The end of PocketDocs: a loss to all ears

Natalie Kestecher, presenter of PocketDocs, ABC RN
Natalie Kestecher, presenter of PocketDocs; Photo ABC RN

The emotional love life of the majestic krill as presented by realer than real Attenborougheseque naturalist Wayne Funnell, the unsettling inbuilt pathos of Edgar Oliver’s voice in Son of Rex, a boy’s first bone cracking heartbreak written and narrated by Gary Bryson or the harrowingly tender redemptive letter Dear Antoinette are some of my favourites in the line up of short audio stories that make up the recently axed PocketDocs.

Barely a year old, this half hour offering on The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio National presented by the inimitable Natalie Kestecher is suited to the podcast era because of the format (short, easily digestible audio pieces), eclectic subject matter and approaches (fiction, essays, documentary, experimental stuff) and most of all, it’s uplifting art without being pretentious. It’s a damn fine broadcast/podcast.

Of the gazillion podcasts that now jostle for our audio attention, PocketDocs is one of the most professionally produced, always surprising, artistically sound shows in the English language.

PocketDocs was also a departure from the more factual, information based direction of recent Radio National offerings, after a spate of axings of ‘artsy’ programmes like the Night Air , Poetica as well as the whole drama department in recent years.

I have no idea what the rationale for axing PocketDocs is, though the reason given probably had dollar signs attached to it. And I appreciate that in this fluid media environment, no-one can predict how exponential changes in technology will mould the shape of radio/podcast/audio storytelling.

But surely, someone up in the ABC management clouds can see how important it is for Radio National, the ‘ideas’ network to go beyond the news or reporting what’s right in front of our eyes to the stuff that moves us as humans (the bovine utterings in Passing the torch moved me), that lifts our souls beyond the everyday mundane (take an audio excursion with The sound of peace), that opens our eyes to what we cannot see or know (a new take on mindfulness), that instills hope (Mr Fixit was so delightfully sad it was hopeful), and help us transcend our everyday boundaries so we can aspire to live the ‘good life’? I’m not suggesting PocketDocs does all these things, but it takes a good jab at it.

What the podcaster wannabes may or may not realise is the amount of time, skills, effort, care, dedication that goes into each even two minute piece. Here I have to admit my as for PocketDocs because I contributed two stories this year, and I know first hand how much attention to detail was given to every broadcast/podcast second by not only me, but the sound engineer and Natalie. These skills, expertise and corporate knowledge will be lost to our/your ABC with this axing.

PocketDocs’ unique strength also lies in the curatorial expertise of Natalie and executive producer Claudia Taranto. Not only can they effortlessly (seemingly) put together a 30 minute programme each week of disparate stories linked together by a thematic thread, but they also have an enviable reputation in the world of audio storytelling that can attract contributions from a high calibre of producers and writers from all over the world.

I don’t like everything on PocketDocs, some stories are bloody annoying. But that diversity is its strength. PocketDocs will piss you off if you let it, and also make your heart soar. Pocketdocs will make you feel and think.

And here’s a quote from Tolstoy…just because:

‘Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression of man’s emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.’

3 thoughts on “The end of PocketDocs: a loss to all ears”

  1. As a writer who was fortunate enough to work closely with the amazing people behind Pocketdocs, the loss of the programme is profoundly upsetting. It was an absolute joy to listen to, and an honour to be part of. Thanks for this post, Masako…what a sad day this is. – Rijn Collins

    Liked by 1 person

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