The Craft and Context of Audio Storytelling

This research with Radio France Internationale and l’Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier, opens up new avenues of research in the academic fields of radio and podcast studies, by capturing the often unspoken techniques of audio documentary and features making. 

Audio project
Leverhulme Trust logo
Leverhulme Trust logo

Project details

Project lead Dr Abigail Wincott
Start date 1 September 2024
End date 31 December 2024

Funded by the Leverhulme Trust, Abigail Wincott will work with producers, journalists and sound engineers at Radio France Internationale. There she will record some of the key moments in the process of creating documentaries, reportage and packages for radio and podcasting. The work will develop understanding of the concepts and techniques used in factual audio storytelling, which has historically been held as tacit and embodied knowledge. The project draws on the expertise of interactional linguists at l’Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier and cements a long-term exchange between the two arts and humanities specialist universities. 

Complex crafted audio storytelling is experiencing a renaissance thanks to podcasting and on-demand listening. There is a sizeable and diverse field now devoted to its study. However, the critical vocabulary to talk about the craft of audio production remains underdeveloped in comparison to film documentary, for example.  

The craft – techniques or creative choices in scripting, recording, editing and mixing – is particular to the medium of sound. Without a shared critical language, knowledge about how programmes can and should sound remains tacit and embodied, making it difficult to discuss implications of choices, to educate or train journalists and documentary makers, or to share new ideas and encourage innovation. 

In acknowledgement of this longstanding gap researchers have increasingly been studying  radiophonic form, including Wincott’s own recent work on spatial audio journalism. This English-language tradition of study tends to derive from textual analysis of finished radio and podcast programmes. This means we know much less about the social and cultural practices behind their production.  

The problem is that creative and editorial decisions tend to be made by lone workers, editing at their desk, with headphones on. If expressed, then in brief exchanges in studio or office, fleeting and difficult to research.  

This collaboration with l’Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier enables Wincott to work with Laurent Fauré and Natalia Osorio-Ruiz, interactional linguists who specialise in techniques for capturing and analysing ephemeral interactions between people and between people and media technologies.   

The fellowship aims to produce a rich body of evidence that can be interrogated over the following months to generate knowledge about the craft of audio storytelling answering the following questions:  

How do programme-makers explain the judgements they make?  

What metaphors and other frameworks structure these judgements and how do they relate to role (journalist, technician, director, management etc), 

background (eg news work, music, art or literary education)?  

What are the interactions between programme-makers and editing software, and the structuring metaphors of its user interfaces as they seek to make these creative and editorial judgements? What can these tell us about how audio craft is valued in the sector?  

By inviting participants to reflect critically on production, the project will contribute to the development of a fuller, more nuanced critical vocabulary of the craft of audio programme-making. 

This work contributes to a key theme of innovation in narrative in the School of Communication, and develops further Falmouth’s longstanding work supporting innovation and excellence in the creative industries. 

It will enrich undergraduate teaching of documentary and multimedia journalism on the BA Journalism and Creative Writing course, as well as the growing PhD programme Futures of Podcasting and Audio Journalism.

Wincott will be based in the Linguistics department at l’Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier, where she will learn more about their techniques for data generation and analysis, sharing work in progress with colleagues at regular seminars of Opmé, a multi-disciplinary research group, specialising in understanding how people use media technology. She will make regular trips to RFILabo, at Radio France Internationale (RFI) in Paris. 

RFILabo is a specialist unit at the broadcaster, which conducts research and specialises in advanced production techniques including spatial sound, which oblige sound engineers to work closely in editing and mixing sessions with journalists and producers.  

Wincott will observe and record a series of these, and interview those involved to ask them to explain the judgements they made, and how they conceived of the story structure, how they judge good and bad decisions, and to learn more about the context of these judgements, including education and training, genre and subject matter, departmental and organisational culture, wider culture of market competition and critical recognition, and knowledge about the audience. Other techniques will be used, including collecting ephemera like scripts or post-it notes, and asking programme-makers working alone to save screen shots and record voice notes.  

Project team


Project lead - Dr Abigail Wincott

Dr Abigail Wincott is an Associate Professor of Audio Journalism at Falmouth University. Abigail has over 20 years' experience as a journalist and producer in print, broadcast and online, including 15 years at BBC Radio 4 and the World Service. Her research interests includes areas of audio production and how professional cultures adapt to changes in technology and wider society. Find out more about Abigail's research interests, projects and outputs directly on her staff profile, linked below.


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The work is supported by an International Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust.  

Leverhulme Trust logo

Outputs & outcomes

The research will be published as a bilingual, open-access, peer reviewed edited collection on the state-of-the-art of the critical language of crafted audio, bringing together the latest French and English-language work, in 2025-26.