Seriously Serial

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Inside Sarah Koenig’s podcast: “Serial” episode 1

Who can say that they have the ability to use the weapon that is journalism on a daily basis? Who gets to say that they have used this weapon to stick up for the unpopular solely because of the faith they have in a person that they’re innocent?

Not many people.

The amount of courage and dedication one must have to have in order to pour their heart out for so long over a topic they don’t even know for sure they are correct about, is unfathomable. This is exactly what Sarah Koenig had been doing for a year before publishing her story into a series of podcasts. I guess being frightened by the possibility that she was wrong, and that Adnan was guilty after all, was just the part of her job that she loved. This level of uncertainty added thrill and suspense to the story, and was what I enjoyed about the first episode. When there is uncertainty, I feel as though your brain has more fun. It can play out more possibilities, and can string together more pathways, that will lead you an abundance of different places. For the listener, this is more intriguing than simply knowing already what is going to happen and how it is going to play out.

In other words, I liked the podcast because of the mystery.

I feel as though as soon as you listen to something, instead of read it on paper, it automatically becomes more like a fictional movie or TV show. When doing this with investigative journalism, the listener can easily be thrown into the realm of drama shows such as “C.S.I.” and “Law and Order”. Having this fictional element serves a good purpose for the podcast, for it makes the listener ignore the fact that this has impacted a real family and real people, and want to focus on the storyline itself.

For me, an interest in fabrication and fantasy encourages the need to forget reality.

Something that is useful about the medium of a podcast is that it diminishes the effort required to try and tell the story in your own head, and replaces it with the voice of the writer. You get to witness the story as it comes out of Koenig’s mind which, along with her own dramatic effect, adds a personal sense that otherwise would have been lost. Koenig adds expression – emphasis on certain words and pauses in certain places – that also would have been lost if a different person were telling it. Being the original person to write the story, Koenig is able to authenticate it. For example, after inserting several raw clips of teenagers trying to recall what they had done six months earlier, and getting nowhere with their responses, there is a pause before she speaks again. This empty space, even if it’s only three seconds, allows time for the listener to sit there and think about what had just happened.

So when journalism is in fact a weapon, does this mean that it is also biased? Is the weapon used in favour of the good people or in favour of no one? I believe that the slight bias that comes naturally with Koenig’s podcast adds narrative texture and allows her to be a real person when she tells her story. While she has her own opinions, it’s important to keep in mind that Koenig’s main objective isn’t to choose a side, but to find out what happened for twenty-one minutes on a day in 1999.

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