If you haven’t heard the true crime podcast “Serial”by now, you’ve likely at least heard about it. A spinoff of “This American Life,” “Serial” is the most downloaded podcast in history.
Host and executive producer Sarah Koenig-also a producer for “This American Life” and formerly a reporter at ABC News, The New York Times and The Baltimore Sun-applies her journalistic skills on “Serial”to answer the following question: Did Baltimore high school student Adnan Syed kill his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, 15 years ago-or was he wrongfully convicted?
For 15 months, Koenig and her team combed through documents and conducted numerous interviews with people associated with the case. And although Koenig didn’t drop any bombshells in Thursday’s season finale, her work on “Serial” is noteworthy for a few reasons.
It’s just plain good storytelling.
At its core, “Serial” has a lot in common with, say, an episode of “48 Hours” or Errol Morris’ “The Thin Blue Line.” In short, people love a good murder mystery, and this is a really, really good one.
Koenig’s background as a reporter provides an added dimension.
Koenig chose this case because Syed’s original conviction left a lot of unanswered questions. A big part of this story is Koenig trying to answer those questions. She is trying to figure out whether there is even a story here to figure out. She shares her conclusions, questions and concerns with listeners, and we are compelled to come to our own conclusions and raise our own questions and concerns.
“Serial” could lead to the release of an innocent man.
Syed is a convicted murderer. He has lost multiple appeals and is likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars. While Koenig admits she can’t definitively say that Syed killed Lee, she also admits she can’t say he didn’t, either. But it’s not up to her to decide. It’s for the courts to decide.
Halfway through the run of “Serial,” the series’ producers connected with lawyers at the Innocence Project, which uses DNA evidence to help exonerate innocent people. The team agreed to look into Syed’s case, and during their investigation, they discovered information about a rapist and serial killer who was released from a Baltimore prison two weeks before Lee was killed. As a result, the lawyers have applied to do DNA testing on her remains, which could bring Syed’s case back to court once again.
“Serial”might just be podcasting’s first crossover hit.
Podcasting is not a new phenomenon. Many people have been producing many great podcasts for many years. But with all the buzz surrounding “Serial,” there’s a good bet that it might be the first podcast that many people have ever listened to-and that’s a good thing. Oh, and did I mention that “Serial” (like most podcasts) is free to listen to? (You can listen to all 12 episodes here.)
Did you listen to series one of “Serial”? Do you think Syed is guilty or innocent? Let us know in the comments below.
Former Chattanooga Pulse Editor Bill Colrus writes about (in no particular order) news, culture and media. You can find him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or connect with him at billcolrus.com. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.