The Story

The Story was produced at North Carolina Public Radio - WUNC and was heard on over 100 stations.

Visit The Story web site to listen to this program and for more details, archives, show highlights and more podcasts.  UPDATE 1.13.2020:  The Story web site has been decommissioned and is in the process of being archived.  It may return at a later date.

Dick speaks with Ashley Bryan, best known for his children's books, about the Harlem Renaissance, Black American spirituals, and the power of voice.

Also in this show: the day players used a potato  in the minor leagues, and poet Martin Espada reads a poem about going to a baseball game with his father.

Listen here.

Return To West, Texas

Jul 3, 2013

We check back in with Nita Gerik of West, Texas. Dick Gordon spoke with her in April, after an explosion in a fertilizer factory killed fourteen people, including eleven volunteer firefighters. Nita Gerik's husband was fire department chief for 25 years. Also from West, James Hand says writing music has not come easily since the explosion.

As investigators try to determine what happened to the nineteen firefighters who died this past weekend near Yarnell, Arizona, we remember the Mann Gulch canyon wall fire of 1949.  Smokejumper Bob Sallee is now the lone survivor of that fire, which burned 4,500 acres in Montana.

Also in this show: Christine Byl spent more than ten years clearing trails and building rock walls as a seasonal worker in Glacier National and Denali National Parks. She talks with Phoebe Judge about her new book, Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods.

Sex Offender Village

Jul 1, 2013

In Florida’s remote sugar cane country, there’s a place where sex offenders can live without violating the state’s strict sex offender residency requirements. It’s called Miracle Village, and is the subject of a documentary by filmmakers Lisa Jackson and David Feige. They tell host Dick Gordon that they've learned that many of the people on sex offender registries shouldn't have to bear that label, but no one will stand up for them. 

How To Rap With Your Hands

Jun 28, 2013
Holly Maniatty

When Holly Maniatty, who interprets musical performances into sign language, was preparing for a show with the hip-hop super group Wu-Tang Clan, she studied the movements of each member, studied their biographies, and listened to their music for 50 hours.

So when she interpreted their music at the Bonaroo music festival this month, she animated each of their lines with such precision and emotion that a video of the performance instantly became an Internet hit. Some music blogs said she almost stole the performance.

This One Goes Out To Kate

Jun 27, 2013
Photo: Charlene Strong
Charlene Strong

Charlene Strong became an activist for equality after she was denied entrance into the hospital of her dying partner Kate.

In 2006, there was a flash flood in their home and Charlene tried to save her life. When she arrived at the hospital, Charlene initially was not allowed in the emergency room because she did not have legal proof that they were a couple.

This spurred her to become an advocate for equality and civil rights.

Per Liljas via

Dr. David Ores, also known as Dr. Dave, is a physician on the Lower East Side of Manhattan who has his own ideas about the health care system. He’s a general practitioner, answers his own phone and does not accept insurance. In fact, he says it’s a scam.

Eight Years Old With An AK-47

Jun 25, 2013
Photo: Child soldier with an AK-47
The Telegraph

Combat photographer Sebastiano Tomada filmed a video of an eight-year old Syrian boy on the front lines of the civil war, working alongside Free Syrian Army soldiers.  The boy is carrying an AK-47. 

Tomada tells guest host Sean Cole about meeting the little boy, who, in spite of his tough appearance, is with the Free Syrian Army because he has nowhere else to go.

A Journey To The Center Of Cloud Computing

Jun 24, 2013
Illustration: Arctic Landscape by Roy Lichtenstein
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

Even on a clear day, the cloud is up there: computing things, storing messages and information.

Today, guest host Sean Cole joins Benjamen Walker from the Theory of Everything podcast, and they dissect the cloud: how it works, what powers it and what we gain from it.

Benjamen talks to people who know the ins and outs of cloud computing and where the power comes from, rare earth dug up mostly in China. Then, Benjamin travels to China in search of visiting one of the mines that produce rare earth elements for the cloud.

Illustration: A car idling
Verdant Vigilante

A few years ago, New Yorker George Pakenham approached an idling limousine and asked the driver to turn off his engine. To George's surprise, the driver obliged. Emboldened, Pakenham started approaching drivers of other idling cars and trucks in an effort to curtail pollution. He's approached more than 2,900 drivers.

Photo: Jarius Sowells
Jarius Sowells

Guest host Phoebe Judge speaks with Jarius Sowells about his time at the University of Texas. He failed his first year and took time off until he felt ready to try again.

Sowells says the African American enrollment at the university is low and needs to be higher, and that affirmative action is necessary.

Phoebe speaks to Sowells as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to rule on a case over racial preferences in admissions by the University of Texas.

Photo: Two teens in 1962 with an American flag
Bruce Davidson

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to allow extending the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was intended to stop southern states from denying black Americans the right to vote. Many people, especially those who were at the center of civil rights fight, say the law is still needed.

Guest host Phoebe Judge speaks with Michael Patrick McDonald, who is covering the Whitey Bulger trial. He grew up in South Boston, where Bulger is a legend.

Also in this show: Haley Morris-Cafiero, an overweight photographer, has been taking photos of people who mock her body; and Kristen Ulmer, who became one of the best skiers in the world because she could not feel fear.

Listen at 1PM and 8PM on WUNC, or online here.

The Opera Couple

Jun 14, 2013

Ailyn Perez and Stephen Costello are husband-and-wife opera singers. They talk with Dick about the peculiarity of their relationship, which includes competing to see who can hold the longest notes, and trying to get cast in the same productions so that they can spend time together.

Jason Puracal was working in Nicaragua when he was wrongfully convicted of drug trafficking, money laundering, and organized crime.  He was sentenced to 22 years in one of the worst prisons in the country.  His sister Janis led the charge for his release.

Also in this show, a forensic DNA expert who has devoted himself to using new DNA technology to free the innocent. 

Listen at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m., or online here.

Scott talking on the microphone
Sameer Abdel-Khalek

Guests include Scott Hornoff, a Rhode Island police officer convicted of murder in 1996. Since his exoneration he has been unable to find work in this country so he has become a private security consultant in Afghanistan. Also: Julie Baumer, convicted of child abuse for what later was determined to be “shaken baby syndrome”. She was exonerated.  And the man at the Innocence Project who receives thousands of letters from prisoners hoping to be freed. Listen at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m., or online here.

Gloria smiling at camera
Sameer Abdel-Khalek

Gloria Killian was a a 35 year old law school student in the 1980’s when she was convicted of murder and sentenced to 32 years to life in prison.  Gloria claimed her innocence from the outset.  After 17 and a half years her conviction was overturned.

Also in this show, Ray Towler, exonerated by DNA evidence. Brian Banks, exonerated and signed with football’s Atlanta Falcons. John Thompson, freed after prosecutor’s deathbed admission of suppression of evidence.

William Binney has been working in intelligence since the Cold War. As a cryptomathemetician, he helped create a new surveillance system called Thin Thread. When he discovered Thin Thread was being used to spy on American citizens, he spoke up and eventually left the agency.

In late April, more than 1,100 garment workers were killed when the eight-story Rana Plaza building collapsed. Labor activist Kalpona Akter has come from Bangladesh to attend tomorrow's Walmart shareholders meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas, where she'll try to convince shareholders that Walmart must protect the safety of factory workers.

Plus, as part of his series “People Who Work,” producer Richard Paul brings us an audio portrait of Carmen Costello, who drives a city bus through Washington, D.C. early each morning. 

Employment: Security Hacker

Jun 5, 2013

Jim Stickley is a professional hacker. Companies hire him to attempt to hack into their financial information, and identify weaknesses in their security practices.  He tells Dick that his job isn't all high-tech, and that sometimes he dresses up as a firefighter to access office buildings. 

Also in this show, Cici McNair, a Paris-based private investigator who got her start hiding in bushes, and a man who is obsessively searching for every single Tim Wallach baseball card.

Hear these conversations on The Story's site. 

A Preventive Mastectomy at 31

This Land Is My Land

Jun 3, 2013

Except when it isn't.

We check back in with Julia Trigg Crawford who is fighting the TransCanada Corporation as it lays pipe for the XL Pipeline. The digging has begun – in spite of ongoing litigation.

Also in this show, Sandra Steingraber was arrested on Earth Day, and spent 15 days in jail, for protesting against hydraulic fracturing (fracking). After many years in laboratories, and speaking at panels, she felt the time had come to use her body in direct-action protest.

Listen to these stories at 

Maxed Out on Everest

May 30, 2013
Mt. Everest
Mark Jenkins for Natioal Geographic.

Hundreds of people are now attempting to climb Mt. Everest every year. National Geographic writer Mark Jenkins says the mountain, once tackled only by professional climbers, has become accessible to anyone who can afford to pay to go up and down. And as a result, the mountain is being ruined by garbage, human excrement, and even bodies of deceased climbers.

Also: In a World War II era blimp hangar in California, a prototype of a new kind of aircraft, the “Aeroscraft” is being tested. It’s a space-age looking machine that’s almost as big as a football field and able to carry 50 tons or more.

Journey from North Korea

May 29, 2013
Photo of Defector Woman
Ann Shin

Young-gum Kim was starving in her home country of North Korea. She lost two children to the famine of the 1990s, and her husband was killed in a mining accident. Eventually, she fled to China in search of safety and refuge.

The Free Help Guy Wants To Make Your Life Better

May 23, 2013
Photo: The Free Help Guy with a hypnotist.
The Free Help Guy

A man in London – who shall remain anonymous – took leave from work earlier this year, and undertook a six-month mission of offering help to anyone who asks for it.

Photo: Alonzo Adams took a photo of the tornado advancing on a neighborhood in Moore, Okla., on Monday. The tornado, with winds of 200 mph, was close to a mile wide.
Alonzo Adams

As a mile-wide tornado tore across the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore on Monday night, it destroyed houses, flattenedd schools and threw cars into the air.

Host Dick Gordon speaks with three people who witnessed it from the ground, from the air and from a shelter.

He speaks with Alonzo Adams, a photographer who captured images as a giant black funnel cloud advanced toward a neighborhood. (See a photo gallery.)

Illustration: A poster in support of the hunger strike in the H-blocks of Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison
Republican Movement

In the fall of 1980, imprisoned members of the Irish Republican Army demanded to be recognized as more than common criminals by the British government. They refused to wear the prison uniform, refused to do prisoner work, and, eventually, refused to leave their cells.

But they were making little progress. So IRA members at the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland decided to refuse to eat.

Illustration: A man and a robot
Chris Dancy

Chris Dancy keeps metrics on himself for every moment of every day.

He knows the number of steps he travels in a day, his average heart rate, and the amount of food he’s eaten. The “Quantified Man,” says keeping statistics makes him a better employee and it’s in the future of everyone’s work.

Photo: A 1937 Delage D8-120 Aérosport Coupe outside the October 1937 Paris Salon
Les Amis de Delage

Host Dick Gordon of The Story speaks with David Cooper, the part-sleuth, part-mechanic who restored a rare 1937 Delage Aerosport Coupe.

There were only 12 ever built in the 1930’s in France.They were made by hand, and the interior was handpicked by the few customers.

Cooper says that finding the oversize chrome fenders and original chassis meant researching the story of Millicent Rogers, the American heiress who owned the car and outlined her specifications with her lipstick.

When philanthropist Melinda Gates travels the world, she looks for opportunities to have personal conversations with women. And she listens: about children’s health, about parenting, and about infectious diseases.