Q + A

Q+A: Joe Richman of Radio Diaries

Since 1996, Radio Diaries has shared stories of people’s lives and histories through podcasts and online storytelling. We sat down with founder and executive director John Richman to talk about about the history of the organization, and his experiences in DUMBO.

How was Radio Diaries started?

I was a reporter and producer for public radio in 1996 when I started giving tape recorders to a group of teenagers around the country. The series ran on NPR’s All Things Considered and was called Teenage Diaries. It led to the creation of our non-profit organization, Radio Diaries. This coming year will mark our 20th anniversary. Over that time we’ve done dairies with teens around the country, as well as in El Salvador and South Africa. We’ve done diaries in prisons and a retirement home. One of our diarists went on to become – we believe – the first person to win both an Olympic Gold Medal and a Peabody Award.

We are also known for doing historical documentaries in a similar ’non-narrated’ style: Mandela: An Audio History, Strange Fruit, The Traveling Electric Chair. You can find them all on our podcast.

What has been your favorite production to work on this year?

I love working on our Radio Diaries podcast. We still do documentaries for broadcast on All Things Considered, This American Life and other shows. But the podcast allows us more freedom to play and experiment. It’s also been a great way to revisit some of our work from the past. Apparently, podcasts are cool right now. And that’s a strange new experience if you’re a long-time public radio producer.

Why DUMBO?

We were accepted into the Two Trees Cultural Space Subsidy Program. (Thank you Two Trees!) We built a small recording studio in our office. We hope we never have to leave. We love it here!

What is your most frequented spot in DUMBO?

The new park at the end of Jay St. There is nothing like the view from the water in Dumbo. Brooklyn Roasting Company is a close second.