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Storytellers, here’s your chance as StoryCorps comes to Canalside

Got a story?

It could be a story about two old Army buddies reminiscing about their military service.

Or two siblings telling about a loved one who has died.

Or even a little girl just learning that her mother was in prison when she gave birth to her.

It also could be something much more mundane, but still a good story.

StoryCorps, the 13-year-old national oral-history initiative to preserve and share humanity’s stories, has touched down on Buffalo’s waterfront for a month, and the organizers are looking for more than a few of those memories.

The StoryCorps trailer, parked at Canalside just southeast of the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, will be here until Oct. 7; the first shared stories were recorded Thursday. The conversations will be held five days a week, from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but reservations are required.

“For the next month, Canalside becomes the hot spot for storytelling in Western New York,” Brian Meyer, news director of WBFO-FM, said during a kickoff news conference Thursday morning.

Here’s how StoryCorps works.

Two people, often close friends or relatives, talk into microphones for 40 minutes inside the cozy, air-conditioned Airstream trailer parked at Canalside. A trained facilitator guides the two people through the recorded conversation, occasionally asking questions, but mostly encouraging the two people to feel at ease as they tell their story, whatever it is.

“You almost feel like you’re listening in on a private conversation, a very frank conversation between two people, and that’s very compelling,” said Kathleen Rizzo Young, a WBFO spokeswoman.

StoryCorps claims that it has gathered one of the largest single collections of human voices ever recorded, with more than 65,000 interviews already conducted across America. The participants receive a CD copy of their interview, and if they agree, a second copy is archived at the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress, for future generations to hear.

WBFO will air a selection of the local interviews, while excerpts from a tiny fraction of the stories will be heard on the project’s weekly NPR broadcasts.

StoryCorps has 140 slots open for its monthlong stay here. Half already have been filled, with the other 70 being reserved starting at 10 a.m. Friday. People can reserve spots by visiting or calling 1-800-850-4406.

The beauty of the reservation process is that it’s first come, first served. StoryCorps makes no attempt to vet the stories beforehand.

“It’s really the everyday American stories that we’re looking to report,” said Stacey A. Todd, site manager for the organization’s Mobile Tour.

The conversations aren’t just for historical safekeeping or widespread airing.

“We hope that the experience gives people the belief in the power of their own voice,” Todd said. “Just the simple act of sharing your story in front of a microphone is very empowering to people.”

Meyer explained how the whole process relates to perhaps the four most important words for journalists:

“Tell me a story.”


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