Rank #1: 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.
Rank #2: 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.
Rank #3: Shirley Chisholm: Unbought and Unbossed
Today…there’s “The Squad.” But 50 years ago, there was only one woman of color in the U.S. Congress, and she was the first. Shirley Chisholm, of New York City, was elected to Congress in a historic victory in 1968. And like the squad...Chisholm made her voice heard.
In 1972, Chisholm launched a spirited campaign for the Democratic nomination. She was the first woman and first African American to run. Declaring herself “unbought and unbossed,” she took on the political establishment, declaring herself “the candidate of the people.”
Rank #4: Teenage Diaries Revisited: Amanda
At the age of 17, Amanda knew she was gay. But her parents kept insisting she’d grow out of it. Today, a lot has changed in the country, and within her own family. 16 years later, Amanda goes back to her parents to find out how they came to accept having a daughter who is gay.
Rank #5: 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.
Rank #6: Teenage Diaries Revisited: Josh
In high school, Josh documented his life with Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable tics and involuntary verbal outbursts. Today, Josh has overcome Tourette’s enough to become a NYC public school teacher, but not enough to remain one. In this episode, listen to Josh’s audio diaries about trying to live a normal life with a brain that often betrays him. Plus, an interview between Josh and Radio Diaries producer Joe Richman.
Rank #7: 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.”
Rank #8: The Square Deal
100 years ago, George F. Johnson ran the biggest shoe factory in the world. The Endicott-Johnson Corporation in upstate New York produced 52 million pairs of shoes a year.
But Johnson wasn’t only known for his shoes. Johnson had an unusual theory at the time, about how workers should be treated. Some people called it “Welfare Capitalism.” He called it “The Square Deal.”
Rank #9: 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.
Rank #10: 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.
Rank #11: 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.
Rank #12: 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.”
Rank #13: 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.)
Rank #14: 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.”
Rank #15: 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.
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Rank #16: 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.
Rank #17: The Man Who Put the ‘P’ in NPR
One of the best mission statements we’ve ever read is the original NPR mission, which was written in 1969 by Bill Siemering. Bill is an amazing guy who, at the age of 80, continues to help create radio stations and programs in developing countries around the world. The manifesto Bill wrote is no longer NPR’s official mission statement but it’s a lovely reminder of why we do this work. It’s truly worth reading.
Here at Radio Diaries we like history – including our own. So with help from the good folks at Transom.org, we brought Bill into a studio because we were curious how he came to write that original mission statement, and why. We asked him to look back at the history of public media, and to imagine the future. We also asked him to read part of that original NPR mission statement.
You can also read a transcript of our conversation at Transom.org, thanks to Jay Allison, Sydney Lewis and Samantha Broun. If you don’t know about Transom…go there as soon as you can. It’s like a master class in radio storytelling.
Rank #18: 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.
Rank #19: 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.
Rank #20: Fly Girls
In the early 1940s, the US Airforce faced a dilemma. Thousands of new airplanes were coming off assembly lines and needed to be delivered to military bases nationwide, yet most of America’s pilots were overseas fighting the war. To solve the problem, the government launched an experimental program to train women pilots. They were known as the WASPs, the Women Airforce Service Pilots.
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