Jay Allison has created hundreds of documentaries, essays, and special series for national and international broadcast, and has won virtually every major industry award for his productions and collaborations, including both the duPont-Columbia Silver and Gold Batons and six Peabodys. He was the 1996 recipient of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Edward R. Murrow Award for outstanding contributions to public radio, the industry’s highest honor. In 2002, he received the Public Radio News Directors’ Leo C. Lee Award for lasting commitment to public radio journalism.
Allison is an independent broadcast journalist and producer. Among his many projects, Allison produces The Moth Radio Hour a national series for public radio, which received the 2010 Peabody Award. He is well-known for his role as the curator and producer of This I Believe on NPR, and is co-editor of the bestselling books based on the series. Recently, Allison has helped develop and produce the investigative documentary podcast The Frontline Dispatch as Senior Editor, Creative Director, and Mix Engineer. Over the last 40 years, his work has aired often on NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition, This American Life, and other national programs.
He was co-producer of Lost & Found Sound and The Sonic Memorial Project and Hidden Kitchens (with the Kitchen Sisters), The Miles Davis Radio Project (with Steve Rowland & Quincy Troupe), Beyond Affliction: The Disability History Project (with Laurie Block), Stories from the Heart of the Land (with Emily Botein), and many other series, including Life Stories (with Christina Egloff), a project which gives tape recorders to citizens and supports them in telling about their own lives.
He is the Executive Director of Atlantic Public Media (APM), a non-profit organization he founded to create WCAI, WNAN & WZAI, a public radio service for Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket, in collaboration with WGBH-Boston. The stations now broadcast from Woods Hole, Massachusetts where Allison and his family live. Locally, Allison hosts a weekly 4-hour “documentary DJ” program called Arts & Ideas, and has developed new techniques for using the interstitial time during the broadcast day with concepts like “Sonic IDs,” which have been emulated by public radio stations around the country.
Allison is a founder of the Association of Independents in Radio and the originator and host of online forums for public broadcasting, from the early days on The WELL in the 1980s up to recent projects he founded through APM: Transom.org and Public Radio Exchange. Transom is a website known for bringing new voices and stories to public radio and is the first ever to win the coveted Peabody for broadcasting. The Public Radio Exchange is an innovative web-based distribution system for public radio and beyond, and the recipient of the MacArthur Foundation’s “Genius Organization” Award.
For ABC News Nightline, Allison worked as a solo-crew–shooting, reporting, and producing half-hour television specials. Ted Koppel called him “a journalist in the finest tradition.”
Allison’s essays have appeared in the New York Times Magazine and other publications. He has taught journalism and audio production around the United States and overseas, and is a popular speaker on school and college campuses, known for his lectures on citizen participation in public media and community-building through the power of shared story.
Before coming to broadcasting, Allison was a theatre director, running a storefront theatre in Washington, DC and working with experimental theatres in New York City in the early 1970s. He holds a degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and studied at the National Theatre Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Memorial Theatre and with the Russian director Zinovy Korogodsky in Leningrad during a year in Europe on a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.