With Audio Quizzes, KALW Finds A Unique Way To Tell Stories About The Bay Area

Mar 31, 2014

Credit Rich Black / http://rblack.org/

There are lots of tools you can use to experiment with audio storytelling – radio, digital, social, community engagement, quizzes. With Audiograph, KALW found a way to combine all of that into into one unique project.

Audiograph is a weekly feature at KALW. It uses "the sounds of voices, nature, industry, and music to tell the story of" the Bay Area.

Here's how it works:

Each week, KALW records a sound from somewhere in the Bay Area.  The sound is broadcast on air and posted online on Monday. Like this terrifying sound from September: 

Listeners have to guess the origin of the sound and can call in to submit their guesses. They're also encouraged to submit ideas for future Audiographs. The winner gets a t-shirt.

Then on Thursday, during the KALW show Crosscurrents, the sound's source is unveiled. But the reveal is much more than just telling listeners what and where – a reporter tells the story behind the sound:

The idea for Audiograph was thought up by senior producer Julie Caine, a longtime resident of the Bay Area. Caine wanted a way to give locals a better sense of place. To take listeners, as she puts it, on a tour of the Bay Area.

"It's a region that has a rich history and is really big," says Caine. "Almost no one is from here, so most people don't have a sense of where they live."

Caine also wanted an excuse to go out and talk to people without needing a news hook. And because Caine says she thinks with her ears, she arrived at the idea of Audiograph. A grant from the Creative Work Fund made it a reality. She partnered with KALW and produced the very first Audiograph in January 2013. Since then, they've produced about 57 Audiograph stories, along with two 30-minute specials (Part I, Part II). 

Audiograph allows the local community to take part in the storytelling process in a fun way. But Caine says it also has benefits for the KALW newsroom. Mainly, it helps reporters think outside the box.

"It requires a whole lot of creative thinking," she says. "You have to think very differently as a producer."

Caine has some ideas to keep Audiograph evolving. "We've recently started to get really great audio submissions from our listeners," she says. Several of these sounds have turned into Audiograph pieces, like this one

Caine's also planning on expanding Audiograph to live events ("think Pop Up Magazine"). 

Listen to some of Julie Caine's favorite Audiograph pieces: