Audio Narratives

I. When, why and how to use audio

There are editorial, logistical and production considerations when evaluating whether to use audio in a story. Audio may be the primary device used to convey a story, as in the case of audio slideshows or it might be used as in modular clips, such as in roundtables or Q & A interviews.

Audio functions:
To make first-person or eyewitness accounts more compelling
To develop story characters with voice, accent, and speech patterns
To set a mood or tone
To give a sense of place with natural sound or sound effects
In stories where audio is a central theme, to instruct or illustrate

Types of audio:
Interviews, voxpop
Ambient sounds
Soundtrack – music

Audio features:
Question and answer interviews, roundtables
Audio slideshows
Musical clips
Multimedia documentaries
Ambient sounds
Raw audio clips: 9-11 calls, ATC communication, police/fire scanner chatter, phone messages

II. Audio Features

First-person witness

The 9/11 Tapes: The Story in the Air

Flight 1549 – “We’re going to be in the Hudson.”

A Home for a Movement

– Covid-19

The Coronavirus Quieted City Noise. Listen to What’s Left.

Microphones on once-busy street corners and public parks have recorded the sound of the pandemic.

The coronavirus has transformed many aspects of life, closing businesses, canceling plans, confining people to home. But in this subtler way, life has changed, too: The city no longer sounds the same. And that realization is as jarring as the sight of empty streets.

Twenty-nine of the city’s 30 quietest days during the last three years have been during the pandemic, the recordings suggest. The exception was Christmas Day in 2018.

Quarantine Soundscapes

Related: SONYC

Taking aim at New Yorkers’ biggest civic complaint – noise – a team of scientists from NYU, working with collaborators at Ohio State University, have launched a first-of-its-kind comprehensive research initiative to understand and address noise pollution in New York and beyond. The project – which involves large-scale noise monitoring – leverages the latest in machine learning technology, big data analysis, and citizen science reporting to more effectively monitor, analyze, and mitigate urban noise pollution. Known as Sounds of New York City (SONYC), this multi-year project has received a $4.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation and has the support of City health and environmental agencies.

– Character, Voice

The carpet cleaner who speaks 24 languages

Three Weeks Inside a Pro-Trump QAnon Chat Room

Intercepted Calls from Russian Troops

Invisible Hands

– Audio Slideshows

In the audio slideshow, images, sound and caption text are layered together to tell a story. Sometimes high-quality images or illustrations with audio have much more impact than video. In the following profiles, the stories are created by weaving together photographs, audio interviews and ambient sound

Climate Countdown

-First-person, eyewitness accounts, 9/11 calls, ATC recordings, phone calls

Some audio is so compelling, shocking, or unique as in the case of eyewitness testimony, 9-11 calls, and cockpit recordings that it can really place listeners at the scene.

New Details About Breonna Taylor’s Life and Death

Ahmaud Arbery’s Final Moments


-Event coverage

Audio excerpts and transcripts can allow viewers to scan and review in-depth important events.

Analysis of the Arguments — The Supreme Court Health Care Challenges

Egypt protests: ‘People are being hauled out by police and beaten’

Live Messages from Egypt

Thousands Feared Dead as Earthquake Hits China

-Tours, guides, how-to’s, instructional audio

At the Metropolitan Museum, a New Wing, a New Vista

-Multimedia Features

The New Age of Walls

-Ambient Sounds

-Sound or Music is the Story Focus

What does ASMR do to your brain? Watch these videos and find out.

This is What It Sounds Like When Plants Cry

Notre Dame Acoustics

The New York City Mixtape

A neighborhood’s cryptocurrency mine: ‘Like a jet that never leaves’

Can Brown Noise Turn Off Your Brain?

You may have hearing loss and not know it. Here’s what it sounds like.

The Culture Warped Pop, for Good

The Songs That Get Us Through It

19 Songs That Matter Right Now

The Pianist and the Lobster

5 Minutes That Will Make You Love the Violin

5 Minutes That Will Make You Love Classical Music

We asked some of our favorite artists to tell us about the sounds they cherish. Listen to their choices.


The Rapper-Singer

Touchstones is an interactive series in which New Yorker writers deconstruct groundbreaking works of art and culture. The format blends personal essay and cultural history. In this first installment, three music writers look back at the albums that shaped them as critics, and as people, in their formative years.

Bob Dylan Jam Sessions


The Top 25 Songs That Matter

Phillips Obsessed with Sound

Build a Pop Song

Listen to the Birds

WSJ: Scientists Are Recording Ocean Sounds

When Pigs Cry: Tool Decodes the Emotional Lives of Swine
An algorithm built by European researchers could help farmers “speak pig” to improve the animals’ welfare.

The Function of Music with Jad Abumrad from mac premo on Vimeo.

V. Podcasts



Editing Audio II (PDF)
Mediastorm – Gathering Audio (PDF)
No Fear Guide to Multimedia Skills (PDF)
Apple Pro – Techniques
Ethical guidelines for editing audio
Poynter: Sound in the Story
Radio news tips
Audio tips for print reporters from NYT sound sage Amy O’Leary
CUNY Soundmap