Indiana University

Indiana University Journalism

Schardt discusses audio’s ability to effect change, shine light

Lena Morris | Dec. 7, 2013
Photo by Lena Morris
Sue Schardt of Association of Independents in Radio talked to two audio storytelling classes Tuesday about innovation and technology.
With ever-developing technology and a rapidly changing industry, radio is among the genre of media facing a renaissance age with more multimedia, Web and digital collaborating than ever before, according Sue Schardt, award-winning audio producer and executive director of the Association of Independents in Radio.

Schardt visited two audio storytelling classes Tuesday to talk about the audio revolution and opportunities with radio. Students in J360 Audio Storytelling and J460 Radio Innovation comprise the school's American Student Radio, an online audio storytelling website.

As executive producer for the transmedia project Localore, which documents small-town stories all over the nation with the collaboration of nearly 200 reporters, technologists, designers, and station and community based producers, Schardt has participated in the radio revolution. She said projects like Localore represent an exciting age for radio, which isn’t just for news broadcasts during the morning drive to work any more.

“Radio has become a much wider constellation, so we’re being opened up to the constellation of choices, tools and experience,” she said.

As when she first started out in radio in the ‘80s, new technologies are sparking an era of experimentation with audio storytelling that is creating a demand for passionate reporters and curators, she said.

“There’s so much technology, and we don’t know what to do with it now,” she said, “so what we need is brilliant public service-minded craftspeople who understand that we have the capacity to really make a difference in people’s lives.”

With 1,200 pubic radio and television stations across the country, the revolution of radio through projects like Localore is expanding knowledge of media to corners of the country where public media doesn’t exist, Schardt said.

“We have this profound opportunity with all the changes and experimentation available to us to really lead a renaissance of what it is to serve the public with media skills,” she said.

Beyond storytelling, Schardt said the greatest reporters are those who understand the purpose of the storytelling and the difference it can make in people’s lives.

“It’s a time of great division,” she said of the current climate. “People can’t feed their children, people are struggling with health care. As media makers, we have the ability to shine light onto humanity in a new way. You don’t just go out and make stuff, you’re really guided by a sense of mission and purpose, thinking about what difference it’s going to make and to whom.”

Schardt, who’s also an independent strategist who started Schardt Media in 1998, also talked about the skills necessary to create this work. Audio storytellers should explore different platforms, but also develop solid skills before moving from one to the next.

“They have to be disciplined and master a craft. That means having really good teachers and listening to many things,” she said. “Develop an anchor, and that’s when you go out to explore the other tools of multimedia.”

Schardt said her passion for sound and audio storytelling stems from its fundamental part of life and of the craft of journalism.

“It’s the root of everything,” she said. “It’s the first sense that comes into the womb and it’s the last that leaves us when we die.”

Schardt and student
Photo by Lena Morris
After her talks, Schardt talked to students who had questions about working in radio and about their own projects for American Student Radio.
Lacy Scarmana, a junior concentrating on broadcast who is in the J360 Audio Storytelling class, said learning about Schardt’s career and AIR made her realize the potential of developing a career in audio.

“It was really interesting hearing about the network of producers and all the opportunities that are out there,” she said. “At the journalism school, you think of the IDS and the yearbook, and these different media that are great, but there’s this whole audio world that’s brand new to me. It’s exciting to learn about something different.”

Schardt said audio storytelling is an art form that takes dedication, passion and hard work. She said those who choose the field aren’t in it for the salary, but for the fulfillment of touching a listener’s heart with an untold story.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” she said. “It’s really designed for those of us who are creative, who are not afraid to move into experimentation and invention.”


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