This week in INTE5340, I am critiquing StoryCorps. I was unfamiliar with the StoryCorps project prior to this week. According to the notes about it on my class Canvas, StoryCorps “is an American non-profit organization whose mission is to record, preserve, and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs. They play off of the oral-history methodology – recording real people, telling real stories; and from there they generate a podcast, videos, and animations.” When I read this description, I was immediately pulled in. I believe everyone has a story to tell and people should be given the opportunity to be heard.
Prior to getting into instructional design, I was involved in media both as a career and academically. During my undergrad, I majored in New Media Communications. Part of my degree’s requirement was to complete several credits of internship/practicum. Luckily for us students, we had our own campus television station, FM radio station, and daily newspaper (shout out to KBVR-TV, KBVR-FM, and The Daily Barometer!). I did a stint in all three of these and discovered that I loved giving people a voice and felt strongly drawn towards wanting to help people share their personal stories, usually of overcoming some difficult challenge. When I worked for the campus newspaper, I won an award for for doing a multi-part series about students with children who were attending Oregon State. These individuals ranged in age from 20 to 47 and each had overcome a difficult barrier to obtaining a college education.
When I began my practicum with KBVR-FM, I had a strong desire to continue helping people get their voices heard. Luckily, the opportunity presented itself when I got involved in a project with three other students, all of whom were in different majors and from different walks of life. We worked to get a brand new show off the ground that focused on recording and sharing stories of everyday people. Our group’s leader wanted to pattern it after a well-known public radio show called This American Life. We got our project going and named it StoryTime. It was an hour-long show that ran every Sunday afternoon all semester. I quickly whipped out several segments, which now that I think back, were very similar to that of a podcast. Unfortunately for our ragtag group, we were all seniors and were graduating that semester. We were all suffering from “senioritis”. The show never totally got to fulfill the goals that we wanted for it, as the project was abandoned as soon as we graduated. I left campus with a million unfulfilled ideas in my head of who I wanted to talk to and what ideas I wanted to cover.
Fast forward to this week. As soon as I read the description of StoryCorps, I was excited beyond words. I went to their website and dug right into listening to the stories that people have recorded and shared about themselves. Everyone has a story to tell, and I feel saddened that our society seems to be moving away from the traditional ways of storytelling. It’s extremely rewarding to talk to individuals who may not feel that they are heard. Luckily for us students, we are learning how to share stories in new ways, and StoryCorps is one of these ways.
For the past ten years, StoryCorps has traveled around the country with a mobile soundbooth. People are invited, usually in pairs, opportunities to record important conversations and stories with one another, which are then archived in the Library of Congress. These conversations are usually about 40 minutes in length.
StoryCorps has also developed an app which allows individuals a chance to participate if they are not able to make it to a recording site. I feel like this is the most important aspect of StoryCorps. I can think of instances where this is so beneficial. A sick loved one who is homebound, or perhaps one lives in a rural part of our country where they cannot make it to a big city where the tour usually visits.
When people are given the chance to speak and to feel that they have a voice to be heard, it changes everything. We can learn so much from one another, and StoryCorps is just one tool among many that we can utilize, either as participants or as listeners.