Learning the art of conversation from the Studs Terkel archive

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Studs Terkel

From 1952 until 1997—over 45 years—Studs Terkel hosted a show on Chicago’s WFMT radio in which he regularly created national conversations about topics ranging from civil rights, labor rights, film, music, history, and philosophy.

Before he became known as a radio host and oral historian, Studs was an early star of television (Check out “Studs’ Place”) and a radio actor. It was through the art of conversation, however, that he shined the brightest.

By deploying his wit and intellect, Studs Terkel engaged with an overwhelming number of personalities over the years—a small sampling: Bob Dylan, Buster Keaton, Maya Angelou, Federico Fellini, Bertrand Russell, Muhammad Ali—and in the process enlarged our understanding of the world through the art of conversation.

His vast archive is in the process of being digitally archived, preserved by Chicago’s WFMT. It is an indispensable resource, and a welcome reminder of a long-gone era of Chicago media.

The kind of appeal Studs had is largely missing from the media landscape today, where so much of what is available is meant to attract only a key demographic, or is click-bait for social networks or search engine itemization.

Yet when you hear him talking to virtually anyone, his conversations are resonant and timeless, never flavor-of-the-week.

Listen to our journey inside the Studs Terkel Archive on The Organist.