KCUR has been selected, along with five other public radio stations, to participate in StoryCorps' One Small Step Communities initiative to foster civil conversations between Kansas Citians on opposite ends of political issues.
KCUR Director of Community Engagement Ron Jones says the project is a natural fit for Kansas City.
"Kansas Citians have been very eager to participate in work of StoryCorps over the years, including last year, when StoryCorps’ Mobile Tour collected 150 interviews during a five week visit," Jones says. "We believe they will be as engaged in this project."
Both Jones and KCUR Community Producer Matthew Long-Middleton attended a two-day workshop at StoryCorps' headquarters in Brooklyn. They learned techniques for guiding respectful conversations, archiving recordings and selecting poignant conversations for KCUR's airwaves and website.
StoryCorps launched One Small Step as a way to break down barriers created by political differences. Traditionally, StoryCorps interviews are conducted between two people who already know each other — usually as family or friends. But One Small Step will match two complete strangers together with the help of moderators.
Long-Middleton says the goal is to drill down past political rhetoric and into core values.
"One Small Step conversations are intentionally set up between people who don’t know each other at all and might hold very different values," Long-Middleton says. "Our hope is to collect conversations that are not debates, but spaces where individuals learn from each other what experiences were foundational in the formation of their values."
KCUR previously collaborated with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the University of Missouri-Kansas City to host StoryCorps' Mobile Tour.
One Small Step is supported by both government and philanthropic organizations. Major supporters include The Rockefeller Foundation, the Fetzer Institute, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, The Charles Koch Foundation, and the Righteous Persons Foundation. Additional support provided by Present Progressive Fund at Schwab Charitable.
Cody Newill is an audience development specialist for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill.