/ Graduate Catalogue / Writing / 2014-2015

How Does This American Life Do What They Do?-A Narrative Writing for Radio Course


Have you ever wondered how This American Life, RadioLab, The Moth, and other narrative radio shows/podcasts do what they do? Wonder no more. This course will teach you how to write and construct long-form narrative pieces from pitch to broadcast. We will listen to, analyze, write, and produce in the style of shows that have dominated the narrative form for decades: This American Life, Radiolab, Planet Money, and The Moth. You will also be introduced to emerging shows such as 99 Percent Invisible, Love + Radio, Strangers, Unfictional, Audio Smut, Snap Judgement, Radiotopia, The Organist, and many others. Students will learn practicalities; e.g., pitching these shows by using actual "call for stories" from This American Life and Snap Judgement; the fundamentals of how to record and mix stories using the latest digital editing technology; what narrative editors expect from freelancers; how to adapt a written piece for broadcast; what kinds of narrative internships are available; and, yes, how to negotiate what you'll be paid. We will also reflect on the theoretical and ethical considerations for this "Golden Age of Narrative Radio." We will ask questions such as: How do imposing narrative structures affect nonfiction storytelling? How do narrative shows deal with ethical missteps? What does it mean to have "a voice?" Does it matter who gets to tell the story? (Answer on the last question, "Yes." We'll discuss why.) Producers, editors, and freelancers for This American LifeRadiolab, and The Moth will visit the class to provide insight into their shows and answer student questions. The class will also take a field trip to WNYC, which houses Radiolab and other national shows. At the end of the semester, students will take over the Hudson Valley community station, WGXC, to broadcast their final projects. 

This class is open to all MFA students, including ones who have taken Ann Heppermann's audio fiction craft class.