The Public Storyteller

Michael Stock co-hosts the Public Storyteller with Caren Neile

Michael Stock co-hosts  the Public Storyteller 

I look back over these posts, and I cannot for the life of me find a single mention of the project that started all of this four years ago next month: The Public Storyteller radio segment on Michael Stock’s Folk and Acoustic Music show, which has been airing on WLRN public radio for 30 years.

It was Michael Stock’s deep understanding of folk culture that led him to create with me a storytelling segment that would showcase the non-professional (usually) storytellers in our community who, through their anecdotes about life in South Florida, connect with their neighbors and help their neighbors connect with the region.

For me, this kind of thing is what public radio is all about. Why would commercial radio care about folk culture? It doesn’t sell CDs or downloads. It doesn’t even sell soap, which as we know, was the original raison d’etre for radio and television. It doesn’t even sell concert tickets.

What Michael knows is that without folk culture—the music, stories, dances, games, material objects, etc. that distinguish one culture from another and our species from other species—our lives would be subsumed by commerce even more than they are today.  If a product didn’t “sell,” it wouldn’t exist. Here’s another plug for the Internet: it’s allowing folk culture to flourish, at least for those of us with computer and Internet access.

I have been thinking about The Public Storyteller segment a lot lately. For one thing, it’s early October, and already we are booked up with storytellers eager to contribute until nearly the end of the year—a first. Maybe I’m doing my job as producer better, but I really think it’s just an idea whose time has finally come. Perhaps it’s because we’re about to record our anniversary show—who’d a thunk it would last four years? Or perhaps I’m thinking about the segment so much lately because a university press has agreed to take a look at the manuscript I am preparing celebrating the project that celebrates the stories of our neighbors. Whoever ultimately publishes it, I must be sure to clarify that while having a book is fabulous, these stories belong first and foremost in an oral medium. They rely so much on the voice and the energy of the storytellers who were generous enough to contribute a slice of their lives. The archives for the segment are at thepublicstoryteller.org.

I can’t express often enough my gratitude and pride in being able to help make this program come alive, week after week. I certainly couldn’t do it without my co-host, engineer and godbrother.  Thanks, Michael!

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