StoryCorps’ Thanksgiving Tradition Invites Intergenerational Interviews

November 16, 2016

App Captures Diverse Voices Contributing Original Content to Public Media

Great Thanksgiving Listen

App Captures Diverse Voices Contributing Original Content to Public Media

This Thanksgiving, along with turkey dinner and football games, tens of thousands of people across the country will sit down with their smartphones to capture some family history to share on public media and to fold into our nation’s oral history.

The second annual StoryCorps Great Thanksgiving Listen expands, via the convenience of a cell phone, diverse voices in the contemporary history of the United States. Last year, guided by teachers in all 50 states, more than 50,000 students downloaded the StoryCorps app, recorded interviews with an elder over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and uploaded the recordings to be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Kara Interviews her Grandfather James for the 2015 Great Thanksgiving Listen


Stories from the 2015 Great Thanksgiving Listen

StoryCorps podcast (21 minutes)


The smartphone app has been a springboard for the Great Thanksgiving Listen to dramatically increase the scale of interviews gathered by StoryCorps, a non-profit organization founded by Dave Isay in 2003. With initial funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, StoryCorps set up a soundproof booth in New York’s Grand Central Station, allowing everyday people to record an interview with a loved one, keep a copy and archive a copy at the Library of Congress. Selected interviews produced weekly have become a popular Friday feature on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“Public media’s mission is to provide universal access to high-quality educational programming, especially to the unserved and underserved. In keeping with that mission, StoryCorps has engaged new audiences and allowed them to become content creators,” said CPB’s Chief Content Officer Joseph Tovares.  

In 13 years, 120,000 people have worked with professional facilitators to record StoryCorps interviews at booths in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Atlanta. CPB has supported several initiatives to capture stories of underrepresented populations, including StoryCorps Griot (African American stories), StoryCorps Historias (Latino stories) and StoryCorps Military Voices (MVI). And next year, a CPB-funded MobileBooth will tour 10 cities – from Fort Myers, Fla. to Minneapolis-St. Paul to Corpus Christi, Texas – to record stories, partnering with local public radio stations to air some of the local stories.

In 2015, Isay received the TED Prize, a $1 million grant given annually to a bold leader with a wish to spark global change. Isay’s idea, announced at a TED Talk in March 2015, was to develop a mobile app to take StoryCorps beyond the recording booths to the mobile phone. He envisioned a national homework assignment where every high school student studying U.S. history would record a 40-minute interview with an elder, and the Great Thanksgiving Listen launched in 2015.

For this year’s event, StoryCorps is connecting participating schools with local stations Arizona Public Radio, St. Louis Public Radio, Texas Public Radio and WAMU in Washington, D.C.

For more on StoryCorps go to For more on the Great Thanksgiving Listen, teacher tools and the free mobile app download, go to