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Serial Forgetfulness: An Investigation Into the Serial Podcast

The Serial podcast discusses the murder of high school student Hae Min Lee, and the ongoing investigation and incarceration of her boyfriend and classmate, Adnan Syed. This incredibly entertaining podcast has become one of my favourites, mainly due to the intrigue and suspense created by narrator Sarah Koenig. This podcast is very interactive and allows the listener to engage in the investigation alongside Koenig. I also am a huge fan of nonfiction stories, in particular ones about crime, both of which are characteristics of this popular podcast. Finally, I really like it because you can hear actual interviews and footage from Koenig’s investigation into Lee’s murder.

Above is Hae Min Lee (left) and Adnan Syed.

The Serial podcast is unique in that it is one of very few podcasts based on one true crime story per season, and the fact that it is in podcast form makes it very appealing. Readers can actually listen to real recordings and interviews recorded by Sarah Koenig herself, as well as others made by the police. Listeners are able to hear the emotion in people’s voices as Koenig interviews them and sarcasm can actually be used. Through podcasts, listeners feel as though they are actually present with Koenig as she conducts her investigations and they can deduce things for themselves.

While a podcast might be the best choice for an auditory learner, reading can be beneficial to people like me, who prefer to have visuals when learning. I, personally, like to listen and read at the same time, so something that might benefit me would be having a transcript to read along with the podcast. Both reading and listening can have their benefits which vary from person to person.

Some benefits of listening to a podcast, for example, include hearing emotion conveyed in the speaker’s voice. It can also be beneficial for the visually impaired or those who have reading disabilities. That said, they can also have some disadvantages such as not being able to constantly look at the same piece of information easily. With a podcast, the listener has to rewind the audio to an exact time to hear specific information, which is tedious.

Reading, on the other hand, can be beneficial because you can easily reread a text over and over by simply studying the previous sentence. Readers can interpret what the narrator is trying to say on their own which can be good, but it can also be bad if the writer has a specific interpretation in mind. Reading can also be helpful for deaf people to be able to understand and participate in the investigation.

For auditory learners, a podcast is very beneficial to listen to.

One thing that a lot of people do not consider about this podcast is that not only is Syed’s family affected by his incarceration and the newfound attention, but Hae Min Lee’s family is experiencing lots of attention as well. To me, it would make sense that they would be excited to have more people look at and listen to the case because then they might have some definitive answers about Hae’s murder. There are many people on the internet who fancy themselves sleuths that have already begin to investigate the murder alongside Koenig because of the podcast. From an outsider’s perspective, it makes sense that the family would be happy to have help in the investigation but in reality, the Lees have voiced their displeasure quite vocally.

As it turns out, the Serial podcast has caused many to sympathize with Syed, who the Lees are certain killed Hae. All this podcast has done is create stress for a family that has already gone through the grieving process once and does not wish to go through it again.

The Serial Podcast has caused a lot of grief for Hae Min Lee’s family, which is evident on her mother’s face.

Many of the accusations against Syed are based off of people’s memories, which, in my opinion, is not strong enough evidence to incarcerate him. Syed seems suspicious because he cannot remember the specifics about where he was when Hae Min Lee was murdered, but is it fair for this suspicion to be placed on him? I can’t even remember what I ate for breakfast, so how should he remember where he was for 21 minutes on a random day in his past?

When a person does not know that they are going to need to remember something, they likely are not going to feel obligated to, in fact our brains make us forget things we deem insignificant (Dvorsky, 2014). For Adnan Syed, the day Lee was murdered likely seemed like a regular day until he heard about his girlfriend’s murder. Until that point, there was nothing significant for him to remember so it makes sense that he would have forgotten his whereabouts around the time that Lee was murdered.

Due to the fact that memories are not sufficient enough to hold Syed accountable, I know that the rest of the podcast will be based on finding solid proof that Syed either did or did not commit the murder, meaning that Koenig has her work cut out for her.

Sarah Koenig has to work hard to solve the mystery of Hae Min Lee’s murder.

Works Cited

Francke, Caitlin. “19-year-old gets life sentence for killing former girlfriend” 7 June, 2000, Web. Accessed 21 July 2017.

“Auditory Learner” 2014, Web. Accessed 21 July 2017.

Robinson, Will. “Family of ‘Serial’ victim Hae Min Lee say her convicted killer Adnan Syed ‘destroyed our family’ in emotional letter that slams the podcast’s fans for running to defend him” 8 Feb. 2016. Web. Accessed 21 July 2017.

“Episode 1: The Alibi Lyrics” 2017, Web. Accessed 21 July 2017.

Dvorsky, George. “Our brains deliberately make us forget things, to prevent insanity” 14 Mar. 2014, Web. Accessed 21 July 2017.

Koenig, Sarah. “Episode 1: The Alibi.” Serial. WBEZ Chicago, 2014. Audio blog post. Accessed 21 July 2017.


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