generations of the world’s most distinguished journalists, writers and policymakers.