Last week I finally started listening to the uber popular Serial podcast. I know, I know, I am late to the part on this one. I did a bunch of driving around Easter and all of that time in the car finally gave me the chance to listen to most of the episodes of Serial.
It seems like every one I know (or at least most of my Facebook friends) are huge fans of the podcast. Since I have started listening to the podcast, I’ve been asking everyone I meet if they have listened to Serial as well. I was surprised to learn that not everyone has listened to the podcast or even heard of it.
Serial is a podcast that debuted last fall that looks at one story over several episodes. The first season of Serial focused on the 1999 murder of a Baltimore high school student. Her ex-boyfriend was arrested and convicted of the murder, but he maintains his innocence. Serial was a hit and has become one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes. The Serial podcast is co-produced by Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder, who are both producers on This American Life, another popular NPR radio show and podcast.
From the a November 13, 2014 WSJ article – ‘Serial’ Podcast Catches Fire:
In the normally low-profile world of podcasting, “Serial” is a certified sensation—a testament to the power of great storytelling. It’s quickly become the most popular podcast in the world, according to Apple, and the fastest to reach 5 million downloads and streams in iTunes history. “Serial” is the top podcast in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia, and in the top 10 in Germany, South Africa and India.
The popularity of Serial has led to a whole range of Serial spinoff websites and podcasts:
- r/Serial – a Serial reddit board with over 44,000 members
- Slate’s Serial Spoiler Specials a podcast about the podcast by Slate
- Undisclosed: The State v. Adnan Syed – a new podcast launching on April 13, 2015. Rabia Choudry, the attorney for Adnan Syed and two other laywers will provide updates on the story. You can listen to a teaser for the new Undisclosed podcast here.
- A Serial Podcast Meet-Up in Washington DC
- And the real proof that Serial is a hit the Saturday Night Live Serial Parody
The first season of Serial is fascinating. I have not yet listened to the final episode, but even though I already know the conclusion of the show, I have found every episode worth a listen.
Serial does an incredible job of using storytelling to engage listeners in the story. By telling the story through first person interviews and interviews with experts in the field, Serial gives listeners an in depth look at this particular case and some of the challenges on the US legal system.
The other thing that I think is really interesting about the Serial podcast (and this applies to many of the episodes of This American Life as well) is how this very local story has had the ability to engage the listeners in not only a Baltimore story, but issues that are much bigger than Baltimore.
Serial Podcast + Pittsburgh = ???
Since the toy drive back in December, I have been doing alot of thinking about storytelling. Especially storytelling on the local level. So as I was listening to Serial last week, I started thinking about how the format could be applied to Pittsburgh.
What would it look like if there was a Serial-like podcast about something in Pittsburgh? What story would be good to dig in and research, and what would be the impact of having lots of people in Pittsburgh (and outside of Pittsburgh) listen and research this topic?
If there was a Serial-like podcast cast about a Pittsburgh story – what story would you want to see covered? It doesn’t have to be a crime, is their a neighborhood or a place that you want to know more about? What local stories could use a deep dive on research?
I have some ideas for stories, but I am curious to see what stories are suggested and if there are other bloggers and armchair sleuths in Pittsburgh that would be interested in researching a story that is local to Western Pennsylvania.
Please share your story ideas below in the comments or on Twitter with the hashtag #serialpgh.
Serial & Long Form Local Journalism
I am also interested in the idea of local journalism that goes deep into a particular story. There are many times when I have been talking to someone else about a local story and we have wondered why the local media has not done a better job of providing an in-depth look at the issue. Sometimes the Post-Gazette has done a lot of stories on a particular topic, but the PG and most local news sites don’t do much to link those articles together. There have been several blog posts written about if Serial is storytelling or journalism, regardless of what category Serial is or is not, I am interested in seeing how an in-depth story can have a local impact.
If you are interested in the discussion about Serial and journalism check out some of these posts:
- Think Progress: The Complicated Ethics Of ‘Serial,’ The Most Popular Podcast Of All Time
- Columbia Journalism Review: Why Serial is important for Journalism
- The Awl: ‘Serial’ and White Reporter Privilege
Serial Links & Twitter Accounts to Follow
Serial Podcast & Related Links:
- Serial Podcast Website
- Serial on iTunes
- Split the Moon – Rabia Choudry’s blog
Follow on Twitter:
All of these have been added to the Serial – Season 1 Twitter list.
Read more about the new ‘Undisclosed’ podcast:
- ‘Undisclosed’ podcast will offer a legal perspective on the ‘Serial’ case (dailydot.com)
- We may find out who killed Hae Min Lee in a brand-new podcast (amny.com)
- New podcast on Serial’s Adnan Syed (bbc.co.uk)
- “Serial” Host Sarah Koenig Has Nothing To Do With The New Adnan Syed Podcast (buzzfeed.com)
Steve J says
I’d love to know more about the fracking industry, the early founding of our city and Allegheny city, Pittsburgh as a melting pot, Pittsburgh as a still-segregated city.
Tadd Bevan says
A story about fracking that would show multiple perspectives – individuals or families who agreed to let their land be drilled on, environmentalists, gas company (Chesapeake) representatives (pro-fracking) side, individuals who have benefited from the Marcellus Shale drilling by getting a job working for one of the drilling/gas companies, discussion of the impact of Marcellus Shale drilling on community colleges and other post-secondary institutions – could provide enough content for a serial podcast.
Another possible story, similar to the approach taken by Serial, could be to examine the murder case and subsequent trial and conviction of Dr. Robert Ferrante in February 2015 for killing his wife Dr. Autumn Klein using cyanide. I know the Post-Gazette did a series on the trial and backgrounds of Ferrante and Klein, but there are still some unresolved issues with regard to access to Dr. Ferrante’s inheritance (to his children from his first marriage or to the child he had with Dr. Klein) and with the verdict itself as Ferrante’s legal team argued that the evidence against him was circumstantial.
Another suggestion is the story of the Hill District and the impact the building of the Civic Arena had on the neighborhood. This topic may be too broad for a podcast, and I can’t think of an individual right now who could serve as human interest story. Obviously you would have to discuss August Wilson, but you could also discuss the current ongoing “dispute” over how the space where the Civic Arena was is going to be used. Pitt has bought property closer to the Hill District so there is that perspective. Some individuals to talk to about the past regarding the Hill District would be writers for the Pittsburgh Courier, Sala Udin, Jake Wheatley, etc. You could also speak with US Steel who is moving their headquarters there plus all of the other parties with an interest here – city government, county government, the Penguins, URA. Abass would be a great source for this possible story.