Skip to main content

Overview


In the rapidly evolving field of podcasting studies, Siobhán McHugh is an internationally recognised podcast producer, critic, researcher, consultant and author. She is founding editor (2014) of RadioDoc Review, a collaboration between industry and the academy and the first journal to develop critical analysis of narrative podcasts and crafted audio documentaries and features. In 2022, Siobhán established a Hub for Innovation in Podcasting (HIP), a coalition of producers, researchers, fans and students of podcasting, who will build expertise and develop fresh ideas and productions in podcasting. Her book, The Power of Podcasting: telling stories through sound, was published in Australia in February 2022. A US/European edition will be published by Columbia University Press in October 2022 and is among its most requested Fall titles..

 

In practice-based research, Siobhán partnered with leading Australian newspaper The Age to transform investigative journalism into a compelling aural storytelling format. This yielded the hit podcasts Phoebe’s Fall (2016), about the bizarre death of a young woman in a garbage chute, Wrong Skin (2018), about the clash between Indigenous culture and corporate interests, and The Last Voyage of The Pong Su (2019), which examines a drug heist by a North Korean cargo ship on Australia’s southern coast. All three won gold in the New York Festivals radio/podcasting categories as well as many other awards, with ‘Pong Su’ named by the Global Investigative Journalism Network as among the best investigative journalism podcasts of 2020. Siobhán has also had numerous solo audio features commissioned by ABC Radio National. In 2019 she was Consulting Producer on a groundbreaking podcast from the Supreme Court of Victoria, Gertie's Law, which won her a sixth gold at New York Radio Festivals. As Australian Research Council (ARC)-funded research, Siobhán developed an award-winning podcast, Heart of Artness (2018), to explore cross-cultural aspects of contemporary Aboriginal art production. In 2022, Siobhán was consulting producer on a landmark queer history/true crime podcast, The Greatest Menace, hosted by journalist Patrick Abboud. Published by Audible in Feb 2022, it investigates a ‘gay prison’ and has been dubbed ‘Australia’s S-Town’. She was also consulting producer on Motherlode, a podcast that investigated early hacktivism and the back story to Julian Assange.

 

She teaches podcasting at gatherings such as the Global Editors Network summit, where she spoke alongside the producer of Serial, the world’s most downloaded narrative podcast, and via her MOOC, which had over 35,000 participants from 150 countries. She has been a keynote speaker at events such as the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union annual assembly at Chengdu, China and the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Festival. Siobhán has published on podcasting as a new medium in scholarly journals, academic blogs and public outlets such as The Conversation and Harvard University’s Nieman Storyboard. In 2022, she was appointed podcasting critic-at-large for the Sydney Morning Herald.

 

In Oral History Studies, McHugh’s article, ‘The Affective Power of Sound: Oral History on Radio’ (2012), is among the most-cited articles in the US-based Oral History Review. It was selected alongside pre-eminent scholars such as Portelli, Grele and Frisch as one of 15 articles chosen for a special 2016 virtual issue “to showcase some of the most influential work published in the journal” to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the US Oral History Association. It has also been included in the Oral History Reader, an anthology of the foremost international scholarship in oral history, edited by Alistair Thomson and Robert Perks (Routledge 2016).

Top Publications


Research Overview


  • McHugh is examining transformations in journalism wrought by the rise of podcasting, including in China, where McHugh is tracking cultural difference. She works closely with the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), whose members broadcast to over three billion people. In 2022 she was an invited guest at Voice of Vietnam, where she taught c. 150 broadcasters how to adapt their journalism for podcast formats. Major media organisations from the New York Times (whose The Daily podcast has passed four million daily listeners) to the ABC, BBC, NPR and CBC are adapting content to take advantage of the intimacy and reach of the podcast format. McHugh has identified four major podcast formats that can extend the reach of journalism, and primarily conducts practice-based and practice-led research in the crafted audio storytelling form. She has made an ethnographic study of the transformations of a major Australian newsroom, The Age, that occurred in the making of the successful podcasts Phoebe's Fall (2016), Wrong Skin (2018)  and The Last Voyage of the Pong Su (2019), on which McHugh was consulting producer. 

    In 2022, McHugh presented research seminars on The Invisible Art of Audio Storytelling at University of Malmo, Sweden and University of Stirling, Scotland. She continues to research the aesthetics of the narrative podcast form.

    Dr McHugh was second CI on an ARC Discovery Grant, A New Theory of Aboriginal Art, led by art historian Ian McLean. The project Partner Investigator is Margo Neale, Head of Indigenous Studies at the National Museum of Australia and curator of their major exhibition, Songlines: Tracking The Seven Sisters. This ARC project (2015-18) investigated the significant cross-cultural relationships that inform the production of Aboriginal art. Aboriginal art had not gained access to the lucrative international art market because it was not being seen as relevant to contemporary art. Our aim was to re-evaluate Aboriginal art practices from the contemporary art perspective of relational art and transculturalism and thereby revive an industry that while well established currently lacks ideas to take full advantage of the global art world economy.

    Our focus was on two remote Aboriginal communities, the Buku-Larrnyggay Mulka art centre in Yirrkala in North-East Arnhem Land and Warlukurlangu centre in Yuendemu, c. 300 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs. We also examined the urban Indigenous art movement, Proppa Now, in Brisbane. McHugh recorded 35 oral history interviews with Indigenous artists, art centre staff, gallerists, curators and others. The oral histories will be preserved as a research collection and were drawn on by McHugh as an aural resource to make (1) a high-impact, accessible radio documentary commissioned by ABC Radio National, The Conquistador, The Warlpiri and the Dog Whisperer (2) an award winning podcast series, Heart of Artness. McLean, McHugh, and Neale also co-authored scholarly articles on their innovative collaboration and presented at AAANZ Conference (2018) and OHAA Conference (Oct 2019).

Available as Research Supervisor

Available for Collaborative Projects

Has Collaborator


Selected Publications


  • Journal Article

    Year Title
    2021

    Published In
    Social Work Education
    2020

    Published In
    The Conversation
    2020

    Published In
    Liminalities: a journal of performance studies
    2019

    Published In
    Radio Journal International Studies in Broadcast & Audio Media
    2019

    Published In
    Nieman Storyboard
    2018

    Published In
    The Conversation
    2017

    Published In
    Radio Journal International Studies in Broadcast & Audio Media
    2017

    Published In
    The Conversation
    2017

    Published In
    The Conversation
     
     
    2016

    Published In
    The Radio Journal: international studies in broadcast and audio media
     
    2016

    Published In
    The Conversation
     
    2014

    Published In
    Asia Pacific Media Educator
     
    2014

    Published In
    Australian Journalism Review
     
     
     
    2012

    Published In
    Radio Journal International Studies in Broadcast & Audio Media
    2012

    Published In
    The Radio Journal: international studies in broadcast and audio media
    2012

    Published In
    Oral History Review
     
     
    2010

    Published In
    History Australia
     
    2009

    Published In
    History Australia
    2009

    Published In
    History Australia
    2007

    Published In
    Asia Pacific Media Educator
  • Book

    Year Title
    2022

    Publisher
    UNSW Press
    2022
    2019

    Publisher
    Gosford NSW
    2019

    Publisher
    Sydney
     
  • Chapter

    Year Title
    2022

    Published In
    The Routledge Companion to Radio and Podcast Studies
    Publisher
    Oxford and New York: Routledge
    2018

    Published In
    Mediating Memory: Tracing the Limits of Memoir
    Publisher
    United Kingdom
    2016

    Published In
    The Oral History Reader
    Publisher
    Oxford and New York
     
  • Other Publications

    Year Title
    2018
    2016
    2013
    2009
    2009
    2022
     
    2020

Presentations


Impact Story


  • <p><a href="http://www.theage.com.au/interactive/2016/phoebesfall/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Phoebe’s Fall</em> </a>is a six-episode podcast that examines the bizarre death in 2010 of a young Melbourne woman, Phoebe Handsjuk, in a garbage chute, and the botched police investigation that followed. It was produced by a team at Fairfax Media and consulting producer Dr Siobhan McHugh and published in September/October 2016. Through in-depth interviews with Phoebe’s family and friends, and with legal, forensic and criminological experts, the series presents a compelling analysis of the circumstances surrounding Phoebe’s death and questions aspects of police procedures and of the coronial inquest that followed.</p><p>The podcast attracted considerable attention. When published on 22 September 2016 on the Apple platform ITunes, it went straight to the Number One position on the iTunes Chart, deposing the American podcast, <em>Serial, </em>which is the most successful podcast of all time. It remained at Number One throughout most of its six-week run and has accrued over 1.3 million downloads.</p><p>At a politico-legal level, the podcast caused questions to be raised in the Victorian parliament about the coronial inquest and triggered a review of the Victorian Coroner’s Act. In December 2016, the Victorian government commissioned the review, to be conducted by the Coronial Council, made up of the State Coroner, senior academics, top legal experts and the chief commissioner of police. The review will consider whether existing options for appealing or reopening coronial investigations are working appropriately. Its report is due in November 2017. The potential public benefit of this review is significant: under the current law, a coroner's finding can only be challenged if a perverse error of law has been made. A coroner cannot be challenged for misinterpreting a fact or ignoring evidence. This makes it very difficult for people to appeal against a finding.</p><p>The review came amid public concern surrounding the coroner’s finding that Phoebe Handsjuk's death was the result of a ‘tragic accident’. The <em>Phoebe’s Fall</em> podcast cited experts who believed that there was not enough evidence to rule out suicide, murder or accidental death. It also pointed out that the coroner had ignored the advice of his own senior counsel. Such was the public impact of the podcast that the family of Ms Handsjuk were approached by members of the public who wished to raise funds to enable the family to appeal the coroner‘s finding.</p><p><em>Phoebe’s Fall</em> was conducted as an ‘action research’ project, whereby consulting producers Siobhan McHugh and Julie Posetti, Head of Digital Transformation at Fairfax Media and a UOW Research Fellow, studied the way in which, under their guidance, two veteran print journalists (Richard Baker and Michael Bachelard) with no experience of working in audio made the transition to podcast hosts. Posetti and McHugh applied the theory of effective audio storytelling to the podcast, harnessing signature qualities of the audio medium such as intimacy and the ability to convey emotion, in order to maximise impact. The podcast’s impact was further demonstrated when it won four prestigious podcasting awards: three national and one <a href="http://www.theage.com.au/national/investigations/phoebes-fall-podcast-wins-gold-award-at-new-york-radio-festival-20170619-gwucgh.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">international</a>.</p>

Available as Research Supervisor

Potential Supervision Topics


  • Podcasting as a new media genre

    Narrative analysis of crafted audio storytelling formats

    Topics that use oral history as a theoretical framework and/or methodology

    The aesthetics of audio storytelling

    Practice-based and practice-led journalism research

Advisees


  • Graduate Advising Relationship

    Degree Research Title Advisee
    Doctor of Creative Arts Studio Of The Four Winds: The Adventurous Artist Turnbull, Sarah

Teaching Overview


  • I teach undergraduates narrative journalism, podcasting, audio storytelling, radio broadcasting, feature writing and in-depth interviewing.

    My teaching is enriched by the incorporation of my practice-based research and my ongoing engagement in journalism. I seek to actively involve students and graduates in my journalistic projects, such as the podcast Phoebe's Fall, as described here: http://stand.uow.edu.au/phoebes-fall-and-the-power-of-a-podcast/

    I have also run invited masterclasses in podcasting for organisations such as the Australian War Memorial, the Oral History Association of Australia and the Global Editors Network.

Keywords


  • Audio storytelling, oral history, podcasting, radio documentary, affect, emotions

Top Publications


Research Overview


  • McHugh is examining transformations in journalism wrought by the rise of podcasting, including in China, where McHugh is tracking cultural difference. She works closely with the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), whose members broadcast to over three billion people. In 2022 she was an invited guest at Voice of Vietnam, where she taught c. 150 broadcasters how to adapt their journalism for podcast formats. Major media organisations from the New York Times (whose The Daily podcast has passed four million daily listeners) to the ABC, BBC, NPR and CBC are adapting content to take advantage of the intimacy and reach of the podcast format. McHugh has identified four major podcast formats that can extend the reach of journalism, and primarily conducts practice-based and practice-led research in the crafted audio storytelling form. She has made an ethnographic study of the transformations of a major Australian newsroom, The Age, that occurred in the making of the successful podcasts Phoebe's Fall (2016), Wrong Skin (2018)  and The Last Voyage of the Pong Su (2019), on which McHugh was consulting producer. 

    In 2022, McHugh presented research seminars on The Invisible Art of Audio Storytelling at University of Malmo, Sweden and University of Stirling, Scotland. She continues to research the aesthetics of the narrative podcast form.

    Dr McHugh was second CI on an ARC Discovery Grant, A New Theory of Aboriginal Art, led by art historian Ian McLean. The project Partner Investigator is Margo Neale, Head of Indigenous Studies at the National Museum of Australia and curator of their major exhibition, Songlines: Tracking The Seven Sisters. This ARC project (2015-18) investigated the significant cross-cultural relationships that inform the production of Aboriginal art. Aboriginal art had not gained access to the lucrative international art market because it was not being seen as relevant to contemporary art. Our aim was to re-evaluate Aboriginal art practices from the contemporary art perspective of relational art and transculturalism and thereby revive an industry that while well established currently lacks ideas to take full advantage of the global art world economy.

    Our focus was on two remote Aboriginal communities, the Buku-Larrnyggay Mulka art centre in Yirrkala in North-East Arnhem Land and Warlukurlangu centre in Yuendemu, c. 300 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs. We also examined the urban Indigenous art movement, Proppa Now, in Brisbane. McHugh recorded 35 oral history interviews with Indigenous artists, art centre staff, gallerists, curators and others. The oral histories will be preserved as a research collection and were drawn on by McHugh as an aural resource to make (1) a high-impact, accessible radio documentary commissioned by ABC Radio National, The Conquistador, The Warlpiri and the Dog Whisperer (2) an award winning podcast series, Heart of Artness. McLean, McHugh, and Neale also co-authored scholarly articles on their innovative collaboration and presented at AAANZ Conference (2018) and OHAA Conference (Oct 2019).

Selected Publications


  • Journal Article

    Year Title
    2021

    Published In
    Social Work Education
    2020

    Published In
    The Conversation
    2020

    Published In
    Liminalities: a journal of performance studies
    2019

    Published In
    Radio Journal International Studies in Broadcast & Audio Media
    2019

    Published In
    Nieman Storyboard
    2018

    Published In
    The Conversation
    2017

    Published In
    Radio Journal International Studies in Broadcast & Audio Media
    2017

    Published In
    The Conversation
    2017

    Published In
    The Conversation
     
     
    2016

    Published In
    The Radio Journal: international studies in broadcast and audio media
     
    2016

    Published In
    The Conversation
     
    2014

    Published In
    Asia Pacific Media Educator
     
    2014

    Published In
    Australian Journalism Review
     
     
     
    2012

    Published In
    Radio Journal International Studies in Broadcast & Audio Media
    2012

    Published In
    The Radio Journal: international studies in broadcast and audio media
    2012

    Published In
    Oral History Review
     
     
    2010

    Published In
    History Australia
     
    2009

    Published In
    History Australia
    2009

    Published In
    History Australia
    2007

    Published In
    Asia Pacific Media Educator
  • Book

    Year Title
    2022

    Publisher
    UNSW Press
    2022
    2019

    Publisher
    Gosford NSW
    2019

    Publisher
    Sydney
     
  • Chapter

    Year Title
    2022

    Published In
    The Routledge Companion to Radio and Podcast Studies
    Publisher
    Oxford and New York: Routledge
    2018

    Published In
    Mediating Memory: Tracing the Limits of Memoir
    Publisher
    United Kingdom
    2016

    Published In
    The Oral History Reader
    Publisher
    Oxford and New York
     
  • Other Publications

    Year Title
    2018
    2016
    2013
    2009
    2009
    2022
     
    2020

Presentations


Impact Story


  • <p><a href="http://www.theage.com.au/interactive/2016/phoebesfall/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Phoebe’s Fall</em> </a>is a six-episode podcast that examines the bizarre death in 2010 of a young Melbourne woman, Phoebe Handsjuk, in a garbage chute, and the botched police investigation that followed. It was produced by a team at Fairfax Media and consulting producer Dr Siobhan McHugh and published in September/October 2016. Through in-depth interviews with Phoebe’s family and friends, and with legal, forensic and criminological experts, the series presents a compelling analysis of the circumstances surrounding Phoebe’s death and questions aspects of police procedures and of the coronial inquest that followed.</p><p>The podcast attracted considerable attention. When published on 22 September 2016 on the Apple platform ITunes, it went straight to the Number One position on the iTunes Chart, deposing the American podcast, <em>Serial, </em>which is the most successful podcast of all time. It remained at Number One throughout most of its six-week run and has accrued over 1.3 million downloads.</p><p>At a politico-legal level, the podcast caused questions to be raised in the Victorian parliament about the coronial inquest and triggered a review of the Victorian Coroner’s Act. In December 2016, the Victorian government commissioned the review, to be conducted by the Coronial Council, made up of the State Coroner, senior academics, top legal experts and the chief commissioner of police. The review will consider whether existing options for appealing or reopening coronial investigations are working appropriately. Its report is due in November 2017. The potential public benefit of this review is significant: under the current law, a coroner's finding can only be challenged if a perverse error of law has been made. A coroner cannot be challenged for misinterpreting a fact or ignoring evidence. This makes it very difficult for people to appeal against a finding.</p><p>The review came amid public concern surrounding the coroner’s finding that Phoebe Handsjuk's death was the result of a ‘tragic accident’. The <em>Phoebe’s Fall</em> podcast cited experts who believed that there was not enough evidence to rule out suicide, murder or accidental death. It also pointed out that the coroner had ignored the advice of his own senior counsel. Such was the public impact of the podcast that the family of Ms Handsjuk were approached by members of the public who wished to raise funds to enable the family to appeal the coroner‘s finding.</p><p><em>Phoebe’s Fall</em> was conducted as an ‘action research’ project, whereby consulting producers Siobhan McHugh and Julie Posetti, Head of Digital Transformation at Fairfax Media and a UOW Research Fellow, studied the way in which, under their guidance, two veteran print journalists (Richard Baker and Michael Bachelard) with no experience of working in audio made the transition to podcast hosts. Posetti and McHugh applied the theory of effective audio storytelling to the podcast, harnessing signature qualities of the audio medium such as intimacy and the ability to convey emotion, in order to maximise impact. The podcast’s impact was further demonstrated when it won four prestigious podcasting awards: three national and one <a href="http://www.theage.com.au/national/investigations/phoebes-fall-podcast-wins-gold-award-at-new-york-radio-festival-20170619-gwucgh.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">international</a>.</p>

Potential Supervision Topics


  • Podcasting as a new media genre

    Narrative analysis of crafted audio storytelling formats

    Topics that use oral history as a theoretical framework and/or methodology

    The aesthetics of audio storytelling

    Practice-based and practice-led journalism research

Advisees


  • Graduate Advising Relationship

    Degree Research Title Advisee
    Doctor of Creative Arts Studio Of The Four Winds: The Adventurous Artist Turnbull, Sarah

Teaching Overview


  • I teach undergraduates narrative journalism, podcasting, audio storytelling, radio broadcasting, feature writing and in-depth interviewing.

    My teaching is enriched by the incorporation of my practice-based research and my ongoing engagement in journalism. I seek to actively involve students and graduates in my journalistic projects, such as the podcast Phoebe's Fall, as described here: http://stand.uow.edu.au/phoebes-fall-and-the-power-of-a-podcast/

    I have also run invited masterclasses in podcasting for organisations such as the Australian War Memorial, the Oral History Association of Australia and the Global Editors Network.

Keywords


  • Audio storytelling, oral history, podcasting, radio documentary, affect, emotions
uri icon

Geographic Focus