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KOSU partners with StoryCorps to facilitate conversations of Americans with opposing viewpoints

By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Reporter —

OKLAHOMA CITY — In a partnership with StoryCorps, KOSU is inviting people across Oklahoma to take part in conversations being recorded for history. StoryCorps is a national nonprofit dedicated to recording and preserving personal stories,

With support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), Oklahoma is one of six locations across the country selected to take part in StoryCorps’ nationwide One Small Step initiative to facilitate and broadcast conversations with Americans of opposing viewpoints.

CPB is the largest single source of funding for research, technology and program development for public radio, television and related online services. For more information, visit cpb.org.

The Nationwide One Small Step Initiative offers opportunity for people to talk about life experiences that formed their values and listen with respect.

With participant permission, these conversations are preserved for future generations at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

KOSU plans to broadcast edited versions of some of the Oklahoma submissions.

“After a year of isolation and division, it’s time to remember what we have in common. At KOSU, we are honored to facilitate these conversations,” said Rachel Hubbard, KOSU executive director. “It is important to us that all Oklahomans feel heard and valued, no matter their life experiences or what shaped them.” 

Dave Isay, founder and president of StoryCorps said, “Recent polls demonstrate what most of us have already experienced first-hand: that there is a pervasive culture of contempt that threatens the very foundations of our democracy.

“According to a CBS News poll released earlier this year, more than half of all Americans say the greatest danger to America’s way of life comes from their fellow citizens,” he added. “One Small Step aims to remind people of the humanity in all of us and that it’s hard to hate up close. These communities can model this change for the rest of the country.”

Through the One Small Step Initiative, KOSU invites listenersto meet someone new-a fellow resident with different views from you, who you might never talk to otherwise – for a simple, personal, 50-minute conversation.

One Small Step conversations are hosted virtually by a trained facilitator, archived as part of American history atthe Library of Congress, if you choose, and never shared without your permission.

Supporting this effort, CPB President and CEO Patricia Harrison said, “StoryCorps uses its innovative approach to sharing stories in its One Small Step Communities initiative to foster understanding and respect, even among people who deeply disagree.

“By working with local public radio stations to connect people with different backgrounds and political beliefs, One Small Step is helping stations strengthen their communities, one step at a time,” Harrison continued.

Launched by StoryCorps in 2018 in response to growing division in the country, One Small Step asks questions such as, “Was there a moment, event, or person in your life that shaped your political views?” and “What scares you most when you think about the future?”

KOSU encourages Oklahoma residents to take part in this limited-time opportunity:

Information about how to participate can be found at kosu.org/onesmallstep. To accommodate participant comfort levels with in-person recording sessions, KOSU may use StoryCorps’ remote recording platform over video.

KOSU will also team up with a variety of community organizations to spread the word and collaborate with StoryCorps to match participants and record conversations through the end of the year.

The project will include a series of public listening events, streamed online, in fall 2021. Find out how your organization can partner with KOSU here.  

KOSU’s participation in the One Small Step Communities project is made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. StoryCorps’ national One Small Step initiative is sponsored by The Hearthland Foundation, the Fetzer Institute, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Charles Koch Institute.

Founded in 2003 by Dave Isay, StoryCorps has given people of all backgrounds and beliefs in towns and cities in all 50 states the chance to record interviews about their lives.

The organization preserves the recordings in its archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, the largest single collection of human voices ever gathered, and shares select stories with the public through StoryCorps’ podcast, NPR broadcasts, animated shorts, digital platforms and best-selling books.

These stories reflect the vast range of American experiences and remind us how much more we have in common than what divides us. 

StoryCorps is committed to amplifying voices least heard in the media. The StoryCorps MobileBooth, an Airstream trailer the organization has transformed into a traveling recording booth, crisscrosses the country year-round to gather the stories of people nationwide. StoryBooths are also located in Chicago and Atlanta.

With the 2015 TED Prize awarded to Dave Isay, StoryCorps launched a free mobile app that puts the StoryCorps experience entirely in the hands of users and enables anyone, anywhere to record meaningful conversations with another person and upload the audio to the Library of Congress.

The StoryCorps app serves as the facilitator, guiding users through the interview experience, from recording to archiving to sharing their stories with the world. It provides easy-to-use tools to help people prepare interview questions; record high-quality conversations on their mobile devices; and upload the audio to archive.storycorps.org, which serves as a home for these recordings and also provides interview and editing resources.

StoryCorps recently launched StoryCorps Connect, a new video-based platform that makes it possible for two people in different locations to conduct a StoryCorps interview safely and remotely. After recording a StoryCorps conversation via any of these methods, participants are emailed a link to their interview and a digital file goes to the Library of Congress to be preserved for generations to come. 

KOSU is a public radio service of Oklahoma State University and a member station of National Public Radio. To learn more about KOSU StoryCorps, visit kosu.org/tags/storycorps.

The StoryCorps MobileBooth, an Airstream trailer the organization has transformed into a traveling recording booth, crisscrosses the country year-round to gather the stories of people nationwide. StoryCorps web photo