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StoryCorps Introduces New Way to Help Friends, Family Tell Their Tales Remotely

Online platform allows more users to contribute to the popular interview series

A mature woman using digital tablet on apartment balcony

Antonio Saba / Getty Images

From video-chat birthday parties to virtual book clubs, Americans are connecting in new and creative ways during the coronavirus outbreak.

The nonprofit interview series StoryCorps, which gives people from all walks of life the chance to record meaningful conversations, is also going digital, with a new platform launching today, StoryCorps Connect.

Instead of sitting down for the usual 40-minute face-to-face interview, family members or close friends anywhere in the world can record their conversations online using video conferencing technology — asking and answering questions like, “What was the happiest moment of your life?”

Helping people make these connections is especially important now, when many older adults are facing unprecedented social isolation and loneliness, says StoryCorps founder and president Dave Isay: “I can't think of a more important time to do something like this."

Established in 2003, StoryCorps has already captured 300,000 conversations, some of them extremely moving, about crises overcome or funny or poignant moments in people's lives. The recordings are stored in the archive of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Participants also receive a copy of their interview, and portions of some conversations are turned into animated videos or broadcast on radio programs such as NPR's Morning Edition.

The platform is new, Isay says, but the overall experience should remain much the same. People respond to questions that are meant to spark purposeful exchanges, like, “Can you tell me a bit about your childhood?” and “Can you tell me about one of the most difficult moments of your life?”

Isay says a few additional questions about the coronavirus will be suggested as a way to address the pandemic. Interviewers can review an online question guide and other materials to make sure the process goes smoothly before they start recording on their phone, tablet or computer.

Any advice for participants? “Ask that question you've always wanted to ask all your life with this person pretty early,” he says, “because 40 minutes goes by so fast."

For more information or to record an interview, visit storycorps.org.

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