Non-profit

StoryCorps

Website:

storycorps.org/

Location:

Brooklyn, NY

Tax ID:

13-3753011

Budget (2016):

Revenue: $11,828,759
Expenses: $10,638,243
Assets: $7,810,222

President:

David Isay

Type:

Non-profit

Formation:

2003

StoryCorps is a non-profit group that began in 2003 for the purpose of preserving voice recordings between everyday Americans. Founded through an alliance between the Library of Congress and Sound Portraits, it began with a recording booth in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. [1] It archived over 600,000 voice interviews conducted between family or friends. [2]

While StoryCorps claims its mission is to create a world with greater compassion,[3] its areas of focus align with left-of-center perspectives especially on identity-related issues. [4] StoryCorps concentrates on representing so-called “marginalized populations”[5] including the Muslims, LGBT people, and Latinos, often broadcast on National Public Radio. [6]

Left-of-center groups like the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Ford Foundation fund StoryCorps. [7] StoryCorps leadership includes  board chair Gara LaMarche, who was also the president of the left-of-center funding collective Democracy Alliance until late 2020. [8]

Background

The Depression-era Works Progress Administration that documented workers’ projects reportedly inspired the creation of StoryCorps. Founded by President Dave Isay, it began with recording studios in places like Grand Central Station, then evolved to mobile studios. National Public Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting financed the mobile booths. [9] The booths have visited hundreds of American cities where anyone can record an interview of another person for forty minutes. The recordings are archived in the Library of Congress and NPR’s Morning Edition features selected stories. [10]

Sound Portraits Productions, also founded by Dave Isay, was the predecessor to StoryCorps. It focused on what it considered to be voices of “neglected Americans” or those “surviving in the margins.” Issues it explored included “juvenile justice,” poverty, race, and imprisonment. The MacArthur Foundation funded Sound Portraits to produce a documentary called Ghetto Life 101 for distribution into thousands of classrooms. NPR also published its productions. [11]

Controversy

Union Organizing

StoryCorps management opposed a staff unionization effort. StoryCorps employees sought representation through Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1180 for improved pay, programming initiative influence, and organizational input. Isay protested the move, describing unionization as creating an adversarial and divisive culture. One employee described StoryCorps’ resistance as deploying “union-busting” tactics. Management engaged the National Labor Relations Board, and employees were subpoenaed, one of which called the experience intimidating. The Nation interpreted Isay’s opposition to the union’s implementation of higher pay as sullying “the joy and the love” StoryCorps’ workers would gain through their labors. [12]

National Public Radio

NPR sparked controversy through the disingenuous framing of a StoryCorps recording as one of the author seeking amends. The recording portrayed the regret of an old man who as a young child stole $2 intended for his family’s Black maid. When she sought the payment, she was fired, and labeled as a thief, which affected her livelihood. The story caused audience furor including a statement that claimed NPR was irresponsible in its reporting. The listener suggested the author possessed “terrible evil” that damaged the maid’s family for generations. NPR was cast as too white for seeking to cleanse an old white man of his guilt. StoryCorps commented that American history has “countless stories like this one,” where similar abuse was dealt to many people of color and labeled as suspects solely due to their race. StoryCorps further believed that America’s racist history and white privilege were appropriate conversations. [13]

Initiatives

While StoryCorps’ recordings are primarily open to the public interviews, it also promotes special interest initiatives targeting particular demographics or experiences. The focused topics includes the histories of teachers, military veterans, Latinos, African Americans, and those who experienced the World Trade Center attacks. [14] Others included an immigration project that included former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. [15]

StoryCorps partnered with Georgetown University to launch the American Pilgrimage Project, which explored and tagged interviews where religion was a theme. [16] StoryCorps initiated the Great Thanksgiving Listen by collaborating with schools and teachers to assign students a homework assignment of interviewing their elderly ancestors. The Justice Project was produced in 2017 that focused on prisoners. One Small Step is a 2018 venture to cross political boundaries. It partnered with Google and YouTube for a military personnel story project. In 2019, the Stonewall Outloud program focused on LGBT stories, and in 2020, StoryCorps launched a remote recording program to allow interviews during the pandemic. American Pathways began which focused on the experiences of refugees, Muslims, asylees, and immigrants. [17]

Recognition

The MacArthur Award

The left-leaning MacArthur Foundation awarded StoryCorps a $1 million prize. [18]

The Ted Talk Prize

Dave Isay gave a “Ted Talk” explaining his goal of providing children access to StoryCorps through a mobile app to record stories of themselves with their relatives and friends. That presentation netted a $1 million Ted Prize that enabled StoryCorps to create and launch the app. [19]

Peabody Awards

Dave Isay received six Peabody Awards for his work with StoryCorps. [20]

References

  1. Hocking, Bree. “Library of Congress To Launch StoryCorps.” Roll Call – Covering Capitol Hill Since 1955. Roll Call, October 3, 2003. https://www.rollcall.com/2003/10/03/library-of-congress-to-launch-storycorps/. ^
  2. Ansberry, Clare. “The Questions You Wish You Had Asked Your Parents.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, March 1, 2020. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-questions-you-wish-you-had-asked-your-parents-11583067601?page=1. ^
  3. Zito , Salena. “Conversation and Storytelling to Bridge the Partisan Divide.” Washington Examiner, October 29, 2018. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/op-eds/conversation-and-storytelling-to-bridge-the-partisan-divide. ^
  4. Fischmann, Veronica FischmannVeronica. “Talking About the Murder of George Floyd & the Black Lives Matter Demonstrations.” StoryCorps, June 16, 2020. https://storycorps.org/george-floyd/. ^
  5. Russell-Kraft, Stephanie. “The Aggressive Anti-Union Campaign at StoryCorps.” The Nation, July 17, 2017. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/the-aggressive-anti-union-campaign-at-storycorps/. ^
  6. Jensen, Elizabeth. “The Story of Gay America, via Personal Interviews.” The New York Times. The New York Times, June 1, 2014. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/02/business/media/storycorps-to-collect-gays-oral-history.html?searchResultPosition=10. ^
  7. “Supporters.” StoryCorps. Accessed February 18, 2021. https://storycorps.org/supporters/. ^
  8. “Our Leadership.” StoryCorps. Accessed February 18, 2021. https://storycorps.org/leadership/. ^
  9. Person. “StoryCorps Launches Today at Library.” Roll Call – Covering Capitol Hill Since 1955. Roll Call, May 18, 2005. https://www.rollcall.com/2005/05/18/storycorps-launches-today-at-library/. ^
  10. Oatman, Maddie. “How StoryCorps Captured the Soul of America.” Mother Jones, October 21, 2013. https://www.motherjones.com/media/2013/10/interview-dave-isay-storycorps-10th-anniversary/ . ^
  11. “Sound Portraits.” PRX. Accessed February 18, 2021. https://exchange.prx.org/group/soundportraits. ^
  12. Russell-Kraft, Stephanie. “The Aggressive Anti-Union Campaign at StoryCorps.” The Nation, July 17, 2017. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/the-aggressive-anti-union-campaign-at-storycorps/ . ^
  13. Jensen, Elizabeth. “Poorly Framed StoryCorps ‘Experiment’ Misfires.” NPR. NPR, December 15, 2016. https://www.npr.org/sections/publiceditor/2016/12/15/505567780/poorly-framed-storycorps-experiment-misfires. ^
  14. Jensen, Elizabeth. “The Story of Gay America, via Personal Interviews.” The New York Times. The New York Times, June 1, 2014. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/02/business/media/storycorps-to-collect-gays-oral-history.html?searchResultPosition=10 . ^
  15. Dolnick, Sam. “Hearing, and Sharing, Immigrants’ Stories.” The New York Times. The New York Times, April 11, 2011. https://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/11/hearing-and-sharing-immigrants-stories/?searchResultPosition=12. ^
  16. Oppenheimer, Mark. “Collecting Catholics’ Everyday Stories as an Antidote to Scandals in the News.” The New York Times. The New York Times, June 21, 2014. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/21/us/collecting-catholics-everyday-stories-as-an-antidote-to-scandals-in-the-news.html?searchResultPosition=17. ^
  17. “About StoryCorps.” StoryCorps. Accessed February 18, 2021. https://storycorps.org/about/ . ^
  18. Kolawole, Emi. “MacArthur Foundation Awards Millions to 13 Organizations for ‘Creativity and Effectiveness’.” The Washington Post. WP Company, February 28, 2013. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/post/macarthur-foundation-awards-millions-to-13-organizations-for-creativity-and-effectiveness/2013/02/27/83761778-8062-11e2-a350-49866afab584_blog.html. ^
  19. Brown, Emma. “This Thanksgiving, StoryCorps Wants Kids to Record Interviews with Elders.” The Washington Post. WP Company, March 31, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2015/11/25/this-thanksgiving-storycorps-wants-kids-to-record-interviews-with-elders. ^
  20. Oatman, Maddie. “How StoryCorps Captured the Soul of America.” Mother Jones, October 21, 2013. https://www.motherjones.com/media/2013/10/interview-dave-isay-storycorps-10th-anniversary/ . ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: August 1, 1994

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2016 Dec Form 990 $11,828,759 $10,638,243 $7,810,222 $1,259,051 N $9,708,950 $2,117,407 $2,402 $696,777
    2015 Dec Form 990 $9,778,792 $9,930,780 $6,821,483 $1,460,828 N $8,071,267 $1,705,251 $2,274 $862,602 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $9,400,260 $8,774,391 $6,690,778 $1,178,135 N $7,800,720 $1,596,049 $3,491 $521,973 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $7,557,909 $7,948,139 $6,145,038 $1,258,264 N $6,522,607 $1,029,343 $5,959 $328,656 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $7,823,455 $6,371,267 $6,308,731 $1,031,727 N $7,099,040 $720,285 $4,130 $292,077 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $6,614,146 $5,974,319 $4,769,127 $944,311 N $5,595,922 $1,014,222 $4,002 $533,902 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    StoryCorps

    80 HANSON PL STE 2
    Brooklyn, NY 11217-2998