MacArthur Fellows Program

David A. Isay

Radio Producer | Class of 2000

Radio Producer
Brooklyn , New York
35 at time of award
Published July 1, 2000

About David's Work

David Isay is an independent radio producer whose first-person, nonfiction storytelling addresses important social issues.

Isay treats radio journalism as an art form, making the listener complicit in the act of imagining other people’s lives.  He takes subjects of seemingly marginal importance and brings their stories to life.  Isay not only produces compelling radio programs, but also helps audiences care about his subjects and, by extension, other groups in society.  In 2003, he launched StoryCorps, the world’s largest oral history project, through his nonprofit company, Sound Portraits Productions.  Through StoryCorps, Isay seeks to instruct and inspire hundreds of thousands of Americans to record one another’s stories in soundproof recording booths set up in venues such as Grand Central Station.


Isay is the founder and president of Sound Portraits Productions, a nonprofit, radio production company, created in 1993.  His radio documentaries include Ghetto Life 101 (1993), Remorse: The 14 Stories of Eric Morse (1996), The Sunshine Hotel (1998), and Witness to an Execution (2000), among many others.  He has also published several books based on his documentaries, including Holding On (1995), Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago (1997), Flophouse (2000), and Milton Rogovin: The Forgotton Ones (2003).

Isay received a B.A. (1987) from New York University.

Last updated January 1, 2005

Select News Coverage of David A. Isay
June 22, 2016
Our Cities: Dave Isay & Camilo José Vergara
As part of the Chicago Humanities Festival, StoryCorps founder Dave Isay read selections from his latest book, and Chilean-born photographer Camilo Jose Vergara discussed his recent work. Both are MacArthur Fellows.
May 15, 2016
MacArthur Fellows at the 2016 Chicago Humanities Festival
At the Chicago Humanities Festival, four MacArthur Fellows talked about cities, storytelling, and eviction. Rewatch the conversations below, with moderators Alison Cuddy, Natalie Y. Moore, and Alex Kotlowitz.   Community Leader Juan Salgado   Photographer Camilo José Vergara ...
May 15, 2016
"Dave Isay on His Creativity, How StoryCorps Facilitates Storytelling"
Twitter Video
David A. Isay , 2000 MacArthur Fellow
Related Grantee: StoryCorps
May 15, 2016
"Our Cities: Dave Isay & Camilo José Vergara"
Chicago Humanities Festival
David A. Isay , 2000 MacArthur Fellow
Camilo José Vergara , 2002 MacArthur Fellow
Related Grantee: Chicago Humanities Festival
April 20, 2016
"Q&A With StoryCorps' Dave Isay"
Education Week
David A. Isay , 2000 MacArthur Fellow
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