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StoryCorps ready to record Florida Gulf Coast stories

Jennie McKeon
The StoryCorps Airstream parked in front of The Spring in downtown Pensacola.
Natasha Herring
Natasha Herring of the StoryCorps Mobile Tour talks about the opening of the StoryCorps Pensacola stop.

Update 3:55 p.m. Feb. 17
Reservations for the second half of the StoryCorps Mobile Tour in Pensacola will be open on Friday, Feb. 18. Make your reservation or add your name to the waiting list here.

Original story:

Reservations are now open for the StoryCorps Mobile Tour, which WUWF Public Media is welcoming back to Pensacola February 17 – March 11.

Reservations are being offered to anyone who wants one, on a first-come, first-served basis.

Danielle Anderson is associate director of StoryCorps’ Mobile Tour. She says thanks to precautions started during the pandemic, participants now have two options for recording.

“One is in-person with us at The Spring Entrepreneur Hub, and one is online. Both of them are facilitated by our trained staff people,” she began. “Both of the processes are largely the same. With one you get to be with us in person. With one you get to be in the safety and comfort of your own home.”

It’s not exactly Zoom, but it’s similar. As Anderson explains it, they’re using an online platform that only StoryCorps uses.

“You don’t have to download anything. Basically, we send you a link, you click it and you meet us there with your partner. And, your partner can be with you or your partner can be across the country,” she said.

Once reservations are made, whether in-person or online, StoryCorps makes a connection with participants before recording sessions commence.

“The big thing is our team reaches out to you to kind of go over, this is what the recording experience is going to look like. What questions might you have? Can we help you prepare in any way so that when you walk into that experience, you feel ready for it.”

And, when individuals show up to the recording space, virtually or at The Spring Entrepreneur Hub in downtown Pensacola, there will be a StoryCorps facilitator to assist through the entire process.

“That person’s job is to make sure you sound good, to handle all the technical aspects of the recording and also get a sense of how you want to use that time,” Anderson stated.

“What do you want to talk about? What do you walk away from that recording having done? What do you want to be able to listen back on and then help support that conversation as needed.”

Anderson reiterates that the two conversation partners not only have the freedom to decide what they want to talk about but also how they want to talk about it.

“Do you want to interview each other,” she says of the questions to be answered. “Does one of you want to interview the other person? Do you want to just have shared stories back-and-forth, more of a dialogue? There’s no right or wrong way.”

Backing up a bit, there are a few things to consider before sitting down for the actual recording session, which is 40 minutes long. That’s a generous amount of time, but Anderson cautions it’s not enough to fit a lifetime into.

“Sometimes people come with 30 questions and want to bang down the list, and it’s like, ‘Okay if that’s what you want to do, great,’” she said.

“You can cover the surface of what somebody’s done, what they’ve accomplished, all of that. But, what we suggest and what we try to open people’s minds up towards is really diving into those things that are most important.”

According to Anderson, it’s a good idea to talk it over beforehand to determine topics and direction for the conversation to fit the needs of those involved. She uses the example of the very different StoryCorps experiences she had with her parents.

Danielle Anderson - WUWF 2.jpg
Sandra Averhart
WUWF Public Media
Danielle Anderson, director of StoryCorps' Mobile Tour, stops at the studies of WUWF Public Media to discuss their upcoming visit to Pensacola along Florida's Gulf Coast.

“With my dad, he wanted to talk about his parents, because that’s what makes him come alive,” she said of the conversation with her father. “He could talk about them for hours and share memories about them and how important and influential they were for him.

With her mom, she noted a different kind of exchange.

“We talked about her becoming a mother and what that meant and that whole process and what it was like to meet my dad. It was just a very different focus.”

With more than 130 Gulf Coast StoryCorps recording sessions available during the Mobile Tour stop in Pensacola, Anderson expects a wide range of stories to be collected. And, she points out that some of the best stories, like those heard Fridays on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” come from participants who truly want to have the experience and are open to it.

After each recording is finished, the StoryCorps facilitator will go over release options, including whether you want it filed at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

“Do you want to archive it? Are you comfortable sharing it with us? All of those things, you get to decide. Regardless, you will get your copy back that you can use and share however you like.

Keeping up with technology, personal copies come in the form of digital files delivered within a couple of weeks via email. Also, access is available through StoryCorps’ own recently launched online archive.

With reservations now open, you can get the process started today. Just go to wuwf.org/storycorps to secure your spot.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.