This year marks the 25th anniversary of the radio documentary Ghetto Life 101. Back in March of 1993, LeAlan Jones, 13, and Lloyd Newman, 14, collaborated with public radio producer David Isay — who would later become the founder of StoryCorps — to create audio diaries of life on Chicago’s South Side. The boys taped for ten days, walking listeners through their daily lives: to school, to an overpass to throw rocks at cars, to a bus ride that took them out of the ghetto, and to friends and family members in the community.
The candor in Jones and Newman’s diaries brought listeners face-to-face with a portrait of poverty and danger and their effects on childhood in one of Chicago’s worst housing projects. Like Vietnam War veterans in the bodies of young boys, Jones and Newman described the bitter truth about the sounds of machine guns at night and the effects of a thriving drug world on a community.
Ghetto Life 101 became one of the most acclaimed programs in public radio history, winning almost all of the major awards in American broadcasting, including the Sigma Delta Chi Award, the Ohio State Award, the Livingston Award, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Awards for Excellence in Documentary Radio and Special Achievement in Radio Programming. Ghetto Life 101 was also awarded the Prix Italia, Europe’s oldest and most prestigious broadcasting award. It has been translated into a dozen languages and has been broadcast worldwide. Read more about the radio documentary here, with updates from LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman.
On the podcast this week, we bring you a special presentation of Ghetto Life 101.