Like more than 1.5 million others, I’ve spent the last several weeks listening to Serial, a podcast that debuted in October from the producers of the popular public radio program This American Life. The first season of Serial investigates the 1999 murder of a Baltimore teen, Hae Min Lee. Adnan Syed, her ex-boyfriend, was charged with the crime the following year and is currently serving a life sentence, though he maintains his innocence.
Each new episode debuts on Thursday mornings. In between installments, avid listeners poll friends and strangers: “Have you been listening to the show? Do you think he’s guilty?” Everyone I talk to has an opinion. The show wraps up its 12th and final episode today, so well received that it’s already secured funding from sponsors and listeners for a second season. As The Wall Street Journalput it, “in the normally low-profile world of podcasting, ‘Serial’ is a certified sensation—a testament to the power of great storytelling.”
As a writer and editor, I appreciate well-researched and beautifully told stories. Serial has both. Creator and host Sarah Koenig spent more than a year examining the case before the first episode aired. She carefully presents new evidence each week along with interviews with Syed in prison, his former classmates, and legal experts, as well as her own shifting opinions.
As Serial surged to become the most popular podcast in history, I joined the chorusofvoices wondering why audiences are so drawn to the show. After all, This American Life—done in a similar style, but with thematic, hour-long episodes each week—has never reached the fervor Serial has as a standalone podcast. What’s ...1
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