There are two reasons I’m not a fan of narration and voice over….
1) Narration is often often pedantic and poorly written. I realize that it’s very difficult to write clever narration. So I don’t get why it’s overused by reporters who can’t seem to be bothered to have subjects tell their stories in their own words. Sometimes, with a limit amount of time, narration seems like the best way to tell a complicated story in a short time (or rescue a poor talker). But sometimes it’s just the idea that the reporter “can tell it better” or “knows more” than the subject. Arghhh.
2) Voicing narration well is a real art. And I don;’t often hear it done that well. Plus there’s just something about that “voice of god,” tone that really bugs me (btw, I thought God was a woman; so why is so much voice over done by men?) In any case, that just doesn’t work on the web. I’ll let Ira Glass mention a reason:
This question of tone, of how we accidentally alienate potential listeners, is something lots of people in public radio have been talking about lately. A 2010 NPR/SmithGeiger survey of news consumers who rightly should be in the public radio audience, showed that one of the biggest reasons adults say they choose not to listen to public radio is that they’re put off by the tone. One survey respondent said: “This type of story could be interesting, but the reporter’s voice and intonation is soooo affected, upper class, wasp, Ph.D. student-like, it detracts from the story. She speaks like she is writing a novel.” Radiolab has invented a sound that won’t put off smart people who should be in our audience. Simply put: it’s a show that’s out for fun. It’s no surprise that a much younger audience loves Radiolab. It’s no surprise that a huge part of its fan base is people who don’t consider themselves public radio listeners.
But these two guys, Radiolab’s co-creators Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, use a lot of their own voices in their program. But the way they do it makes me really love it. Have a listen.
Ira Glass continues:
“Real journalism – and by that I mean fact-based reporting – is getting trounced by commentary and opinion in all its forms, from Fox News to the political blogs to Jon Stewart. Everyone knows newspapers are in horrible trouble. TV news continually loses ratings. And one way we broadcast journalists can fight back and hold our audience is to sound like human beings on the air. Not know-it-all stiffs. One way the opinion guys kick our ass and appeal to an audience is that they talk like normal people, not like news robots speaking their stentorian news-speak. So I wish more broadcast journalism had such human narrators at its center. I think that would help fact-based journalism survive. But like I say, I’m kind of a nut on this subject.”
Check out the entire piece at Transom.org.