Creating an Audio Story: Katie Thornton

Creating an Audio Story: Katie Thornton

Create your own audio story with Katie Thornton—a Fulbright National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow.


5 - 12+


Professional Learning, Storytelling

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Developed in partnership with
Adobe 6

Podcasts are short, informative and entertaining audio stories that are designed to fit into our busy lives. They are often intimate and personal: tales and investigations coming from everyday people who have stories to tell, mysteries to solve. They aren’t designed to be slick and highly scripted. Instead, they often feel like they come from someone’s basement, creating a shared, private audio space between the podcasters and you.

This video series allows you—and eventually your students—to practice and develop the attitudes and skills of an Explorer and become a storyteller. Guided by Katie Thorton—a Fulbright National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow—you will develop your own audio story about a meaningful connection to your community through the lens of a historical moment, person, time period, or landmark. Katie turns her focus on the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the lessons we might learn from its history as we look to rebuild our economy in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The process is broken down into six steps as illustrated by each of the following videos.

1. Developing Your Story

In this video, Katie chooses her subject. Katie believes that in a post-COVID world, her community needs a new Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to help people rebuild their connections to each other and Earth. But what is the history and legacy of the CCC in Minnesota and how do we improve upon the past? To answer that question, Katie does extensive research.

2. Pre-Production

In this video, Katie focuses on preparing for her interviews. While she does introduce a variety of technical mics to use, Katie reminds you that your smartphone will usually work just fine. The interesting thing about this stage is Katie’s focus on "sound" and how important it is to think in terms of "sound."

3. Conducting Interviews

In this video, Katie reminds you of the importance of the questions you design for the interview. Katie begins this video with this observation: “I want the interviews to do something that I as a narrator cannot do. I want them to bring a personal connection. An unexpected story or life experience. That’s what makes the story more complete. It’s no longer just one’s researcher’s findings, it’s a collection of experiences, personal experiences, academic research, and they are all speaking to one another in this beautiful conversation.”

4. Scripting Your Audio Story

In this video, with the interviews completed, Katie proceeds to listen to them several times and transcribe them. She can "see" the words and the moments that she might want to include in her story. She calls those moments that jump out to her as relevant, her "selects." She develops a script, and edits her “selects.” It’s at this stage in the process where Katie can see all the elements of her story, and how her story changed from her original intentions.

5. Narration and Editing

In this video, the story moves from a story told by words to a story as told by sounds. As Katie calls it: “what she wants to do sonically with the piece.” This is, most likely, a new mindset for a new audio story creator and it suggests a new kind of sensory awareness. At this time, Katie produces the audio story, layering sound design, and actual voices to bring it to life.

6. Feedback and Revision

In this video, once Katie has completed her story, she seeks out feedback. As Katie says, “At some point there are things that you are just not able to hear when you are editing. You are so deep into a story, you’ve learned so much about it. And you’ve looked at the wave forms so many times. And you’ve heard the background music over and over. At some point, it’s just hard to tell what needs to change.”

These videos were developed in partnership with Adobe, as part of a series of courses called Storytelling for Impact.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Creator, Host
Katie Thornton
Online Course Design and Productions
Dan Byerly, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Elizabeth Wolzak, National Geographic Society
Executive Producer
Vanessa Serrao, National Geographic Society
Educator Reviewers
Jordan Budisantoso, Educator, 2020 Teacher Advisory Council, National Geographic Society
Michael Hernandez, Media Arts Teacher and Consultant 2020 Teacher Advisory Council, National Geographic Society
Leon Tynes, Educator, 2020 Teacher Advisory Council, National Geographic Society
Expert Reviewer
Rachael Strecher, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Video Producer
Devin Swanson
Series Producer
Chris Dye
#GenGeo Reviewers
Andrew Brennan
Simon Handelman
Merrit Jones
Afi Tagnedji
Production Manager
Ashley Holmes, National Geographic Society
Graphic Design
Ruben Rodriguez Perez
Titles and Graphics
Dave Leonard
Ted Snavely
Web Producer
Clint Parks
Special Thanks
Getty Images
Minnesota Historical Society
Dr. Cheryl Kirk-Duggin
Last Updated

January 22, 2024

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