Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Life

Leaving the Teenage Years Behind

Next year we will turn 20.

On April 8th, 1996, I launched the Teenage Diaries series on NPR. Back then I was working out of my tenement apartment on the Lower East Side. There was a bathtub in the kitchen.

It began as kind of a crazy idea: give teenagers tape recorders and ask them to report on their own lives for public radio. My goal was to do one of the rarest things in journalism. I wanted to make stories that would dramatically reduce the distance between listener and subject, stories that would help us really feel what it’s like to live someone else’s life.

Back in 1996, I could not have imagined where all of this would lead. Over the past 19 years, Radio Diaries has worked with young people around the country; produced diaries in El Salvador and South Africa; worked in prisons and in a retirement home; and one of our diarists became the only person in history to win both a Peabody Award and an Olympic Gold Medal. Radio Diaries has helped pioneer a new form of citizen journalism. We became a founding member of PRX’s cutting-edge Radiotopia podcast network. And we no longer have a bathtub in the kitchen – we’ve moved into a new office in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn. (Artisanal audio, anyone?)

As Radio Diaries turns 20 years old – leaving the teenage years behind – I believe our best days are ahead of us. I hope you’ll be part of it.

Some of the best work we’ve ever produced will be coming out next year. A diary of a young woman fielding marriage proposals in Saudi Arabia. A diary of a man getting out of prison after 33 years. The story of a dropped wrench that almost destroyed part of the state of Arkansas. An investigative history series called “The History of Now.” And new experiments in storytelling on the Radio Diaries Podcast.

Our goal is to raise $25,000 by December 31st from listeners like you. 

As an independent, not-for-profit organization, your donation is 100% tax-deductible. Every dollar makes a big difference. Help us continue to bring you the stories you won’t hear anywhere else.

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