StoryCorps, a national oral history project, has collected more than 50,000 interviews across the country.
With permanent recording booths in Atlanta, San Francisco and Chicago, StoryCorps archives recorded conversations at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. A select few conversations are broadcast nationally each week on NPR. The StoryCorps mobile air stream trailer just spent six weeks recording conversations in Durham and today The State of Things goes behind the scenes of this decade-old project.
Host Frank Stasio talks with StoryCorps founder and president Dave Isay about how the project came to be. Isay said, "I came to believe that the act of being listened to could be a very important moment in people's lives."
The project's two senior producers Michael Garofalo and Katie Simon talk about what it's like to produce radio stories from these interviews recorded around the country. They share their reflections on four StoryCorps conversations recorded in North Carolina that were produced for national radio broadcast: two brothers talking about a kiss that made civil rights history; two tobacco auctioneers talking about a dying profession; a woman and her mother-in-law remembering the death of their loved one; and two men reflecting on an unexpected friendship.
Simon explains the forgotten history conversations that StoryCorps records, "We can delve back into stories that aren't in the public consciousness right now and get a new perspective by talking with people now." Garofalo reflects on bringing stories from around the country to a national audience, "We don't dictate what people say in the booth. We just try to be as true in the editing process [...] to their natural cadence, the way people speak [...] we want to celebrate people."
And two facilitators who recorded interviews while the air stream trailer was parked in Durham talk about being professional listeners. Chaela Herridge-Meyer and Adriana Gallardo share excerpts from four interviews they recorded: two mother activists talking about their friendship; a son who wanted to know about his mom's life before he was born; a man who spent most of his life in jail and recently turned things around; and a daughter interviewing her father about his 89 years of life.
Herridge Meyer says, "There's something about the space that when people sit down at that table, something changes [...] lots of things get said and people are surprised." Gallardo adds that participants often ask each other, "Is there something you've never told me that you want to tell me here today..."
The audio for this segment has been edited to correct the name of participant Walter Deloatch who came into StoryCorps with his daughter Lois.