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 decomissioned and is in the process of being achived.  It may return at a later date.

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Photo: A Wikipedia editor
Flickr user mikeedesign

On April 16, 2007, Sue Gardner was following the news of the Virginia Tech shooting on every major web site she could find. The one where she learned the most was not a news site – it was the free encyclopedia Wikipedia. The content, she says, was more comprehensive.

“It was better than CNN, and better than the CBC,” she says. “I found that fascinating. How could that be?”

Photo: Benji Smith and Emily Lau were honeymooning aboard the Costa Concordia cruise ship before it hit a rock and sank.
Benji Smith

It was a Sunday night early last January, and Benji Smith and Emily Lau were celebrating their honeymoon aboard the Costa Concordia cruise ship.

They were traveling near Tuscany when it happened: The ship scraped a rock that tore through its hull, flooding its engine room, and sending the ship tilting onto its side. More than 4,000 people were on board.

Photo: Larry Hyatt
Briana Duggan

In the weeks after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School this past December, President Obama began talking about tightening gun control – and firearm sales boomed. Larry Hyatt runs Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, N.C., and he says that he’s seeing a growing demand for "high capacity" guns and that he’s selling as much as he would over Christmas. He stocks 7,000 guns in his store, making it one of the biggest in the country. He tells host Dick Gordon about the one thing he’d like to see changed in Washington.

Photo: Brushy One-String has played a one string guitar since he saw it in a vision as a child.
Luciano Blotta

Andrew Chin, a.k.a. Brushy One-String, had a vision as a child where he was playing a guitar with just one string. Since then, he’s crafted a unique style playing on one string, blending in his percussive style and utterly original voice.

Painting: Le Visage (Visage et mains) by Fernand Leger
Musee National Fernand Leger

As the details about three rescued women in Cleveland, Ohio unfolds, we offer a story from contributor Scott Carrier. He lived in Salt Lake City when 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was abducted and then lived basically in plain sight for months. He says that we can be blind to what is right in front of us.

Photo: Reading behind bars
Impact Sports Prison Ministry

Alan Smith spent 14 years teaching philosophy and literature to violent criminals in a prison in England until he realized he was changing, slowly "becoming more of the prison than I wanted to be," and had to walk away.

Photo: Daniela Pelaez met with Florida Sen. Bill Nelson
State Impact Florida

Late this March, Daniela Pelaez, 19, traveled from her college in New Hampshire to Washington D.C. to sit down with senators and representatives and remind them of something she’s become known for: she’s in the country illegally, there are millions like her, and they want to ask for help.

Host Dick Gordon calls Issa Touma in the city of Aleppo, where he has reached him several times over the past year. He says sometimes the electricity is cut for days and there are bombings and firefights. In these times, the sounds of Aleppo intensify and he is hearing families fight and begin to fray.

This is a video from a workshop organized by Le Pont, the only cultural organization still operating in Aleppo:

Photo: Camp X-Ray in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba
Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy

Last Friday, Carlos Warner called one of his 11 clients in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and offered to help negotiate the end of a hunger strike that detainees are holding. But the client, Fayiz al Kandari, declined his offer, and asked why the U.S. Army will not talk directly to them.

Image: Parts of a finger print
Flickr user Vince Alongi

From 1976 to 1986, a violent criminal terrorized communities across California. He became known as the Golden State Killer, and was linked to at least 50 rapes and 10 murders. For years, his whereabouts were hazy.

Then, the writer Michelle McNamara started the blog True Crime Diary, where she and a community of fellow obsessives started piecing together clues that had long been passed over by authorities.

Painting: Prisoners Exercising by Vincent van Gogh
Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, Moscow, Russia

Most of us don’t expect to be sent to jail for failure to pay our parking tickets. But in several counties across Ohio, courts are jailing men and women who cannot afford to pay their fines.

Dick Gordon, host of The Story, speaks with Jack Dawley, who’s been to jail three times for failure to pay. He says he’s never seen a judge or been given any opportunity to explain to a judge that he simply cannot afford to pay.

Charlie Haughey returned home from Vietnam with almost 2,000 photo negatives of his fellow soldiers.  He put them in a box and left them there for 45 years, untouched, until a friend encouraged him to digitize them.

In this edition of The Story, Charlie says seeing them brings back the war, and "things I did not take pictures of. And there are some that are, to me, just the scariest pictures in the world."

Two years ago, when members of an elite Navy SEAL team stormed Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and took out the leader of al-Qaeda, they ended one of the biggest manhunts in American history.

But for a small group of analysts at the CIA, bin Laden's capture was the culmination of a two-decade search that began long before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Photo: Azzam Alwash
Goldman Environmental Prize

When Saddam Hussein was in power, he wanted to punish the people who lived in the marshes along the two great rivers in Iraq. He drained the water and the marshes dried up, forcing people to move away.

Days after the Boston Marathon bombings, Magomed Imakaev’s seven-year-old daughter asked him a question that he didn’t know how to answer: “Dad, did you hear that the two bombers were Chechen?”

Imakaev, 27, fled Chechnya after years of war. And the violence that once consumed his homeland had found him once again, this time shattering the quiet refuge he and his family had found in the suburbs of Boston.

“As a Chechen, even if they were involved, I wanted to not believe that,” he says. “It’s a complete shock. It’s hard to describe in words.”

Photo: Firefighter turnout gear
Vince Alongi / Flickr

Even as they are mourning the dead from the massive explosion in a fertilizer plant in West, residents are returning to their homes.

In the latest edition of The Story, host Dick Gordon speaks with people as they are still making sense of the disaster, including Nita Gerik, a longtime resident and widow of the fire chief, and her son Jim Gerik, who traveled from Dallas to oversee donations for the community.

Photo: People used social media to spread information about the Boston Bombings investigation.
The Story

As news of the Boston Marathon bombings emerged, people at the scene took pictures, tweeted and shared police wanted posters on their phones.

On this edition of The Story, guest host Sean Cole sits down with Brooke Gladstone, host of NPR's On the Media, to figure out what people got right and what they got wrong. She says it’s normal for people to want to know everything right away, but that stories have to be in context and checked out.

Photo: Dotan Negrin at the Alamo
Dotan Negrin

Take a pianist, his Baldwin upright piano and a van, and you have Dotan Negrin and his musical quest.

On this edition of The Story, host Dick Gordon tracks him down in front of the Alamo, where he dragged his piano into the public square to play. Dotan is traveling and playing music in New York City, New Orleans, San Antonio, and all the way through Central America to Panama.

Photo: Yoon-Hui, 25, now lives in South Korea.
Liberty in North Korea

As the economy has collapsed in North Korea, a new emerging market economy has begun to germinate. This will likely be more powerful than politics in terms of change. Young North Koreans know about – and at times gets their hands on – illegal cell phones, and that opens up information.

On this edition of The Story, host Dick Gordon speaks with Sokeel Park of the U.S.-based NGO Liberty in North Korea about this and the slowdown of people escaping North Korea as security has tightened in the past year or so.

Photo: ATF special agents working inside the blast scene of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

On the afternoon of Feb. 26, 1993, Malcolm Brady led a team from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives into broken concrete in New York City. Their assignment: find out what had blown up four levels of parking garages - and more than 400 vehicles - below the World Trade Center.

Two bombs exploded near the finish line at the Boston Marathon on Monday.
Instagram user xxshawnxxx

On this edition of The Story, host Dick Gordon speaks with longtime Boston Marathon announcer and runner Kathrine Switzer.

She was covering the event on Monday and witnessed the explosions. She says the event may have been targeted because it is a symbol of freedom.

"This has gutted me," she tells him.

Rolling Jubilee Poster
Rolling Jubilee

So easy to get, so hard to pay off.

With the national average for student debt hovering around $23,000, a group of activists is purchasing student debt from collectors and simply "forgiving it." The group, known as Rolling Jubilee, call their movement "a bailout of the people by the people." 

On The Story, host Dick Gordon speaks with Rolling Jubilee member Christopher Cassucio, who owes more than $100,000 in student loan debt.

The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky almost caused a riot when it was first seen 100 years ago. The music, the choreography was so unusual and dissonant that the audience rebelled. There was laughter and fistfights. Today it has become a classic piece and is being celebrated on its centenary- yet eyebrows can still be raised when a puppeteer stages The Rite of Spring. Basil Twist and Dick Gordon speak on the day of a new world premiere.

Photo: The Loyola Chicago Ramblers played against Cincinnati in the 1963 N.C.A.A. tournament title game.

The 1963 NCAA Championship game was much more than a battle to decide the best college basketball team in America. It was a loud statement the civil rights movement had begun.

Jerry Harkness was the African American captain of the Loyola Chicago Ramblers.  He tells Dick Gordon about the moment he realized he was part of history, and about his anticipation now of his induction into the NCAA Hall of Fame.


A team of elite soldiers were sent into a mountainous area to capture an insurgent leader and were ambushed. Staff Sgt. John Wayne Walding talks about the attack, and how he and his team kept fighting while pinned to a rock ledge for six hours.


Gun Stories

We continue our series of conversations about guns in America with Joel Myrick in Mississippi. In 1997, he was an assistant principal at Pearl High School when a student walked into the school and started shooting. Myrick ran to his car and got his legally-owned .45 Colt pistol and pointed it at the shooter to stop him.


We share listener letters about Gun stories. 

A Table's Return