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What is StoryCorps®?

The idea behind StoryCorps is simple, but it can be hard to explain, especially to anyone who isn't familiar with our stories on NPR. In a sentence, StoryCorps is a national project to instruct and inspire Americans to record one another's stories in sound. StoryCorps seeks first and foremost to create meaningful experiences within families and between friends. To do that, we have developed a unique interviewing model that most people aren't familiar with, and that requires some explanation.

Participants are the interviewers.
StoryCorps interviews take place between two people who know each other well. When most people hear the word "interview," they expect to be interviewed by a stranger. While our facilitators are trained to interview participants who come alone, we strongly encourage you to recruit participants to come in pairs. A crucial part of the StoryCorps experience is having the chance to be interviewed someone important to you, and to ask questions you have never been able to ask.

The interviews are not scripted.
StoryCorps interviews are not meant to be scripted, rehearsed, or read from notes. We will work with you to create question lists to give to participants who would like some prompting, but we also encourage spontaneity and flexibility during interviews. Some of the most interesting questions occur to participants not ahead of time, but during the interview itself.

You don't have to tell your life story from beginning to end.
We encourage participants to focus on their personal and emotional life, not simply dates, places, and chronologies. When StoryCorps is described as an "oral history project," some people will assume that, during their interview, they are expected to cover the entirety of their life story in all of its specifics. For that reason, we try to avoid using the term "oral history" and refer to the experience more as a "conversation" during which participants are free to talk about whatever they want.

Note for HFES participants: We hope that the general theme of "whatever you want" to talk about might have some connection to Human Factors and Ergonomics!

The interview is for you and for future generations, but probably won't air on NPR.
Each participant pair receives a broadcast-quality recording of their interview. With the participants' permission, a copy of their interview is archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress for future generations to hear. A very small number of interviews are edited for broadcast on National Public Radio's Morning Edition program. This is very rare, and we secure the participant's permission in each case.

It's up to you whether your interview will be archived.
In order to have their interview archived in the Library of Congress or to enable StoryCorps to use it for any possible radio production, participants must sign a release form. The choice to sign the form is entirely up to the participant, and he or she will wait until after completing the interview to make that decision.

Note for HFES participants: While you are certainly free to decline after the interview, we ask that you only sign up for an interview slot if your intention is to sign the release after the interview is concluded.


Be sure to check out Feedback from StoryCorps Participants

StoryCorps Background

In partnership with National Public Radio (NPR) and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, StoryCorps is able to bring the wisdom and experience of everyday people to millions of people each week, and to preserve these voices and stories for generations to come. Each week a new StoryCorps segment is broadcast to the nation on NPR's Morning Edition, which reaches 12 million listeners. To date, StoryCorps has recorded 8,000 interviews with approximately 15,000 participants. Their MobileBooths have visited 51 cites in 37 states since thier launch in May of 2005.

StoryCorps is committed to recording the voices of Americans from all walks of life and from populations traditionally underrepresented in the media. In order to achieve this goal, they conduct significant community outreach efforts in order to bring a diversity of populations and voices into StoryBooths across the country. StoryCorps is committed to ensuring that 25% of all interviews collected come from targeted and underrepresented populations. The citizen-interview model of StoryCorps also allows for sessions to be conducted in any language the participants choose. To date, StoryCorps has recorded interviews in more than a dozen languages in their facilities.

The interview session is at the heart of StoryCorps. Each 40-minute session is treated as a 'sacred' moment in participants' lives. StoryCorps is built upon an uncompromising commitment to excellence, and participants are treated with utmost respect, care, and dignity. The interview experience has a powerful effect on participants, their family members, listeners, and society as a whole by teaching people to:

  • Truly listen to one another;
  • Appreciate one another's stories;
  • Understand that everyone's story and everyone's life matters and has value;
  • Celebrate the power of family and the wisdom of our elders, while strengthening family bonds; (and, in the case of HFES, to celebrate the power of community and shared vision);
  • Hand down stories from one generation to the next; and
  • Recognize and celebrate our shared humanity.

At the end of each interview, participants leave with the highest-quality recording on CD and, with their permission (granted by nearly all participants), a copy is placed into the archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Excerpts are broadcast each Friday morning on NPR's flagship newsmagazine Morning Edition. Clearly, StoryCorps is also creating personal archives for families across the country. Families now have-and more will have-the voices and wisdom of their ancestors to share with generations to come. Many families have already written in after a loved one passed on to say how lucky they feel to have participated and to have their relative's voice, story, and wisdom live on.

Note for HFES participants: As a "Door-to-Door" partner, HFES will also receive copies of the interview material (assuming release is granted) which we will maintain in our own archive and possibly use in presentations or on our web page, etc..