Oral History Project
Interview a person in his or her seventies, eighties, or nineties—someone who likes to talk!—and ask questions about your interviewee’s mass media experiences in the twentieth century (1930s on). Use the questions below as a starting point. If you don’t have a family member or other acquaintance in this age bracket, there are plenty of retirement communities and nursing homes in the area filled with people who would love to talk to you.
- Sound Recording: What records did you listen to? Who was your favorite recording artist? What kind of record player did you have, and where was it in your home? Was there any kind of music you weren’t supposed to listen to? Why? Were you allowed to play music whenever you wanted, or were there parental limitations in your home? How much did a record cost? Where did you buy your records? How did you find out about the artists you listened to? What did your parents think about records and record players?
- Radio: What do you remember about your experiences with radio? What kinds of programs did you listen to (entertainment, music, talk, etc.)? When were they on, and why did you like them? Do you remember anything about the early radio commercials? Do you remember any public concern about radio commercials? Do you remember any educational radio programs? What technical problems did you experience with your radio set? Do you have some specific memories (good or bad) about listening to the radio when you were young? What are they? What was it like when FM radio became available?
- Television/Cable: What was it like when TV became available? Where did you watch your first TV programs, and what was the viewing experience like? How much did your family’s first TV set cost, and what factors figured into its purchase? What was reception like? What was a typical family viewing session like? How did TV change your home life? What do you remember about the corporate sponsors of TV shows? What (if anything) do you remember about the quiz-show scandals? What do you remember about the first thirty-second TV commercials? How do your television experiences in the 1950s compare with your television experiences now? If you have it, how did you decide to get cable or satellite TV? What factors went into this decision?
- Movies: What were your first moviegoing experiences like, and how were they different from today? What were some of your favorite films growing up, and why? Do you remember anything about Al Jolson and the first talkies? What do you remember about the excitement surrounding Gone with the Wind? Were there films your parents forbade you to see? What were they, and why were you not allowed to see them? What films were the most influential for you?
- Internet: What was your first experience with the Internet? What are the biggest differences you have seen if still using? What are your thoughts on Social Media?
Please organize your interview information according to the following guidelines, trying to make your paper as readable and accessible as possible:
- Type in 12-point Double-spaced Times New Roman.
- Put your name, the participant’s name and age, and the relationship you have with your interview participant at the top of the page.
- Group your interview participant’s answers under the assignment’s five categories: sound recording, radio, TV/cable, movies, and Internet.
- Write at least a paragraph (single-spaced) for each category.
- Paraphrase your interview. However, if there’s a great quote—something that you think might be fun the class to read—include what your participant said verbatim.
- Include only information that seems the most poignant or interesting. For example, if your participant didn’t say anything interesting or worthwhile about radio, skip that category entirely. (He or she might make up for it in another category.)
- Use bold text for the responses that are the most poignant or interesting to you—something that made you say “Wow” or “Aha!”
The entire project should be between three and four pages, double-spaced not including your heading and work cited. You are expected to have 2 sources in APA format. (Please see bibme.org for formatting). One of those sources must be your interview.