The rise of podcasting in recent years has led to podcasts with widespread audiences and authority. From educational podcasts to interviews to investigative podcasts–including true crime investigations–there are a lot of authoritative voices among the types of podcasts. With that authority comes a great deal of responsibility.
When we look at the responsibility and power of podcasts, there’s one podcast in particular we’ve got our eye on: Serial, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Koenig is responsible, through her investigation of the case of Adnan Syed, for bringing justice to an innocent man who was convicted and imprisoned.
From that statement alone, that sounds like something extraordinary, and we’re not denying the bright side of justice being served. However, the release of Syed brings with it questions about the power and influence of podcasts. It also calls into play how that power should be wielded and monitored.
Here at Mr. Thrive, we want to explore every aspect of hosting and producing a podcast. With that comes the need to understand our responsibility to the podcast community. In this blog post, we’ll dive into that responsibility all podcasters need to keep in mind.
Mr. Thrive’s Response To the Trial By Podcast of Adnan Syed
In September of 2022, Adnan Syed was released from prison, and the charges against him were dropped. Since the year 2000, Syed served time, accused and convicted of the murder of Hae Min Lee, his former girlfriend. Syed was cleared, in official channels, because new DNA testing proved that Syed was not guilty.
However, the world knows Syed wasn’t only cleared because of new DNA testing. His release from prison was brought about by the Serial podcast, hosted by Sarah Koenig. In the 13 episodes of season 1 of Serial, Koenig did a deep investigation into the Syed case, to see where gaps in the case were, and what was left to be uncovered or rediscovered.
Now, we aren’t trying to deny that the release of an innocent person is a great outcome. Justice in the judicial system can seem few and far between, and to see Syed released and vindicated is extraordinary. This outcome is something out of a novel, where the truth prevails in the end.
The factor we’re concerned about is that a podcast–something outside of law enforcement and any official channel–is the reason behind Syed’s release. How could a podcast have the power and resources to bring about the overturning of Syed’s verdict? Is that something a podcast should be able to do?
There’s a fine line between an investigative podcast, and a podcast that goes too far. In terms of investigations and media inquiries, podcasts are still relatively new to the world of legal and ethical proceedings around crimes and investigations. There’s a bit of a gray area surrounding what podcasters can do, and how an investigation can be executed.
Podcasts and the information shared in them falls under the general rule of freedom of speech. Of course, that’s not a granted rule in every country, but for the most part, when it comes to podcasts, anything goes. There isn’t much regulation around what people can say, even though there is harsh judgement on people who say extreme or hateful things.
Within the gray area of podcast subject matter and true crime podcasts, there’s a dangerous level of vigilante podcasting. No, we don’t mean podcasters are dressing up in masks and capes and delving into the shadows of the night to uncover the truth. Vigilante podcasting is about podcasters taking it upon themselves to pursue investigations and find and share new information.
It’s hard to say that this type of investigative podcasting is entirely a bad thing. It can be a savior for people like Syed, who don’t have anyone else looking out for them. It’s also a great example of how freedom of speech leads to new ideas. However, with this freedom and the ability to uncover the truth, there’s also a lot of responsibility.
The Motives Behind Podcasting
Anyone can start a podcast, and by extension, any viewpoint can be expressed in a podcast. This can be a great way of spreading information and ideas through informative, community-minded podcasts. However, it can also be a way for the bad seeds of the podcast host to push their agendas through their podcasts.
There’s also a middle ground–between positive podcasts and those bad seeds–of hosts who wield the power of a podcast without proper regard for how wide their ideas will reach.
This is almost the most dangerous, as information shared without a plan for how the community will react can have unpredictable results. Sometimes those results are an innocent person going free, and sometimes they are the spread of misinformation.
For podcast hosts, it’s okay to do investigative podcasts and seek out the truth. However, it’s important that you’re careful, and that you have strong, moral reasons behind your podcast. If you’re doing it for money or fame, that may cloud your judgment with what you share and what you’re willing to do.
For listeners, remember, when you’re listening to a true crime podcast, the podcast host isn’t a member of law enforcement or something similar. While the information may be factual, the podcast medium is still informal.
It’s important to keep that in mind, because while podcasts can uncover truths and educational info, they aren’t an official source of information. They need to be held in check by listeners and hosts alike.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Influence of Podcasting
Since the podcasting boom started, the influence of podcasting has spread far and wide so fast, it can be hard to keep track. There are podcasts with global reach and many of those podcasts carry as much authority as pillars of journalism and newscasting.
When it comes to the influence podcasting can have over people, the more you know, the more you can see clearly through podcast-colored glasses. For these frequently asked questions, we’ve focused on some key points you should be familiar with. These answers will help you look more deeply at the influence of podcasts.
Why are Podcasts so Influential?
Podcasts are such an influential media source for two reasons:
1. They are highly accessible, and therefore easy to listen to habitually.
2. The freedom the podcast host has gives them the ability to explore all angles of their subject. They seek out the answers we all want to learn about, giving listeners a way to engage in an intimate setting.
These two factors come together to make podcasts a form of media the audience can connect with and listen to anywhere. The influence builds as the listeners find themselves getting invested in the podcast.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Podcasts?
The advantages of podcasts are the ease and speed of shared information. Podcasts are one of the most easily accessible, digestible, and craft-able forms of media. Anyone can make one, and build a following with subject-matter expertise and marketing tactics. Additionally, there are so many podcasts out there, there’s something for every listener.
The disadvantages of podcasts are that anyone can make a podcast, and use the influence of their podcast for any reason. Because of this freedom of information, there is a responsibility on both listeners and hosts.
Listeners need to take podcast information with a grain of salt. Hosts need to keep their podcasts as objective as possible, and use their influence with restraint, without a hidden agenda.
Where Do True Crime Podcasts Get Their Information?
True crime podcasts get their information from extensive research into the crime. This includes delving into:
– News stories
– Public records
– Books and journals
– Witness accounts
For a true crime podcast to be credible, the information has to be airtight. The job of the true crime podcaster is similar to that of a journalist or detective. Every facet of information gathered needs to be backed up by facts and evidence.
Why Do People Listen to True Crime Podcasts?
There are several reasons people listen to true crime podcasts, including:
– The thrill of being in a dangerous situation, without actually ever being in danger.
– To learn about the way crimes unfold, and learn how to defend yourself or keep an eye out for crimes, no matter the likelihood of those crimes happening to you.
– The curiosity about what other people are capable of. This has been recently seen in the massive audience for the new Netflix series on Jeffrey Dahmer, which has drawn huge view counts as people step inside the mind of a serial killer.
Some of that might sound concerning. Let’s be honest, we’ve all enjoyed a true crime podcast and then wondered if it was odd how much we enjoyed it. It’s not. Humanity has been intrigued by mysteries and things we can’t explain for a long time. True crime podcasts are another facet of that category.
The Influence of Podcasting: Influential to a Dangerous Degree
There’s no doubt about it, podcast hosts have a heap of responsibilities to themselves, their audience, and the community around podcasts. The authority of a quality podcast comes with verifiable facts, but also with how much is said, and how many liberties are taken.
Here at Mr. Thrive Media, we’re committed to excellence in podcasting, from the content through the production. If you’re looking to craft a podcast that is well-made in every way, reach out today. Our network of vocal talent, marketing experts, and podcast-producing pros will help you build a podcast you can hang your hat on.