She took us on a whirlwind journey from Serial’s first recording in the Koenig family’s basement, to the complex ethical nature of modern journalism, to the anecdote of the IT guy who accidentally posted ‘Adnan did it’ on the Serial Facebook page. It was masterful storytelling, much like the podcast itself.
What is Serial?
Serial is a podcast from This American Life which is part of the National Public Radio (NPR) in the US. In each episode the host and executive producer Sarah Koenig, takes listeners on a journey, unveiling information through intense interviews and revealing new evidence with the aim of slowly unravelling a true story over an entire season.
The format is impressive and highly addictive. It incorporates long form journalism with the sleek production values and clever conventions (such as cliffhanger endings) that we’ve come to expect from high quality television series.
Last year I ‘binge’ listened to season one which explored Adnan Syed’s involvement in the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, a crime for which he is serving a life sentence.
It was absolutely enthralling and I felt distinctly uncomfortable with my addiction. A young woman lost her life. Rightly or wrongly, a young man lost his freedom. For the creators, being sensitive to the people involved whilst bringing a possible injustice to light must have been a fine line to walk indeed.
Julie Snyder addressed this in her presentation, stressing the importance of responsible reporting and honestly negotiating the sometimes murky relationship between journalist and subject. She was also quick to point out that they of course have no control over what others choose to publish.
Serial’s first season has been downloaded over 80 million times and successfully introduced Adnan Syed’s case to an international audience. Along the way it has spawned countless social media conversations, other podcasts, media reports and discussions among law makers.
Intrigued? Download Serial and decide for yourself here.