I know it happened post-production and post-broadcast with "Mr. Daisy and the Apple Factory," but have you ever gotten deep into a story and realized the person wasn't telling the truth?
It's rare. The thing that's more common is that people remember something wrong. I find it is much less common that people are actually out to deceive us. In a way, the stakes are so low -- what do they get out of getting to tell a false story on the radio?
Especially with people who tell monologues on stage -- one of us will go to a storytelling show and hear something that someone performs and [we'll say] that's so funny. And then we contact them, and we put them through a fact-checking process and find sometimes -- it's not like they intended to lie, but -- that when you dig into it a little deeper, their sister would tell this very differently. (Laughs.)
Have you ever become friends with someone you've interviewed? Through research, you can really get to know someone deeply.
Occasionally. And then occasionally, I feel like well, I'm ready to be friends! And they'll not be so interested. (Laughs.) That's happens, too. It happens about as frequently as in any job situation. You think about all of the people you meet in your job and how rare it is that one of them would turn into your friends. But yeah, that happens occasionally for sure.
That said, I'm there to do a job. Even though people are telling personal things and we may have a personal conversation, most of the time it really is like, just on to the next thing. Which sounds cold. And it is cold. But that's the truth.
The truth is, I'm barely attending to the actual friends I have. So it's hard to take on another person.
It makes reporters sound like the most popular people in the world.
No, no, no. I mean like, my three friends. You know what I mean? I mean, I'm barely attending to my three friends, the three I people I actually feel close to. I'm barely holding that together, so I can't take on a bigger job.
Why do you think it is important to tell the kinds of stories that you tell through This American Life? So much of it is human interest-based, not stories necessarily rooted in newsworthy topics. I mean, I don't think I would say that those stories are important. I think that if anything, I think it is kind of a pretentious way to put it. I know you don't mean it that way at all, but I just think they are enjoyable. The stories are entertaining and when somebody goes through something that's hard or painful and it's something similar to what we've gone through or we think most listeners have gone through, it gives you a nice feeling to hear somebody's story.
I don't have a super-sophisticated take on it beyond that. I don't think it's important -- I just think it feels good to hear a story that you can relate to, and it doesn't happen that often, despite the incredible proliferation of narrative and stories in every part of our lives. All the movies, and all of the TV shows and all of the narrative happening on the Internet, you know what I mean? Like, to find something that you can actually relate to and be `amused by,' it's still not, like, a daily experience for most of us.
I like that the stories told on This American Life are something I can talk about with someone else after the fact -- instead of a TV show or a movie.
It's like a public service. That's something that, even when I was an All Things Considered producer, there were some moments in stories that we would think of like, this is a public service -- to give people something to talk about at dinner. Like, people will talk about this one.
And then there are certain stories that we have been doing now, that are more related to the news. It's interesting to try to apply this kind of storytelling to things that are in the news, and to try to go at the news in a way that has this kind of emotion and to find characters and scenes and funny moments.
I feel like we did the single funniest hour on Guantanamo -- and I feel proud of that. Most of us, we hear, like, oh, it's going to be an hour on Guantanamo. We don't like to really hear it -- we know what we think of Guantanamo. Who cares? In a way. Like, you know what's happening, you know it's messed up, what else it there to say?
I feel like through finding the right people and the right stories, you can make something that's really funny and hopefully engaging in a different way. It is a really interesting thing to try to do and it gives access to the reality of things in the news in a way that it's hard to do for a daily reporter.