NPR Training
Storytelling tips and best practices

Story Lab Workshop: Frequently asked questions

• January 11, 2018

During the Story Lab Workshop, participants learn storytelling best practices from some of public media’s most creative and innovative people. (Bria Granville/NPR)

The basics

What is the Story Lab Workshop?

A free training experience designed to help teams shape audio storytelling projects on any platform. During the workshop, teams are given the space to incubate an idea and learn storytelling best practices from some of public media’s most creative and innovative people. They are also matched with an NPR mentor who will serve as a guide. By the end of the four days, teams will have focused their story ideas and created an editorial blueprint for the project, so they can start making things as soon as they get home.

The workshop is run by NPR’s Training Team with support from the NPR Story Lab, an idea hub designed to generate new segments, create pilots for radio shows, launch new podcasts and introduce new voices to the network. We are partnering with the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR) to solicit and review applications from independent producers. AIR runs a wide network of independent producers and is dedicated to cultivating them and providing opportunities to create innovative work.

Where is it held?

NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.

What does it cost?

There are no tuition costs and we will provide most meals.

For participants coming from Member stations, NPR will pay for four nights in a nearby hotel. The station will need to cover travel costs. For independent producers, NPR will cover both travel and lodging costs.


Who can apply?

The workshop is open to teams of independent producers, Member station journalists and NPR journalists. We will choose a mix of team types for the workshop.

What are the requirements for the teams?

Each team needs 2-3 people and everyone needs to be able to attend the entirety of the four-day workshop.

At least one member of the team must have professional audio production and storytelling experience. The training at this workshop is not 101 level (we will not teach you how to use audio editing software or the basics of story structure, for example). Teams that do not meet this requirement will be disqualified.

We’d love to see teams with diverse skill sets (i.e. a digital producer joining an audio producer; an editor alongside a reporter and data journalist, etc.)


How do I apply?

Submit all of the application materials in this form. Please choose one member of your team to complete the application.

What does the application include?

Be prepared to provide the following information before you begin the application process:

  • List of team members, including roles in the project, short bios and description of your professional audio experience
  • Working title for your project, as well as an elevator pitch of three sentences or less
  • Longer project description (up to 500 words)
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What makes your project unique?
  • What do you hope to get out of the workshop experience?
  • Letter of support from your boss (for Member station and NPR teams)

What do you mean by “audio storytelling project”?

We are platform agnostic; it’s about story and craft first. Audio storytelling refers to broadcast, podcast, or both. The project could also involve other digital platforms, such as smart speakers or spatial audio.

What if my project is already in production?

We are looking for new, undeveloped ideas for the Story Lab Workshop. The workshop is designed to help teams grow the seed of an idea into something with real shape and direction. It’s okay if you’ve already written or recorded a few things, but we’re looking for largely unformed projects. If you have an existing project you’d like to pitch to NPR, please submit a proposal through the general Story Lab portal.

Why do you need a “letter of support” for Member station and NPR teams?

We want to make sure your boss loves your idea as much as we do and will give your team the time and space to continue developing it after the workshop.

When are applications due?

Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, February 11. We will not accept late submissions.

Selection and dates

Who selects the Story Lab teams?

A mix of people from NPR’s Training, Programming and News divisions, with help from AIR.

How many teams will be selected?

Up to 10.

What is the timeline for the 2018 workshop?

  • Thursday, January 11: Applications open
  • Sunday, February 11 (at 11:59 p.m. Eastern): Applications close
  • Mid-February—mid-March: Workshop selection committee reviews applications.
  • Mid-March: Selected teams are notified
  • Tuesday, May 8-Friday, May 11: Workshop is held at NPR HQ in Washington, D.C.

After the workshop

What happens after the workshop?

We want to support all teams as they take what they’ve learned at the workshop and put it into action. NPR can provide each non-independent team up to four hours of editorial support, as needed. This could include listening to audio and providing feedback, talking through story ideas, or assisting with the team’s editorial workflow. AIR will provide mentorship assistance to independent producer teams.

Is there any chance NPR will want to produce or distribute our project — and if so, how will I know?

The NPR Story Lab is always looking for great ideas to pilot — whether they are for broadcast, podcast or other platforms — and the workshop is a place where great ideas can be developed. However, since the workshop is an early-stage incubator, projects would need to be further developed before they might be considered for piloting agreements.

What have former Story Lab Workshop teams produced?

Past workshop projects
May 2016
March 2017

Teams have produced all sorts of projects after the workshop. Podcasts (with broadcast elements) such as The Stoop (CA), Midnight Oil (AK), The Taxman (CO), The Struggle to Stay (WV) and Exited (NY) have emerged from the workshop. The multiplatform project Young Survivors (FL) was incubated at the workshop. KUT created a “pop-up bureau” in Austin. Minnesota Public Radio used what they learned to produce 74 Seconds, which won the Gold Award at the Third Coast Audio Festival (after pivoting from their original workshop idea!). Other teams produced stories that have aired on NPR news magazines. Teams are not required to produce anything; some simply apply what they learn to other work.

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