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First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross

A Decade Of Love And Gratitude Across 50,000 Interviews With StoryCorps Founder Dave Isay

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PBS
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For 10 years, the StoryCorps project has been collecting oral history interviews with everyday Americans.

Founded by award winning documentarian Dave Isay, StoryCorps is the largest and arguably the single most important collection of human voices ever gathered.

A nationwide celebration of StoryCorps is now underway, including the release of a new collection, Ties That Bind: Stories of Love and Gratitude from the First 10 Years of StoryCorps.

Dave Isay spoke with WJCT's Melissa Ross on the 10 year anniversary and how he chose what interviews made it into the new collection.

Isay spoke about some of the interviews in the new collection, including this piece with Oshea Israel and Mary Johnson. Oshea killed Johnson's teenage son when he himself was 16-years-old. Johnson went to meet Israel in prison, and over a period of years they developed a friendship.

"If I was going to think about how StoryCorps changed me over the last 10 years, I think in one sense it's given me much more hope," Isay said, introducing this interview.

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StoryCorps: Oshea Israel and Mary Johnson.

"Many times we're telling stories about regular, ordinary, everyday people who are walking this trail of humanity that is really remarkable, and (Mary Johnson) is one of those people," Isay said.

Another interview in the collection between two brothers, Bryan and Michael Wilmoth, deals with familial estrangement, religion, and brotherly love.

FCC_StoryCorps_Wilmoth_10-30-13.mp3
StoryCorps: Bryan Wilmoth tells his younger brother, Michael, about being kicked out of the house because he is gay.

"When we started StoryCorps and we put that first booth in Grand Central Terminal, I was worried that we would have Jerry Springer moments," Isay said, "Every one of these 50,000 interview has went well, everyone's treated it with respect, I think it really does speak to the character of this country."

"StoryCorps is the complete opposite of reality TV: no one comes to get rich, no one comes to get famous, it's just an act of generosity and I think what shows up in these stories is the real American story."

You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax and Sean Birch @birch_sean.

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.
Sean Birch joined the WJCT team in late 2011 and was with the company until 2016.