The Effects of “Serial” and the Credibility of Memory

Adnan Syed
A photo of young Adnan Syed. Click on the photo to find out more about his new trial.

For the past few days, I have been listening to the podcast “Serial” so I guess it is safe to say that I enjoyed the first episode of the series. Serial is a podcast about the murder of Hae Min Lee. I have only listened to a few podcasts in my lifetime but what piqued my interest about Serial was Sarah Koenig’s passion for this case. In the past, I listened to a few episodes of comedy podcasts so her severity and dedication were pretty new to me. I liked how Koenig’s podcast felt similar to a news article. She included the voices of the people in the case and even talked to Adnan Syed, the convicted murderer, himself.

But what initially confused me about this podcast was why Koenig chose to present her investigative journalism this way.

To me, this may not have been the most professional way to present the case but nonetheless, as a podcast, I think the story was more engaging. Nowadays, most people get their information online so in my opinion, her approach to spreading her story was effective. Since Koenig spent a year compiling information, it is like the listeners can go step by step with her through the podcast. Each episode goes in depth into different aspects of the case and I think with the amount of information she presents, it would not be as effective to do it as an article for a news site. I have actually read up more on Adnan Syed and it turns out that due to the podcast, he was granted a new trial.

This is great news, right? It may be so but I know that if I was a family member of the Hae Min, I would definitely not be pleased. I’m sure that Hae Min’s family are still devasted from her death and if someone were to try and validate the murderer’s innocent, it is understandable if they were angry. Assuming they firmly believe that Adnan is the murderer, it would be unimaginable knowing that he might be freed from his crimes.

As much as I enjoyed this podcast, there are some issues with credibility. Koenig starts her podcast discussing the challenges of memory. She approaches people fifteen years after Adnan’s arrest. They’ve had the time to let media affect their views on his and most of them forgot what they did that day all those years ago. I can’t remember what I ate last night let alone things I did last week. Unless a day had a special sentimental feeling, I would assume I did what I normally do. With the podcast, the people she interviews can’t seem to remember events and they frequently tell her that they are not sure if their views are warped due to Adnan Syed’s arrest. It makes me wonder how much I can trust Koenig’s sources.

All in all, this podcast was fun to listen to. I think I actually prefer listening news / investigative cases than reading them. When they are written, I find that it gets hard for me to process large amounts of information so when I have it read out to me, I can focus better. In general, reading is faster but listening makes it hard to skim over or miss any information. I’ve always thought that listening to podcasts or audiobooks are convenient, especially when people are busy but want to read. When reading, you can’t really do anything else so by listening to a podcast, multitasking is easier. Due to Serial, I am definitely going to try listening to more podcasts and audiobooks in the future.

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