|For immediate release
August 31, 2005
Chad Campbell, NPR:
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NPR's This I Believe Hits 5000 Listener Submissions
WASHINGTON - On April 4, 2005, when independent producers Jay Allison and Dan Gediman launched This I Believe on NPR, they weren't certain how a series offering individual Americans the chance to speak about their personal values, in concise 500-word essays, would be received.
"We assumed that the concept would take a little getting used to in today's news environment," recalls Gediman, the executive producer of the series. "Additionally, we wondered whether people would actually be inspired enough by what they heard to sit down and challenge themselves to give voice to their personal beliefs, a difficult assignment in any era, and feel good enough about the result to send them in."
Enough Americans apparently did... so much so that after only four-and-a-half months, This I Believe has now generated more than 5000 listener submissions. The hopeful contributors range from professional writers and writing instructors to parole board officials, homemakers and attorneys. Their essays have been revelations about parents, personal struggles and the impact of race on their characters. And they have been serious and, at times, poignant, as well as unabashedly funny, including those broadcast from Sarah Adams of Port Orchard, WA on being nice to "the pizza delivery dude;" Phyllis Allen of Fort Worth on her changing racial identity through the decades; Deirdre Sullivan of Brooklyn on the importance of always going to a funeral, and next week's essay from Jason Sheehan of Denver, who attributes barbeque to his definition of quality of life.
The chosen essays, from both NPR listeners and well-known personalities, air Mondays on NPR, alternating between the signature news magazines Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
When asked about the strong response to the series, Allison, who hosts the segments, said, "Perhaps because we are so divided by belief, people seem eager to talk about beliefs in a non-argumentative way -- to express their own, to listen to others. Many who have written have said they are grateful for the opportunity, regardless of whether their essays ever reach the air. It's the exercise that's important to them. The power of the series is in each listener wondering, "Given three minutes, what would *I* say?"
This I Believe has sparked communal essay-writing sessions in schools, universities, community groups and houses of worship and at life-changing events such as birthdays and funerals. Blogs have been created to share ideas, columnists have been motivated to write their own This I Believe pieces for their newspapers, and one school teacher even penned a This I Believe about using the series in her classroom.
The reach of This I Believe is having the same national impact as it did in the 1950s, when the series was originally launched by Edward R. Murrow in an effort to initiate a national dialogue. Under Murrow's leadership - and in his role as host - This I Believe included such celebrities of its time as Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, and Jackie Robinson. This time around, This I Believe has featured such current well-known leaders as John Updike, Gloria Steinem, Newt Gingrich and Colin Powell. In its first incarnation, This I Believe ultimately generated a syndicated newspaper column and a series of bestselling books.
"There is so much similarity between the 1950s of the original This I Believe and now," added Gediman. "At that time, our country was facing unknown international threats and enemies, we were at a crossroads in science and technology and there was a general sense that people could no longer communicate with each other because they had grown so distant philosophically. Murrow's vision was to have people connect by voicing and sharing the beliefs that inspired them. This same landscape, and this same opportunity, is what motivated us to revive the series."
To date, This I Believe essays have ranked among the top e-mailed stories on www.npr.org.
NPR is renowned for journalistic excellence and standard-setting news and entertainment programming. A privately supported, non-profit, membership organization, NPR serves a growing audience of 26 million Americans each week in partnership with more than 780 public radio stations. International partners in cable, satellite and short-wave services make NPR programming accessible anywhere in the world. With original online content and audio streaming, npr.org offers hourly newscasts, special features and eight years of archived audio and information.
This I Believe is a collaboration between NPR and This I Believe, Inc., Dan Gediman and Jay Allison, producers.
This I Believe is partially funded by Farmers Insurance Group of Companies®, which is the nation's third largest Personal Lines Property & Casualty insurance group.