Curating the Studs Terkel archive

I can read much faster than I can listen, so I rarely listen to podcasts when I’m at home with screens on which to read. Instead I listen on long hikes when I want to shift gears, slow down, and absorb spoken words. Invariably some of those words strike me as particularly interesting, and I want to capture them. Yesterday, what stuck was these words from a 1975 Studs Terkel interview with Muhammad Ali:

Everybody’s watching me. I was rich. The world saw me, I had lawyers to fight it, I was getting credit for being a strong man. So that didn’t really mean nothing. What about, I admire the man that had to go to jail named Joe Brown or Sam Jones, who don’t nobody know who’s in the cell, you understand? Doing his time, he got no lawyers’ fees to pay. And when he get out, he won’t be praised for taking a stand. So he’s really stronger than me. I had the world watching me. I ain’t so great. I didn’t do nothing that’s so great. What about the little man don’t nobody know? He’s really the one.

I heard these words on an episode of Radio OpenSource about the Studs Terkel Radio Archive, an extraordinary compilation of (so far) about a third of his 5600 hours of interviews with nearly every notable person during the latter half of the twentieth century.

If you weren’t aware of him, the Radio OpenSource episode, entitled Studs Terkel’s Feeling Tone, is the perfect introduction. And it’s delightful to hear one great interviewer, Chris Lydon, discuss with his panel of experts the interviewing style of perhaps the greatest interviewer ever.

Because I’d heard Muhammad Ali’s words on Radio OpenSource, I could have captured them in the usual way. I always remember where I was when I heard a segment of interest. If that was 2/3 of the way through my hike, I’ll find the audio at the 2/3 mark on the timeline. I made a tool to help me capture and share a link to that segment, but it’s a clumsy solution.

What you’d really rather do is search for the words in a transcript, select surrounding context, use that selection to define an audio segment, and share a link to both text and audio. That’s exactly what I did to produce this powerful link, courtesy of WFMT’s brilliant remixer, which captures both the written words I quoted above and the spoken words synced to them.

That’s a dream come true. Thank you! It’s so wonderful that I hesitate to ask, but … WFMT, can you please make the archive downloadable? I would listen to a lot of those interviews if I could put them in my pocket and take them with me on hikes. Then I could use your remixer to help curate the archive.

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