Sarah Koenig Spills on ‘Serial’ at Schwab Auditorium
Sarah Koenig the producer and host of the popular podcast Serial, a spin-off of the popular radio program This American Life, spoke to a standing-room only crowd at Schwab Auditorium last night in an event presented by the College of Communication’s Department of Journalism.
For those who don’t know, Serial is a twelve-part podcast that focuses on the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee by her ex-boyfriend, Adnad Syed, who was convicted of her murder in 2000.
Through Serial, Koenig re-investigates the murder and the ensuing trial. The podcast was met with critical and popular acclaim, and became the most downloaded podcast on iTunes.
Koenig began the night by recreating part of an episode from Serial. She chose to focus on the third episode of the series, entitled “Leakin Park.” This episode details how Lee’s body was discovered in a Baltimore park nearly three weeks after her disappearance. For her reenactment, Koenig chose to focus on the man who discovered Lee’s body, nicknamed “Mr. S.” She weaved the recorded police questioning of Mr. S and narration to give a sort of live reading of the podcast.
Later into her lecture, Koenig explained in detail how she gathered her information for the hit podcast. Relying heavily on a public police report of Syed’s case, Koening and her team were able to create the story they intended.
“The genesis was all in this one document,” said Koenig.
The 2,000-page report, obtained under the Maryland Public Information Act (or MPIA), contained everything related to Syed’s case, from driving records to shoddily-drawn cell phone tower diagrams. “It was the backbone of the series,” said Koenig.
Koenig navigated the audience through specific sections of the report related to the excerpt of Serial she performed. She linked several police reports, both filed by and about Mr. S, until she arrived at the conclusion of when Mr. S discovered Lee’s body in Leakin Park.
“Once we tamed this monster document, it started to tell us stories,” said Koenig.
A question and answer session followed Koenig’s lecture, at which point Koenig revealed she does not have a new idea for the second season of Serial (she seemed nonplussed at the suggestion that she take on the Sandusky fallout next).
“We don’t have a story. Seriously, I’m not lying,” Koenig said.