Today we are looking at something that’s a little different from my last couple of blogs. Just a couple of days ago, I listened to my first ever podcast from a series called Serial, by Sarah Koenig. Now I’ll admit I was a little hesitant to listen to a podcast because I am more of a reader. However, this podcast proved to be really interesting and Sarah’s methods of delivering her message really grabbed my attention.
Before we dive into my review, let me give you a little background information on this podcast. Sarah created this gripping podcast as a result of being approached by a woman named, Rabia Chaudry, who read one of her articles on defence attorney, Christina Gutierrez. Christina was disbarred for allegedly mishandling money entrusted in her by clients (Koenig). Rabia came to Sarah hoping she would investigate the case of her good family friend, Adnan Syed, who was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee (Larson). After reading Sarah’s article Rabia became suspicious of the fact that Adnan’s defence attorney may have purposely botched his case. As requested, Sarah began the long investigation into Adnan’s case.
The problem with Adnan’s case was that he was convicted solely based on one testimony, Jay Wilds‘, who supposedly helped Adnan bury Hae’s body (Chaudrey). Though there was little evidence proving Adnan’s guilt, the case mainly revolved around Jay’s story, despite the fact that Adnan denies any of these events occurring. “So either it’s Jay or it’s Adnan. But someone is lying.” (Koenig) Determined to reveal the truth behind this case, Sarah took her podcast to the internet in hopes to make some discoveries of her own.
The question remains: Is Adnan innocent or is he guilty?
Sarah starts the podcast off by questioning how well one can recall memories. Can you remember exactly what you did six weeks ago during an allotted time? It’s a pretty tricky question. Well this is exactly why Adnan is now behind bars because he can’t seem to remember where he was on January 13 1999 from 2:15-2:36. One side may ask: Who could blame him? While on the other hand others may say: How convenient he can’t remember what he was doing the day of Hae’s murder. Our brain acts like a “survival tool”, so any events that prove to be unmemorable will be deemed useless and be forgotten (Bar). If January 13 1999 was in fact a normal day for Adnan, why should he be expected to remember this? This issue with memory can go both ways. Asia Mclean supposedly remembers seeing Adnan during the time of Hae’s murder, giving Adnan an alibi. In fact, she can remember it very clearly. With the issue of memory we wonder if this is reliable as there is no way to verify this. Memory serves to be a tricky yet vital concept in court. That is especially true in this case.
After listening to the debut episode of Sarah’s investigative story on Adnan, I must admit I really enjoyed it. There are a lot of different components that Sarah masterfully brings together, which contributes to the appeal of the podcast.
In creating a podcast, Sarah must somehow capture the attention and interest of the audience solely through their sense of hearing. She does so by portraying her emotions as well as including music and voices other than her own. For starters, Sarah uses a conversational tone throughout her podcast, which appeals to a more general audience. This allows listeners to understand her podcasts without needing a Master’s Degree. Not only does she maintain a conversational tone, but she manages to do so while conveying emotion to help deliver her message. Then there’s her incorporation of music. She effectively uses music to help set and change the tone throughout the podcast. Music is known to be an important component in setting tone and mood (Leigh).
Although all of these elements are important in making the podcast more appealing, to me, I found Sarah’s use of other voices to be the most effective. This podcast is not just about Sarah and her thoughts on the case of Adnan, but rather it is a chance for others to be heard. Whether they are in support of or against Adnan, Sarah gives other people a voice who may not have had one before. This gives listeners the chance to experience everyone’s thoughts and perspectives relative to the case and that definitely drew me in. To be able to hear the story from not just one person, but multiple people really leaves the listener with a lot to think about.
What I think makes this podcast so interesting is that it’s not just some dramatized fictional story, but it’s a real story. Sarah brings forth the realities of our justice system and how they may have put an innocent man behind bars. The sad reality is that there are many more cases like Adnan where the defendant was in fact found innocent after having spent much of their life in prison. And there are other cases where those who are innocent will spend the rest of their life in prison. In fact a study shows that 4.1% of people who are sentenced to the death penalty are actually innocent (Gross). By creating this podcast, Sarah attracts the attention of the audience by shining a whole new light on a different side of the story.
Although the idea of the podcast may seem great, we must not forget about the victim and her family. By reintroducing Adnan’s case to the public through the popular podcast Serial, it must be difficult for the Lee family. This story is real and the tragic death of Hae was difficult for the Lee family to have to endure. According to Merlan, the Lee family states that by bringing this case back, it has “reopened wounds few can imagine”. Especially after the case has been supposedly solved and closed for over fifteen years it no doubt brings back the tragic memories of losing a beloved daughter and sister. Someone claiming to be Hae’s brother even took his response to Serial to the internet. He claims that to many people the story and murder of his sister is entertainment, but for him and his family this is their reality that they must face (Engel). I sympathize with the Lee family and the pain this must bring them. If you would like to read more about the response of the Lee family click here.
Although I enjoyed this podcast and found it to be a unique and interesting way to deliver investigative discoveries, I still prefer reading. I have always been a strong visual learner, which I believe to be a large part in this preference. Ever since a young age I have enjoyed the imagery and imagination that reading can provoke, which is something difficult to find in a podcast that is based on factual evidence. Regardless, the podcast is an interesting form of media that I enjoyed more than I thought I would.
Bar, Moshe. “Human memory: What did you do last Sunday?” Los Angeles Times. 29 May 2011. <http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/29/opinion/la-oe-bar-memory-20110529>. Accessed 21 July 2017.
Chaudry, Rabia. “Adnan Syed is innocent. Now find Hae Min Lee’s real killer.” The Guardian. 6 July 2016. <https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/06/adnan-syed-new-trial-hae-min-lee-rabia-choudry>. Accessed 21 July 2017.
Crockett, Moya. ““It wasn’t Adnan. It wasn’t Jay. I know who killed Hae”: Serial’s Rabia Chaudry speaks to Stylist.” Stylist Magazine. 16 August 2016. <http://www.stylist.co.uk/people/rabia-chaudry-interview-serial-adnan-syed-innocent-jay-didnt-do-it-hae-min-lee>. Accessed 21 July 2017.
Engel, Pamela. “Brother Slams Popular ‘Serial’ Podcast For Sensationalizing His Sister’s Murder.” Business Insider. 18 November 2014. <http://www.businessinsider.com/brother-of-hae-min-lee-responds-to-serial-podcast-2014-11>. Accessed 21 July 2017.
Gross, Samuel. “The staggering number of wrongful convictions in America.” The Washington Post. 24 July 2015. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-cost-of-convicting-the-innocent/2015/07/24/260fc3a2-1aae-11e5-93b7-5eddc056ad8a_story.html?utm_term=.3e4923f27c15>. Accessed 21 July 2017.
Koenig, Sarah. “Lawyer Gutierrez agrees to disbarment.” The Baltimore Sun. 2 June 2001. <http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2001-06-02/news/0106020237_1_lawyer-gutierrez-clients>. Accessed 21 July 2017.
Larson, Sarah. ““Serial”: The Podcast We’ve Been Waiting For.” The New Yorker. 9 October 2014. <http://www.newyorker.com/culture/sarah-larson/serial-podcast-weve-waiting>. Accessed 21 July 2017.
Leigh, Megan. “The importance of a good soundtrack: The mood is in the music.” Pop Verse. 4 April 2014. <http://pop-verse.com/2014/04/04/the-importance-of-a-good-soundtrack-the-mood-is-in-the-music/>. Accessed 21 July 2017.
Merlan, Anna. “Hae Min Lee’s Family Issues Statement Addressing Serial Fans: Adnan Syed ‘Destroyed Our Family’ .” Jezebel. 8 February. 2016. <https://jezebel.com/hae-min-lees-family-issues-statement-addressing-serial-1757793649>. Accessed 21 July 2017.
Robinson, Wills. “Family of ‘Serial’ victim Hae Min Lee say her convicted killer Adnan Syed ‘destroyed our family’ in emotional letter that slams the podcast’s fans for running to defend him.” Daily Mail Online. 8 February 2016.<http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3437662/Family-Serial-victim-Hae-Min-Lee-says-convicted-killer-Adnan-Syed-destroyed-family-slams-podcast-s-fans-running-defend-him.html>. Accessed 21 July 2017.
Vargas-Cooper, Natasha. “Exclusive: Jay, Key Witness from ‘Serial’ Tells His Story for First Time, Part 1.” The Intercept. 29 December 2014. <https://theintercept.com/2014/12/29/exclusive-interview-jay-wilds-star-witness-adnan-syed-serial-case-pt-1/>. Accessed 21 July 2017.