Radio is Not Dead

Guys, I am very serial about Serial.

Typically, I wait 6 months to a year for fads to die down before I jump all over them like a lioness on an antelope. (I don’t know why, but I guess it’s because I don’t like to be disappointed by the hype.) And then, months after every man, woman, and child has indulged in whatever I’m abstaining from, I selfishly rave about how amazing a product/show/movie it is, and everyone just gives me a collective duh! 

As you probably guessed, this has also been my experience with Serial, which I have only just binge-listened to today, although its release date was last year.

Serial is a product of NPR and This American Life. Hosted by Sarah Koenig and edited by the intrepid Ira Glass, this season of Serial follows the story of a young man who is convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend in high school. There’s only one problem: he claims after 15 years of a life sentence that he did not do it. In each episode, Koenig thoroughly tracks down the bare bones of this mystery to not simply establish his guilt or innocence. Rather, she sets out to tell a story. And only happens to uncover a series of botched misfires and bold-faced lies in the process. (In fact, her amateur detective work has reopened the young man’s case.)

Sounds pretty riveting, huh? And it most certainly is. The more Koenig tries to pin down the facts, the more they evaporate into thin air. It seems that no one is telling the truth, even when Koenig thinks that she has it all figured out.

But this is the stuff of a hundred other Lifetime movies. Why is this one so intriguing?

Well, I mostly chalk it up to Koenig’s relatablility. She is so genuine. She truly wants to get to the bottom of her journalistic inquiry for the sake of her curiosity. Sure, clearing the name of an innocent man would be awesome, but that isn’t what she is there to do. She’s telling an incredibly detailed story that happens to be real.

She’s also very realistic. Koenig echoes the thoughts of her many listeners by never giving a theory too much clout. She is the perfect image of blind justice in a case that never even entertained the idea of a fair trial.

Above all, though, for me, is Koenig’s theatrics. Her voice alone is soothing and riveting. Her telling of the story is not only captivating, it’s full of her own personality. She truly brings everything about this case alive.

And so, I’m listening to my 10th episode when it suddenly hits me. This is more than me geeking out over being a Communications major and loving all forms of media. This is the rebirth of “fireside chats” by the old radio. This is reinventing the medium in a completely new form. This is bringing back an entire history and industry of radio. And the best part? There’s a season 2 in the works.

So, whether you believe that everything truly comes back around after enough time, you should at least know this: sometimes it is completely acceptable to reinvent the wheel. If only so that a new generation can bring their own meaning to it.

Listen to Serial here.

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