#4: Storytelling Reporter

I refer back to Serial in this post because it was the first podcast of it’s kind that launched me into this “investigation” of how podcasts are becoming the most popular format to present storis.

As a reporter Sarah Koenig brings you into her investigations of Anand Syed and Bowe Bergdahl and asks herself the same questions you probably are as you’re listening to these cases unfold. This idea of a reporter being transparent is refreshing!

As a broadcast journalism major I have been taught time and time again to be objective always! But in Serial you see Koenig being subjective, dare I even say, becoming a friend to Syed.

In a conversation that The Daily Northwestern covered with Medill lecturer Alex Kotlowitz of the McCormick Foundation Center Forum, Serial‘s executive producer Julie Snyder talked about Koenig’s style of reporting and why it just worked.

“In a lot of ways, she became the protagonist because she was doing the reinvestigation,” Snyder said. “This story lived in the details, and early on it was boring. We needed her to be telling us what these details mean.”

The details may have seemed boring at first glance, but something in the way Koenig disclosed those minute details makes them more appealing.

“Snyder said Koenig’s ability to bring the listener into the reporting process — for example, by including audio of her driving around Baltimore chasing the story — made the information more digestible.”

In this podcast there is something about how organic the content was presented. It might sound cheesy but it’s almost magic. Audio of conversations that Koenig probably had to spend hours over to fit and stitch the story together made all the difference.

“One of the things I admire about ‘Serial’ is that it is very transparent about the reporter’s place in the story,” Kotlowitz told The Daily. “It doesn’t lecture. It doesn’t pander. It treats the audience with a substantial amount of respect and dignity.”

As a listener I felt like I was invited to challenge the evidence that Koenig was mulling over. I was learning about the judicial system sans formal lecture,  it was a real life situation that required a step-by-step understanding in the how’s and why’s.

It wasn’t confusing, it was inviting, and that is what makes Serial worth listening to.



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