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StoryCorps: Ten Years Of Getting Choked Up Listening To Public Radio

November 26, 2013 1:23 p.m.


StoryCorps' founder, Dave Isay

Related Story: StoryCorps: Ten Years Of Getting Choked Up Listening To Public Radio


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

ALISON ST. JOHN: Anyone who listens to public radio has heard of Two StoryCorps. Getting to stories of life by recording questions and interest of two people who care about each other. One of the hundred thousand people have had this experience making it the largest single collection of human voices ever gathered. Joining us is author Dave Isay. We want to hear little bit of about your story as well as the book.

DAVE ISAY: It wasn't even originally of project for public radio I was a kid. I was twenty-one years old I was about to start medical school and I happen upon this store. I was tortured New York City were talking from you package you from it was a new east village was in the funky neighborhood back then. What inside but the couple that was working there and they told me that is a twelve step addiction recovery's sure that was beautifully organized an incredible place in the two people who read it were a couple of hoping that they were hoping to help recover their both recovering heroin addicts military to the time and that was a death sentence becoming that they are convinced that before they died they would be of two build a museum to addiction and took we do back of the store where they had created for pants for this museum and had it was going to be very intricate and beautiful and they had letters from people like Donald Trump and asked for money who are actually letters that were blown off but there are encouraged by the letters and obviously is going to be a impossible thing to raise the money to make this museum so we started calling all the television study stations where the home time of the story and they also know and I start calling stations for the Yellow Pages which is for people who don't remember who haven't use the yellow for the yellow book a long time. And I got to a community in city and they said it's a good story so what you do it would I have people to do it. I had a tape recorder and when you the minute that I did that I knew my calling was that I produce that story for the NPR and within twenty or four hours I was out of medical school and on this track and I was very lucky. There's a long answer to your short question.

ALISON ST. JOHN: So it was a difficult decision to leave and let go of medical school and go in this direction?

DAVE ISAY: Now it was I was in love with the work for the very beginning and even today.

ALISON ST. JOHN: Now these collection of stories are celebrating the life of them celebrated you talking about a celebrity culture, what you think that does to us that we have a celebrity choked culture?

DAVE ISAY: I don't know I think what it does is I think it distracts us and I like to think that StoryCorps has been about fifty dozen interviews with about 100,000 interviews with people that would like to think that even just talking about the StoryCorps experience for two people that you bring some of the matters to you and he spent forty-two minutes listening to them asking them to talk about the lives of who they are but they've learned, and what it does is it shapes us by the shoulder and tells us this is what is important here listening to the stories or participating, hopefully clerics of the white noise away and having some word the nonsense was an heavy Internet fees and twenty-four are those that helps focus back on what's important. I think that is the danger of a culture where the kind of where it's hard to figure out what is real what's an advertisement and what matters. StoryCorps ethic is a project permanents and in a culture where so much kind of is like dust falling to figures and in some ways it's the opposite of reality TV, no one's sees comes this StoryCorps to get rich or famous it's just an act of generosity and love and telling someone that they matter to and the knocking to be forgotten in the stories.

ALISON ST. JOHN: A lot of people remember StoryCorps that they've heard even years ago. Want to get to one of the clips from your new book but please tell us a little bit of this book that you've written to celebrate the tenth anniversary, which stories did you decide to include in this collection?

DAVE ISAY: I wanted to find the subject that really spoke to the heart of what StoryCorps is about and he goes back to what we're talking about a minute ago, StoryCorps is this entertaining undertaking about recognizing the connection between people in this book titled down and it's a book where people are interviewing or remembering those people who were the most important people in our lives. A person who nurtured you are saved you and believed in you when no one else did. Those of the stories that we collected in this book and there is a quote from Mother Teresa where she is to say that we forgotten that we block to each other. We hope that this book helps us in a small way remember the actual taking of the stories is easy. We see to the interviews of her record as equally valuable and hopefully it important in a sacred moment in people's lives, but there is no story that is better than any other but the sun that have this universal quality that almost demand that they be presented to a larger audience and I think these are in some ways the most poems of the human splice human voice your it's forty or fifty of the most remarkable poetic stories that we've seen of human connection.

ALISON ST. JOHN: I am speaking with Dave Isay, creator of StoryCorps.. This is indeed a good time for this book to come out to remind us of the things that are important. Let's play clip of one of the stories from the story. This is Doctor William Weaver talking with his daughter Kimberly.


ALISON ST. JOHN: Is that quite a bit in inspiration can you add to the story?

DAVE ISAY: Certainly this story was good recorded and we've done seven or eight major initiatives of the is. This is part of the agree on additional initiative which is the largest collection of African American stories of the cavern. In the first week of our initiative, the day after the event in Atlanta where about a hundred families came and we shared stories back and forth, they love me and said your member number how honored the I was. The unity of the reception was the anniversary of my father's death. Even though janitor and shall further from is a great American hero. You talk about a sledging celebrity choked culture, these of the stories that we should be building statues to and holding up to our kids as examples of who they can and should grow to come. This is a very distinguished surgeon that travels all over the country and every time I've asked them to come and talk about his dad, he's probably one of the busiest people ever met that you always take time to ponder his father. He is the centerpiece of this book and he tell the story in the book that I think about a lot, in that clip he talks about how he attributed it to schools and in Knoxville and there's a story that he tells about he and his other be on a football team. And he'd is often American brother had to play a football game with an all my team. He and his brother hit a guy during the game and this guy got injured, and then started a riot. The stands got up and started coming towards letter to his brother and they were backed up to offense, which was on the operant opposite side of football field and spoke of other area killed and that men look behind him and he saw his father Ted and Brother on the shoulder and said dance here were safe. And they were.

ALISON ST. JOHN: On those of the words we ought to hear. This is a book about connections of love. The want get to another story recorded here in San Diego the summer as part of the military voices initiative. We will play the conversation. Give us some background.

DAVE ISAY: I haven't heard it since I was broadcast but I think these two veterans that in the military court that they both and they both been sent to the military court for veterans and did interview that all of these beds post 9/11 battles to talk about the struggles that they faced.

ALISON ST. JOHN: What you think it is about listening that makes the difference? This is not really stories that people are telling it's the fact that someone is listening to them to quote when did you discovers the gradient of StoryCorps?

DAVE ISAY: I think about stories about the stories from that than I had a penny for every time that you have somebody but experience I had fighting for our country present a credible story and he said he ever told the straight for the answer now and they say why not because no one ever asked. I had a penny for every time that happens we would be an organization that was at the dome and don't last for generations to come. It's not listening. It's about listing Telex people that they matter and they will be of from forgotten. And that is really to some extend that is something that just matters.

ALISON ST. JOHN: Let's listen to this clip.


ALISON ST. JOHN: And that is two Marines from San Diego part of the StoryCorps project. There's a new book out called Ties that Bind, and we also on KPBS will be airing an animated special called Listening is an Act of Love. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for listening to Midday Edition here on KPBS.