Reality Radio

Telling True Stories in Sound

Edited by John Biewen, Alexa Dilworth

Foreword by Rick Moody.

224 pp., 6.125 x 9.25

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-7102-7
    Published: March 2010
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-9566-5
    Published: March 2010

Documentary Arts and Culture

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Over the last few decades, the radio documentary has developed into a strikingly vibrant form of creative expression. Millions of listeners hear arresting, intimate storytelling from an ever-widening array of producers on programs including This American Life, StoryCorps, and Radio Lab; online through such sites as Transom, the Public Radio Exchange, Hearing Voices, and Soundprint; and through a growing collection of podcasts.

Reality Radio celebrates today's best audio documentary work by bringing together some of the most influential and innovative practitioners from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. In these nineteen essays, documentary artists tell--and demonstrate, through stories and transcripts--how they make radio the way they do, and why.

Whether the contributors to the volume call themselves journalists, storytellers, even audio artists--and although their essays are just as diverse in content and approach--all use sound to tell true stories, artfully.


Jad Abumrad

Jay Allison

damali ayo

John Biewen

Emily Botein

Chris Brookes

Scott Carrier

Katie Davis

Sherre DeLys

Lena Eckert-Erdheim

Ira Glass

Alan Hall

Natalie Kestecher

The Kitchen Sisters

Maria Martin

Karen Michel

Rick Moody

Joe Richman

Dmae Roberts

Stephen Smith

Sandy Tolan

About the Authors

John Biewen is audio program director at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, where he teaches and produces documentary work for NPR, PRI, American Public Media, and other public radio audiences.
For more information about John Biewen, visit the Author Page.

Alexa Dilworth is publishing director at the Center for Documentary Studies.
For more information about Alexa Dilworth, visit the Author Page.


"Biewen . . . chronicles this rebirth of the documentary . . . profiling a new breed of radio producers who . . . are willing to get involved with their subjects, reveal parts of their own lives, and paint vivid pictures with sound."--Duke Magazine

"An incredibly important contribution to the field of public media, one that will invite introspection, spark creativity, and hopefully teach people that the first step in learning is listening."--Public Radio Makers Quest 2.0

"What is striking about this collection is how clearly the reader can 'hear' the diverse voices and stories, despite the print medium. . . . A wonderful and accessible read. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice

"[Biewen] offers a lively history of creative documentary radio in his introduction to 19 passionate, instructive, and unexpectedly moving essays by innovative audio journalists and artists who use sound to tell true stories artfully. . . . Invaluable and many-faceted coverage of a thriving, populist, and mind-expanding art form."--Booklist

"This book is valuable for those who believe radio's future is in the art of storytelling and can be a particularly good resource for students enrolled in radio narrative or radio/audio documentary classes, and a valued tool for faculty teaching documentary, narrative, audio drama, and radio writing."--Journal of Radio and Audio Media

“The essays in this book were written by people thinking with their ears.”--Rick Moody, from the foreword

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