Grand Jury POV: Aaron Kearney

Aaron Kearney is a multi award-winning broadcaster, journalist, sports commentator, five-time New York Festival award winner, AIPS Sports Award Silver Medalist and the 44th MEAA Prodi Journalist of the Year.

New York, NY | December 18, 2019

Each year New York Festivals Radio Awards assembles the world's most revered storytellers from around the globe to participate on the Grand Jury. 2020's Jury is comprised of award-winning individuals from all facets of audio storytelling and are known for their creativity expertise, innovation and years of experience. These industry experts include some of the most world’s recognizable voices and captivating content producers in the radio industry. New York Festivals Radio Awards Grand Jury judge all entries on production values, organization, presentation of information, creativity, and use of the medium.

2020 Radio Awards Grand Jury member Aaron Kearney is a multi award-winning broadcaster, journalist, sports commentator, five-time New York Festival award winner, AIPS Sports Award Silver Medalist and the 44th MEAA Prodi Journalist of the Year.

Aaron is the creator of a 'Sports Broadcast for Development’ Commentary system used at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France. It was first adopted in Australian indigenous communities in Tiwi Islands and later the basis for Pacific-wide coverage of the 2015 Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea.

In the interview below Aaron talks about the power of storytelling, changes within the industry, the range of technology he uses to enhance storytelling, advice for the next generation of storytellers and more.

New York Festivals Radio Awards: Share your thoughts about the future of storytelling.

Storytelling is the future. Much of what was traditionally considered journalism or reporting was, in fact, information collation and interpretation. The machines are doing that much better than us now, and much cheaper. There is no future for humans there. But, at least for now, we still hold the edge on insights into the human condition and giving enduring meaning to information. That is storytelling. Already, those succeeding in the current media maelstrom are master storytellers and that trend will continue. The power and value of storytelling will mean everyone will be doing it, so the great challenge and opportunity for storytellers is to fashion an experience that is authentic, connective, illuminating and memorable. The rise of podcasting is proving this. I anticipate a great flushing out in the years ahead where only the storytellers worthy of precious time will endure.

New York Festivals Radio Awards: What are the most profound changes you’ve noticed in the art of storytelling in the past 5 years?

New York Festivals Radio Awards: As technology colonises so much of human endeavour, it has become apparent that journalists haven’t necessarily been the best storytellers. Storytelling is its own unique skill, or series of skills. Data and algorithms have emerged as storytellers, of sorts. Financial and sports reports written by AI abound. But really, those are reports, data organised to make sense, not stories. Storytelling has also become the delivery method, the Trojan Horse if you will, for giving value and longevity to information in a world where information has become disposable.

New York Festivals Radio Awards: What types of technology do you find yourself using to enhance your storytelling?

I use a range of tech when generating video content but, personally, I try to minimise technology when doing audio content, at least in the newsgathering/interviewing phase. Sure, I use all sorts of tech for research, tie line apps for live crosses, mojo apps and occasionally high-tech mics. But for me, the most unguarded, authentic and often compelling stories come through human-to-human connection, unencumbered by the fanfare of equipment and technology. My last award-winning audio piece was recorded mostly with a smartphone and edited on netia. It took me ten hours to get it sent via a Third-world internet connection. It is one of the great charms of spoken-word audio production that tech is rarely the difference between mediocre and magic.

New York Festivals Radio Awards: Any advice on the craft of storytelling that you can share with next generation?

I coach storytelling all over the world and there are four key “takeaways” I encourage storytellers to keep front of mind;

Magic lies in the Remarkable but Relatable. Stories that find the exceptional or unusual and tether them to the personal experience and emotions of the listener/reader/viewer are those with true connective power.

Character is king. In a world of data, people want personalities. They drive narrative, they give stories an arc. Good, bad or both, characters are at the heart of nearly every successful story.

Prepare with purpose. Despite the cliché, stories don’t unfold. They are discovered, mapped, mined, refined and exported. Good stories have good research, design and a clear idea of the desired outcome and desired audience.

Authenticity is all. Storytelling can move product, sell seminars and open chequebooks. Storytelling has been weaponised by business. So, people will have to be better at spotting fake. In a world of fakes, your power is authenticity.