“The Art of Storytelling” with TED, StoryCorps, and Humans of New York

Three idea leaders I really enjoy converged in an article last year, but I just discovered it this morning. TED.com interviewed Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps, and Brandon Stanton, founder of Humans of New York, about “The Art of Storytelling.” I clicked on it with great enthusiasm, as I expected to hear thoughts that mirrored my own.

The secret, he says: Create an intimate culture where trust is paramount. Stanton agrees. “We don’t judge or criticize,” he says. “I am interviewing people with a spirit of genuine interest and compassion, and therefore the general tone of the site is one of genuine interest and compassion.”

Yes! Exactly. If you approach people with sincere love and understanding they will start to trust you. This results in a film that delivers the real person. Please, TED.com, go on.

Engage deeply. Interrupt kindly. People aren’t very good at knowing how to tell their own stories, says Stanton, and that means that they’re often vague and imprecise. Cutting through that is part of the interviewer’s job.

Yes! People have a set way of recalling their lives. If it’s vague or leaves out details future family members won’t know, it’s my job as the interviewer to ask those questions. Right on, Stanton, please tell us more?

Do not commodify your stories. “The only things I make money on are speeches and books,” says Stanton.

Hold up. This is where we have to get real. We all have bills to pay, and that includes Isay and Stanton. The big question is “Who is paying for it?” Isay has framed StoryCorps as a social history project that’s supported by donors, fundraisers, and grants. StoryCorps still has employees cashing paychecks. Grants influence who gets interviewed. The length and quality of the interview is influenced by the limited funds per storyteller. The privacy of the storyteller is signed away to the Library of Congress. In Stanton’s case, he has commodified stories with speeches and book deals. I’m not sure any storytelling medium is more noble than another — they’re just supported (paid for) by different people in different ways.

While forming StoryKeeping I concluded people’s stories deserve the highest level of respect. This translates to producing something that makes them proud and also gives them control over who hears their stories. The trade-off with StoryKeeping is that the general public isn’t going to pay for the productions, but when it comes to controlling one’s own life story that’s a small price to pay.

Check out the original article here:

The art of storytelling, according to the founders of StoryCorps and Humans of New York

*Featured photo for this blog post was pulled from the article.

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