Sit With Me


I hope you’re sitting down. I’m going to say something heretical. Ready?

I’m kinda tired of StoryCorps.

Let me explain. On so many levels, StoryCorps is genius. It’s the nation’s largest oral history project — ever. And, it’s peer to peer (mostly) with people interviewing one another. The stories are heartfelt and honest. What could be better on the radio, right?

Problem is, I think the stories have become predictable. Not all the time, to be sure, but often.

On this Saltcast, we listen to a story produced at Salt several years ago that, in-house, we called “StoryCorps Plus.” Take a listen and let us know if you think the approach to recording and producing this story might be a way for StoryCorps to take their productions to the next level.

Cheers, Rob


  1. 9 Responses to “Sit With Me”

  2. By D. Brent Miller on Nov 29, 2010

    Great story and production. As an independent producer, I see the value in the extra interview. It helps the listener fill in some of the gaps for understanding. The extra time required means the story (most stories) are publishable on the internet as opposed to a public radio station that has some time constraints. I like this production, but I don’t think the suggested increase in work will change StoryCorps methodology.

  3. By Tricia Erikson on Nov 30, 2010

    “Sit With Me” is beautiful, moving.

    I still remember the day when Dave Isay called me (at Salt) and asked for a bibliography on oral history so he could germinate the StoryCorps idea.

    I don’t think StoryCorps’ product is better, it’s just closer to the WPA model and has plugged in, wisely, to Library of Congress.

    Salt’s fan, always,

  4. By Rob Rosenthal on Dec 1, 2010

    Brent, Yeah, you’re right. The the time constraints of the programming “clock” probably wouldn’t allow for more in-depth, StoryCorps style productions — unfortunately. And, indeed, the added work and budget needed to do what I’m suggesting is also problematic. On the other hand, StoryCorps was, at one point, the fastest growing non-profit in the country. They seem to know how to get things done. And, one would hope that the occasional longer piece would be acceptable by an editor. It is good radio, after all. Thanks for writing. — r

  5. By Brock Lueck on Dec 1, 2010

    I like the heretical suggetion. Based here in Edinburgh, Scotland, I have done a lot of thinking about StoryCorps (and how it might be replicated in the UK – haven’t figured out how to do that financially yet!). But the interesting thing to me about the project is what the conversations usually represent for the participants as they happen; (a thank you, an apology, an important aknowledgement of some kind). My impression is that in the lives of the people talking, the event of going into the booth and saying what needs to be said means quite a lot to those involved. Which can be great radio, but does not always mean great radio. I’m sure that the weekly broadcasts have been crucial to the growth of the org., but it might be even more powerful if occassionally we got a more in depth version (which might in turn attract more people to the project?).

    Keep the Saltcasts coming! They are an integral part of my do-it-yourself training that I seem to be engaged in…

    Brock Lueck

  6. By DC on Dec 3, 2010

    Hi Rob! First of all I’d like to say “THANK YOU” for Saltcast, it’s fantastic! I’ve learned sooo much in such a short time, e.g. radio production, Things regarding The City of Portland Maine, intriguing stories and issues about other peoples lives etc.. and just can’t seem to get enough- Bravo!

    Yes — my ears did perk up when I heard you utter the words “StoryCorps”, in your lastest podcast. I thought for a moment that Saltcast was thinking about changing up it’s format. Thank goodness your NOT. I couldn’t agree with you more, to me personally? — StoryCorps is kinda lame, waaay to short and definitely not stories, more like excerpts of what could be a real story. Most of the time after listening to StoryCorps it leaves me (the listener) feeling jipped, yeah– jipped. Sorry to say, but, David Isay once put out some incredible work, StoryCorps is not one of them — yet. Seriously? (once) early in my listening to The StoryCorps podcast, I couldn’t wait for the next podcast to become available. I waited seven looong days and … and …and then? Barley 4 minutes of content. LOL! What a disappointment that was. StoryCorps Plus? Nah, StoryCorps Minus.

    Saltcast Fan,

  7. By Jackie on Dec 4, 2010

    I remember when you played this piece in class and I’m so glad it’s on the podcast!

    Just some some info to add to the discussion, StoryCorps has on occasion done follow-up interview with participants for the exact reason you suggest – more detail, more in-depth conversation. I’m not sure which pieces those ended up being so I couldn’t tell you how they compare. I do know that part of the reason StoryCorps decided to have facilitators in the recording booth with participants was to add an extra person to ask the questions that might elicit those details given the time limit of the interviews.

  8. By Shira Bannerman on Dec 10, 2010

    Hi Rob (and Co.)

    Like Jackie, I wanted to point out that the StoryCorps production team does (sometimes) do follow-up interviews! For example, there was a piece with Colbert Williams ( interviewed by his son, and the next week SC broadcast a piece between Colbert Williams interviewing his own legal guardian. Both interviews dealt with the theme of fatherhood, presenting Colbert as a son and a father.

    Sharon DeLevie also has a compounded type of interview on the website (

    And, of course, StoryCorps’ classic Danny and Annie story includes a follow-up interview (years later). Here is a link to the animation:

    When I was an intern there, if production heard an interview that was interesting but not quite “there,” they would sometimes try to get the person back in the booth — or think of another interview partner to invite with them, too. I’m not aware of the lengths of the stories really varying, but the facilitators and the production team certainly try to explore the most interesting and real elements in an interview every way they can.

  9. By robert on Dec 12, 2010

    Jackie and Shira,

    Thanks for chiming in! Good to know StoryCorps from time to time has gone the extra-mile to round-out a story. Of course, I think more of that might be better. But, I’m keenly aware of the budget and staff limitations never mind the on-air time limits.

    Ciao for now.

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