Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) documentary radio projects explore American lives and communities through the intimate power of sound. They emphasize storytelling and audio verité—“the sound of life happening.” Featuring multiple voices, real-life scenes, and in-depth fieldwork, our radio projects tell stories that advance understanding about society and explore, even if implicitly, questions of human dignity and justice.
More broadly, audio programs at CDS are multifaceted, reflecting a commitment to the teaching, making, and presentation of documentary work. Students in undergraduate and Continuing Education courses, as well as participants in CDS Audio Institutes, learn various skills—from sound recording to writing and scripting to digital mixing. Students hear audio work from many genres and explore broader issues such as documentary ethics and producer-subject relationships. Student pieces reach audiences through podcasts, community presentations, and radio—the program promotes a blend of teaching and doing audio work by connecting student work to ongoing CDS radio projects. Pieces produced at CDS summer institutes have been played before rooms filled with people from local neighborhoods whose stories are being told; student pieces have also found homes on a variety of radio outlets, from WUNC and WNCU in the Triangle region of North Carolina to NPR and This American Life.
In addition to teaching, audio program director John Biewen produces documentaries and features for NPR, American Public Media, PRI, the BBC, and other radio and online audiences, often in collaboration with other CDS staff, independent producers, or public radio stations.