Serial: My thoughts on the popular podcast

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a few people on twitter discussing a podcast called Serial. I decided to look into it, and to my surprise I discovered It was the most downloaded podcast worldwide at the moment. That got my attention and so i downloaded episode 1…

To those of you who haven’t come across or listened to Serial yet, I’ll explain as succinctly as possible. Serial is a podcast that follows a real life murder trial from 1999 in which a man named Adnan was accused and convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend Hae. The show is narrated by Sarah Koenig, an investigative journalist, who conducts interviews, compiles evidence and examines the details surrounding the case.

There were some discrepancies in the story and trial and we’re told at the time that many people didn’t think Adnan could have committed the murder. Sarah presents Adnan at the start as a model student, Prom prince and someone who helped out at the Mosque. Ultimately the narrative in the first few episodes and to some extent still now (currently on episode 10) is that Adnan couldn’t possibly have done it and he has been jailed for life for a crime he didn’t commit.

I won’t go into all the details of the case itself, as its worth listening for yourself. Although I still really enjoy this podcast and look forward to its release every Thursday, I can’t help but have some ongoing issues with it.

Firstly, it’s presented as a form of entertainment, a murder mystery, and as a result it becomes very easy to forget these are real people, a 17 year old girl was murdered and Adnan was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.  These are people’s lives, this isn’t just another episode of ‘The Wire’ or ‘Breaking Bad’ with a prewritten definitive conclusion to the series.

Secondly, the listener is following Sarah’s carefully plotted narrative. I, like many other listeners I’m sure, have changed my mind on Adnan and whether or not he did it. This is inevitable from the way the story is presented, certain facts or key bits of information are kept quiet in particular episodes either because it weakens a particular tangent Sarah is exploring or so that they can be revealed at a later date for shock value to make an episode more gripping. This is an issue for me, as listeners are led down a path that Sarah has set before them, certain details of the case have been kept from us. Something to use for next weeks podcast perhaps. What this does, however, is create social following for Adnan, I’ve noticed a #freeadnan hashtag on twitter and I think this is where it can get dangerous. We have people who don’t have all the facts campaigning for Adnan to be freed, the same people blaming the admittedly suspicious Jay for the murder and tracking him through social media. People have made judgements based only what they have been told by Sarah and that for me is a concern.

That said, despite my issues with it, I have thoroughly enjoyed the series so far. The production is fantastic and interviews, court transcripts and audio from the case itself really gives you a great insight into how legal proceedings work in a murder case. At times it is truly gripping and when the closing music starts playing you find yourself frustrated that the next episode is a week away. There aren’t many episodes left (I believe just 2 more) and I feel like there won’t be any definitive answer that people want, there isn’t some key piece of information that Sarah will be able to dig up that will set the course in motion to free Adnan or prove it was him and he was rightly convicted. I still look forward to the final few episodes.

Serial can be downloaded here:


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