In a time of political turmoil in the United States, where Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on anything, oral history has caused similar debate among communication scholars. The term oral history falls under the large cloud of communication, which in a way is exactly what history is. Specifically, oral history gathers personal observations of historical events or significance through documented/recorded interviews. So, why is this still not a well-respected practice of history to many? Ronald Grele argues that the criticisms of oral history fell into three areas: interviewing, standards of preparation, and methodology. He touched on the importance of the role and training of the oral historian, specifically how many interviewers are poorly trained leading to a large variation scale in the quality of the interview. In addition, according to Alessandro Portelli, a major problem posed by oral sources is that of verification. These are all valid claims, which is why the oral historian must be consistent in their procedure of asking the questions, addressing their source, and most importantly, as Paul Thompson states, “the oral historian has to be a good listener” (Thompson, 28). Thompson went on to discuss how oral history allows for heroes from all different economic backgrounds, social rankings, and appearances. In other words, oral history gives everyone a voice, through unrestricted and multiple points of view. The greatest part of oral history is that it allows for true emotion to be captured. Instead of using an exclamation mark to demonstrate excitement, the oral historian can read the facial expressions or listen to the pauses and deep breaths of the person they are conducting the interview on. If used correctly, this form of communication could modernize and spark the historical field.
Keith Oddo is a senior Rhetoric & Communication Studies/History double major at the University of Richmond, where he is also a member of the men’s basketball team. He is a dynamic self-starter, poised to leverage outstanding communication skills and Division 1 basketball experience in the sports industry. In addition, Keith looks forward to working with Dr. Maurantonio and Marissa in a small classroom setting, furthering his knowledge of communication studies and expanding his viewpoints on controversial/current issues.