Just realised something while listening to RTÉ’s recent Secrets and Lies. The narrator is being acted – she’s not the producer, not a presenter, but an actor.

That brought to mind the Archive Hour on the Radio Ballads – which I only got to hear recently, on ABC’s Radio Eye. It told of a time when the words of the common man were transcribed and delivered on radio (the BBC, at least), by actors. They performed regional roles as necessary, in a more understandable form.

Which reminded me of… Radio Lab! Few programmes out there use so many actors (if you lump singers in there too). And few programmes write around tape so much, having the presenters tell you what the interviewee said (but probably in a more log-winded, scientist way). Both of these are part of what makes Radio Lab the show that is defining a generation of radio.

True enough, some people do fear that they are losing the truth of what is being said, while some snobbish, less patient people hate the idea of sound effects and stories being acted. Radio Lab have responded well to that, by putting an entire uncut interview online, as well as allowing interviewees say what they thought of how the final show went out.

Some people complain about Radio Lab’s moving away from “journalistic values” – as if it isn’t a feature programme to begin with, and as if radio is good only for music, gabbing, and news – but see? The use of actors on Radio Lab is informed by the decades of strong journalistic tradition, from the second world war and from the start of NPR.

Hmmm. Now just maybe I’m pining for the new series of Radio Lab ;)