NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

SERIAL Patron Saint Of Podcasting



Sarah Koenig didn’t expect her new podcast, Serial, to get so much press, but she says the attention helped keep her on her toes: “It was just a constant reminder of how careful we needed to be,” Koenig tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. Serial is Koenig’s reinvestigation of the murder of Hae Min Lee, a Maryland high school student who was strangled in 1999. Her body was discovered buried in a park in Baltimore. Her schoolmate and ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was convicted of the murder and is serving a life sentence. Nearly 16 years later, he continues to maintain his innocence. Syed’s conviction was based on testimony from his friend, Jay — identified only by first name in the podcast — who said he helped Syed bury the body. Since its launch in October, Serial has become the most popular podcast in history. Online the story took on a life of its own, as podcast listeners — wrapped up in the “whodunit” aspect of the case — began tracking and discussing the evidence presented in each episode. Serial is a spinoff of This American Life, where Koenig was a producer for 10 years. The first season of 12 episodes ended on Thursday. Serial presents detective interviews and excerpts of the trial, along with new interviews Koenig conducted with Syed, who spoke with her by phone from prison. Koenig guides the audience through the story, uncovering information that apparently neither the defense nor the prosecution had been aware of at the time of the trial. “We wanted it to feel like a live thing … a vital thing in the sense of the word of being a living thing — as we went,” Koenig says. “And we were still reporting last week for the final episode.” Koenig says classmates of Lee and Syed have been in touch with her throughout the podcast and since it ended. It helped her to know that so many people had the same questions she had. One person, she says, told her, “At least I know it wasn’t just me being a teenager not understanding the world. … There are a lot of people still who don’t understand this — and I’m not alone in feeling this way.” Koenig also says she wasn’t trying to rouse painful memories for those involved in the story — she was trying to get to the bottom of a case that seemed to have holes in it. “I wasn’t — and we weren’t — trying to create problems where there were none,” Koenig says. ” … Obviously I don’t want anyone to suffer because of the work I’m doing, but I also feel like there’s a strong tradition of doing these kinds of investigative stories. And we weren’t doing anything differently than we would do in any other story.” This American Life has raised money for a second season of Serial, but the show hasn’t announced what the focus will be. MORE