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Radio Diaries

First-person diaries, sound portraits, and hidden chapters of history from Peabody Award-winning producer Joe Richman and the Radio Diaries team. From teenagers to octogenarians, prisoners to prison guards, bra saleswomen to lighthouse keepers. The extraordinary stories of ordinary life. Radio Diaries is a proud member of Radiotopia, from PRX. Learn more at radiotopia.fm

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The Last Place

When you spend so much of your life getting to the next stage, thinking about the next move, what is it like to find yourself in…the Last Place? In this episode, we bring you audio diaries from a retirement home.


21 Sep 2017

Rank #1

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Majd’s Diary: Two Years in the Life of a Saudi Girl

Majd Abdulghani is a teenager living in Saudi Arabia, one of the most restrictive countries for women in the world. She wants to be a scientist. Her family wants to arrange her marriage. From the age of 19 to 21, Majd has been chronicling her life with a microphone, taking us inside a society where the voices of women are rarely heard. In her audio diary, Majd documents everything from arguments with her brother about how much she should cover herself in front of men, to late night thoughts about loneliness, arranged marriages, and the possibility of true love.


21 Nov 2017

Rank #2

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Teenage Diaries Revisited: Melissa

As an 18-year-old raised in the foster care system, Melissa took NPR listeners along when she gave birth to her son Issaiah. Over the past 16 years Melissa and her son have faced many challenges, from eviction notices to her son’s life-threatening medical diagnosis. In this podcast episode, listen to Melissa’s Teenage Diary and her new ‘grown-up’ diary from Teenage Diaries Revisited. Plus, Joe interviews Melissa about the process of documenting her life over the years.


12 Jun 2013

Rank #3

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Serving 9-5: Diaries from Prison Guards

Polk Youth Institution in Butner, North Carolina is a prison for young men between the ages of 19-25. For our series Prison Diaries, I gave tape recorders to a handful of inmates at Polk to tell the story of life behind bars. After visiting the prison for a few months, I realized I had been overlooking the stories of the guards. Pretty much every guard I talked to said they serve time too – in eight hour shifts. In this episode of the Radio Diaries Podcast, listen to the audio diaries of prison guards.


22 Oct 2015

Rank #4

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Identical Strangers

Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein were both born in New York City and adopted as infants. When they were 35 years old, they met and found they were “identical strangers.”


18 Feb 2016

Rank #5

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The Dropped Wrench

Every day, we go about our lives doing thousands of routine, mundane tasks. And sometimes, we make mistakes. Human error. It happens all the time. It just doesn’t always happen in a nuclear missile silo. This story was produced in collaboration with This American Life. *** If you enjoy this podcast, please consider making a donation to support our work! www.radiodiaries.org/donate Thank you!


3 Oct 2019

Rank #6

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Burma ’88: Buried History

25 years ago, university students in Burma sparked a countrywide uprising. They called for a nationwide strike on 8/8/88, a date they chose for its numerological power.


8 Aug 2013

Rank #7

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Working, Then and Now

In the early 1970s, radio host and oral historian Studs Terkel went around the country, tape recorder in hand, interviewing people about their jobs. Studs collected more than 130 interviews, and the result was a book called “Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do.” And – something unprecedented for an oral history collection – it became a bestseller. In this episode of The Radio Diaries Podcast, we bring you two of the lost interviews that never made it into the book: Helen Moog, a taxi driver and grandmother of five who happened to drive Studs to the Youngstown, OH airport; and Lovin’ Al Pommier, a “car hiker.”


1 Sep 2014

Rank #8

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The View from the 79th Floor

On July 28, 1945 an Army bomber pilot on a routine ferry mission found himself lost in the fog over Manhattan. A dictation machine in a nearby office happened to capture the sound of the plane as it hit the Empire State Building at the 79th floor. Fourteen people were killed. Debris from the plane severed the cables of an elevator, which fell 79 stories with a young woman inside. She survived. The crash prompted new legislation that – for the first time – gave citizens the right to sue the federal government.


17 Oct 2019

Rank #9

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Last Witness: Mission to Hiroshima

On August 6, 1945 the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. It was the first time a nuclear weapon had been used in warfare. There were three strike planes that flew over Hiroshima that day: the Enola Gay which carried the bomb, and two escort planes, the Great Artiste and the Necessary Evil. Russell Gackenbach was a Second Lieutenant and a navigator on the mission. Today, he is the only surviving crew member from those three planes. Know someone who’d make a good Last Witness? Get in touch! You can find us on Twitter and Facebook, use the hashtag #LastWitness. Sponsors: LinkedIn – Get $50 off your first job posting at www.linkedin.com/diaries and use code DIARIES at checkout. Quip – Get first refill pack FREE by going to www.getquip.com/diaries


6 Aug 2018

Rank #10

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Strange Fruit – Voices of a Lynching

The images coming out of Ferguson, MO this summer have reminded us of another upsetting image of race in America. It’s a photograph that was taken just a few hours from Ferguson, but eight decades ago…and it inspired the Billie Holiday song, Strange Fruit. Listen to our story (and be advised that it is disturbing.)


25 Aug 2014

Rank #11

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The Press is the Enemy

Fifty years ago, on November 13, 1969, Spiro Agnew delivered the most famous speech ever given by a vice president. His message: the media is biased. President Nixon was getting beaten up by the press, and in response, his administration had been trying to undercut the credibility of the media, especially television news. The war between politicians and the media has a long history. Today on the podcast, the story of Agnew’s speech. Also, the story of Adlai Stevenson, a presidential candidate doomed to fail on this new-fangled thing called television.


13 Nov 2019

Rank #12

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Crime Pays

This month’s podcast is about what it takes to get people to change. We focus on a group of people that might be the hardest to change – or at least they’ve had the most money thrown at them in hopes of change: Criminals. Back in 2006, Richmond, CA was named the ninth most dangerous city in the country, with 42 murders for a population of about 100,000. Then they brought in a new police chief and started doing all kinds of things differently. And it worked. Homicides are now a third of what they were. Crime has dropped in a way that is dramatic and impressive. And police say that one of the things that helped is a program called the Office of Neighborhood Safety, or ONS. That’s a bland name for what is actually a very unusual program with one particular tactic that you do not hear about people trying very often: paying criminals to not commit crimes. Sounds crazy, but the even crazier part is…it works. This story originally aired on This American Life, in the episode, The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind. Thanks to Ira Glass and the entire staff of This American Life for their help on this story.


11 Sep 2015

Rank #13

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When Nazis Took Manhattan

On February 20th, 1939, 20,000 people streamed into Madison Square Garden in New York City. Outside, the marquee was lit up with the evening's main event: a "Pro-American rally." Inside, on the stage, there was a 30-foot tall banner of George Washington, sandwiched between American flags...and two huge swastikas. Today’s episode is a special collaboration with The Memory Palace. *** This episode is sponsored by Care/Of, a monthly subscription vitamin service. For 50% off your first month, go to TakeCareOf.com and enter radiodiaries50.


20 Feb 2019

Rank #14

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The Teenage Diaries Revisited Hour Special

Back in the 1990s, Joe Richman gave tape recorders to a bunch of teenagers and asked them to report on their own lives. These stories became the series “Teenage Diaries.” 16 years later, in “Teenage Diaries Revisited,” we check back in with this group to see what’s happened in their lives. **** Make your mark. Go to radiotopia.fm to donate today. #RadiotopiaForever


19 Dec 2019

Rank #15

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When Borders Move

What happens when, instead of people crossing the border, the border crosses the people? In this episode of the Radio Diaries Podcast, two stories from the U.S.-Mexico border.


6 Oct 2014

Rank #16

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The Working Tapes – Part 1

An auto union worker, a switchboard telephone operator, a press agent… In the early 1970’s, author Studs Terkel went around the country with a reel-to-reel tape recorder interviewing people about their jobs for his book, “Working.” It was a surprise bestseller. But until now, few of these interviews have ever been heard before. For decades, the reel-to-reel tapes were packed away in Terkel’s home office. Over the past year, Radio Diaries, along with Project&, combed through them to produce a new NPR series. This is the first of a three-part podcast series on The Working Tapes. Also – please fill out this survey to let us know what you think of our podcast! http://surveynerds.com/diaries


30 Sep 2016

Rank #17

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Busman’s Holiday

The story of William Cimillo, a New York City bus driver who snapped one day in 1947, left his regular route in the Bronx, and drove his municipal bus down to Florida. This story originally aired on This American Life. *** Radio Diaries is a non-profit organization. We couldn’t do this work without support from our listeners. If you like this podcast, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution before December 31st. Go to www.radiodiaries.org to donate.


20 Dec 2016

Rank #18

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First Kiss

Josh Cutler has Tourette’s syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable tics and involuntary verbal outbursts. In this episode, listen to his teenage diary about getting his first kiss. “What I have here is an envelope on which this girl Nicole wrote down instructions on how to kiss. It says: ‘pucker lips, slowly open mouth, slowly slide tongue in, repeat steps 1, 2, and 3.’ She made that list for me because I made out with her and she said I was doing it wrong. So I guess that’s the main thing I learned this summer.”


12 Feb 2015

Rank #19

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The Working Tapes of Studs Terkel

In 1974, oral historian Studs Terkel published a book with an unwieldy title: "Working: People talk about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do." This collective portrait of America was based on more than a hundred interviews Studs did around the country. Studs recorded all of his interviews on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, but after the book came out the tapes were packed away in boxes and forgotten for decades. A couple years ago, Radio Diaries and the organization Project& were given exclusive access to the tapes. On this episode of The Radio Diaries Podcast, we're bringing you eleven stories from Studs' Working tapes. There's the telephone switchboard operator, the Chicago police officer, the private eye, the hotel piano player and many more.


5 Sep 2019

Rank #20