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The Newsroom: What we learned taking One Small Step

On this episode, a closer look at WHQR’s One Small Step project — part of our longtime relationship with StoryCorps.

Our past StoryCorps conversations have been between close friends and family members, but One Small Step was something different, and a little more challenging: putting two strangers with two very different political backgrounds together for a conversation.

The goal? Have a civil conversation, explain where you’re coming from without trying to fight or win over the other person, and maybe connect a little as a human being

As daunting as that might sound in our fraught political climate, the conversations were surprising, and educational, and sometimes even inspiring.

On today’s show, we’re talking about One Small Step — a project run by StoryCorps that WHQR participated in along with a small number of other public media stations.

For those who don’t know, StoryCorps was founded in 2003. By 2005, they were traveling across the United States in their iconic silver Airstream trailer and recording intimate conversations to be archived in the Library of Congress.

A few years ago, StoryCorps launched a new program called One Small Step. Here’s the elevator pitch: the project brings together two people, total strangers, from very different political backgrounds for an hour-long conversation — not a debate, but a chance to get past the political divisiveness and hear each other as people.

For several months, WHQR recruited potential participants, screening nearly two hundred people and ultimately arranging 25 conversations where we served as what’s called facilitators. We weren’t interviewing people, we were just there to help steer the conversation along — although, to our surprise, a lot of the time once people started talking, they needed no help from us.

On today’s show, we’ll be joined by WHQR reporter Rachel Keith and development director Mary Bradley, who made up the core team for WHQR's One Small Step project, to dig into what we learned as observers from these conversations. And just a quick note here, throughout the show we’ll be playing clips from our One Small Step conversations and referring to the participants by their first names. And, yes, you might recognize a few public figures — or maybe your own friends or neighbors!


One Small Step Listening Party & Local Conversations

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature. He loves spending time with his wife and playing rock'n'roll very loudly. You can reach him at BSchachtman@whqr.org and find him on Twitter @Ben_Schachtman.