As people drive around in morning rush hour traffic, they are probably twisting the car radio’s knob. One man is trying to listen to music; a woman is struggling to find a traffic update. Radio consists of both entertainment and news. Is it possible to blend the two? Considering a new podcast called “Serial” attempts to blend journalism and storytelling, it seems to be a possibility.
Sarah Koenig, a reporter and a creator of the podcast, made “Serial” as an attempt to re-investigate the 1999 murder of high schooler Hae Min Lee. Adnan Syed, Lee’s boyfriend, was convicted of killing her and was handed a life sentence in prison.
One of Syed’s friends contacted Koenig and asked her to go back to reinvestigate the crime. Koenig’s podcasts air weekly, featuring her latest findings as she retells the crime as a story, complete with cliffhangers and an opening theme song.
Critics have pointed out that by using a podcast as both an entertaining drama and journalistic venture, Koenig is going against certain ethical standards of journalism. By ending with cliffhangers, does this mean she’s hiding important information? Is she being sensitive when reporting about Lee’s family? Is she biased in her narrative? Is she too focused on trying to prove Syed’s innocence?
But at the same time, many people consider journalism a “dying” industry. (Whether or not this claim rings true is yet to be seen.) Could narrating news stories through podcasts be a viable way to keep an audience’s interest? Evidence seems to support this: “Serial” is the fastest-selling podcast in the history of iTunes. It’s also sparked several podcast parodies.
All in all, one thing is certain: journalism is changing and serial podcasts are just one direction the industry may be headed.