I finally did it. I succumbed to the allure of the most popular podcast in history, Serial. It was only a matter of time, really, even though I'd been skeptical of how much everyone seemed to love it. That much hype usually leads to disappointment.
Last weekend, we binge-listened to all 12 episodes, then delved into Reddit conspiracy theories, then pored over the (mostly unimpressive) Jay interviews The Intercept ran this week.
I've since debated the show's journalistic merits (and missteps) at work with my fellow reporters. We're split on things like Sarah Koenig's use of a real-life murder to create entertainment and her open acknowledgement of her biases. The success of the podcast suggests those things are okay, or at least maybe worth overlooking, but they make a lot of us uneasy all the same.
The thing I believe most everyone agrees with is that Serial is a master class in storytelling. Koenig expertly uses themed episodes, strategic releases of information and teasers to hook you on her story. As a journalist and blogger, I took copious mental notes.
But the thing I'm reminding myself is that some topics — murder, especially — are inherently more mysterious and gripping than what most of us (journalists, writers of all kinds) cover every day. It's our challenge to make our less juicy subjects as interesting to our readers as Serial's story. And I know we won't be able to do it with all of our work. We just have to run with opportunities when we get them.
In the meantime, I'll be wondering how the heck Koenig is going to top herself with season two. I'm wondering whether she'll move away from murder mysteries. Next time, on Serial...
ALL'S FAIR IN LINKS AND WAR
- The Rumpus explores Serial.
- A tantalizing book dedication.
- Drool-worthy book cover design.
- Failed recipes. It's not schadenfreude, I swear.
- Here's what's in season this month. Hint: more than I expected.
- I love pizza as much as the next guy, but not enough to sleep in it.
- Midday meat makes me sleepy; bookmarking these vegan lunch ideas for later.
- Letters to the editor explore our addiction to sugar while acknowledging it's not the only enemy.