An interview with David Isay, founder of StoryCorps

At Democracy Now, Amy Goodman interviews David Isay, founder of the StoryCorps project. It turns out that Amy Goodman is the one who gave David Isay his start. One radio documentary in particular showed Isay how significant asking questions on tape was in the lives of everyday people (quote follows after the jump). Isay also talks about Danny Perasa and Annie Perasa, who’ve become a kind of figurehead for the StoryCorps project. Danny came down with a fatal illness. NPR aired one last StoryCorps-style interview last Friday on Morning Edition. Later that day, Danny died.

I did a documentary about 13, 14 years ago with two kids growing up in a housing project in Chicago called the Ida B. Wells Projects where I gave them tape recorders and had them do a diary of their lives. I saw that when these kids took these tape recorders and interviewed say, their grand parents, that having a microphone and laying in bed with their grandmother and asking her these questions, allowed these kids to ask questions they wouldn’t normally get to ask. And created bonds that existed long after the tape recorder got turned off. And then when these relatives passed away, these tapes became enormously important to these young men. So that was really the beginning of Story Corps.

And over the years there were a bunch of other project that just made me kind of think that all of the whole country should have access to a project like this and should be able to have these kinds of conversations. You love radio. I love radio. There’s such an intimacy in the voice and just being in a quiet place and getting to ask people questions, you don’t normally get to ask, and you know, the idea of Story Corps is that all of our stories matter and everybody should be treated with dignity. Everyone’s story should be preserved in a thoughtful and dignified manner. That’s what the project is about.

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 02, 2006 in • Oral history in the news
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