Serial is a podcast that was started by Sarah Koenig when she became intrigued about the murder of a young girl named Hae. Hae’s ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison, but there are many who believe he is innocent. Adnan himself has always denied killing Hae, but unfortunately – or coincidentally, depending on how you look at it – he can’t seem to remember where he was during the time of her murder.
Now, I have a question for you. What did you do last weekend? How about yesterday? Do you know exactly where you were and what you were doing at say 3:30pm? Syed’s memory problem, which seems so coincidental, is really just a teen being a normal teen. Most teens can’t remember specific details about what they did yesterday or the day before – even if they can, it is usually because some significant event happened like they went on a trip or broke up with their boyfriend or their dog died or something. But for the everyday usual, it is difficult to remember exactly what you were doing at a specific time. I, myself, find I have to take a few minutes to think when asked what I did on the weekend, even if there was some significant event like a big trip!
What I like about Sarah’s podcast is that she made this same point, that teens don’t have the best memories, and then proved her point. She interviewed several teens to ask them questions like the ones I asked you, and mostly the responses were things like “I probably did this,” or “I would have been at school I think.” Only those who had something significant happen could say for sure where they were on a specific day at a specific time. So, if teens in general don’t keep a close mental record of their day-to-day activities, why should Adnan’s bad memory lapse be such a big deal? This raises the question of how valid all the other evidence against Adnan is, especially since there is no physical evidence against him…
Rather than continue with other points from the podcast, I’m going to move on to another issue. I will, however, leave a link to the podcast so you can listen for yourselves 😉
What I like about presenting investigative journalism in podcast format is that Sarah Koenig was able to include other’s voices. I would trust hearing someone say something sooner than reading about what they said because it is a lot easier to change a person’s comments in writing than on tape. Hearing the voices of everyone, including Koenig, also allows the listener to hear the tone of their voices and gives just a little more information about how people feel about what they are saying. It can let you know if someone is sad, angry, frustrated, embarrassed, or maybe even hiding something by the way they speak. These are things you simply can’t reliably get from a text format. The best you could hope for is something like “she said excitedly,” but how can you be sure she said it excitedly? Maybe she really said it with dread but the author thought they would get their point across better if she was more excited. However, with listening there is always a chance you will miss a word or not quite understand or hear what the speaker is saying, whereas in a written report there can be no mistake of what is said. Additionally, if you wanted to go back and look again at something you heard, that can be a lot easier to do with a paper than trying to find your place in the podcast.
With all this said, there is of course the matter of Hae’s family. How do you think they are reacting to Serial? Personally, I think that they have one of three mind-sets. The first is alarm. If they believe that Adnan is guilty, then someone trying to dig up evidence that could let him out of jail would be both terrifying and infuriating. If I had a daughter who was murdered, I certainly wouldn’t want her killer on the loose again – I would never be able to rest soundly again! Another reaction they might have is dread. All of the trials and everything the first time around probably left them tired and empty. They have lost a child, and by now have hopefully gotten some closure. Opening up this investigation may only have re-opened wounds in the hearts of Hae’s parents. I don’t think that this is something they want to go through again, and if Adnan did turn out to be innocent, then that certainly wouldn’t make things any easier for them because it would mean Hae’s killer is still out there and an innocent went to jail for her murder. Finally, they could be hopeful. Perhaps they never believed Adnan was guilty either and they see this as a chance to catch Hae’s real killer. At any rate, Hae’s parents likely have some kind of strong opinion about the investigation Sarah Koenig has started, either positive or negative.
There is no doubt that Serial has turned over a few stones, but how far it will go, who can say? This is only about episode one, remember. There’s no telling how far Koenig will have to go, what limits she will push, and whether or not Adnan is really guilty.
Serial Link: https://serialpodcast.org/