The “Serial” podcast discussing the case of Adnan Syed, who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend when they were both in high school, was intriguing and kept me interested until its conclusion. The host, Sarah Koenig, made valid points which were confirmed first hand by people through the use of their voices on the podcast. I felt that including audio from those who would have knowledge about the issue made the information being presented seem more credible and less biased. I believe that it also broke up the monotony of hearing the narrator’s voice helping to keep me attentive to what the other voices were saying.
However, the integrity of the podcast is challenged even before Koenig begins the investigative portion when she discusses the challenges of memory. Her argument is that teenagers couldn’t remember the events of a given day unless something significant happened, which she proceeds to prove by asking several teens what they did on a day
six weeks ago. I can even remember what I did yesterday in detail, so I know for certain that I wouldn’t remember the details of a day six weeks ago no matter what significant event occurred. Oh sure, I would remember what I did. But details? I don’t think I could. If I can’t remember the details of a given day, why would some other teenager be able to? So, right from the start I had concerns about the accuracy of the information being presented. It made me wonder if the people were actually remembering the events or if they were simply repeating information that had been suggested to them, by either the police to prove guilt or by a family friend to prove innocence.
In my opinion, presenting investigative journalism in the podcast format leaves much to be desired. Without the benefit of people’s expressions, it is difficult to determine if they are telling the truth. Also, how a person behaves when being interviewed, like shifting in their seat to indicate discomfort, is left to a person’s imagination which could introduce bias in the listener’s mind. Sometimes actions speak louder than words and a podcast prevents the audience from knowing a person’s true intentions. I think that investigative journalism should be presented in a format that allows the audience to both see and hear what is being communicated so that they have a better understanding of the issue.
Even though I feel otherwise, there are many people who like investigative journalism presented in this way as evidenced by the popularity of the “Serial” podcast. I think that the popularity of a podcast that investigates the death of a loved one would be difficult for the victim’s family as they are unable to find closure. This podcast is clearly biased towards Syed’s innocence which constantly puts doubt in the minds of the victim’s
family. Is the person who murdered Hae the one being punished or is the real murderer still out there? The popularity of the podcast raises these questions over and over so much so that it is frequently discussed in the media. The family may also feel that the death of their loved one is being used to generate profits for the producer of the podcast. It is in the producers’ best financial interest to present the case in such a way that listeners will continue to follow the series, yet should they be allowed to profit from the family’s tragedy? As a human being, I don’t think so.
Personally, I would rather read over listening to a text such as a podcast so I fail to understand its appeal. Reading gives me the benefit of going back over a sentence or paragraph to fully grasp what the author is saying. In a podcast, you have to stop and hit rewind which not only takes time, but is also frustrating as you might not rewind to the correct spot. That being said, podcasts add a certain amount of interest to the text being presented through the use of audio clips and the narrator’s tone – provided they have some inflection in their voice.