Sarah Koenig

TIME 100 2015 Sarah Koenig
Ian Allen for TIME

The investigator in your ear

How often is it that you rush home with the shopping or from work, make yourself a cup of tea and switch the phones off, then dim the lights so that you can be totally uninterrupted for 40 or 50 minutes to listen to a radio program? For weeks on end this past fall that’s what I and millions of others did every Thursday. I am of course referring to the podcast Serial. To say it was addictive is an understatement.

Sarah Koenig talked to me in the bath, in the kitchen and in the subway, and although I knew there were plenty of others ­listening—the series has been downloaded more than 80 million times—she had an uncanny knack for making me feel like she was talking just to me. She and her team explored in incredible detail the real-life murder case of Hae Min Lee, who was last seen on Jan. 13, 1999. We shared in Koenig’s doubts and discoveries, thoughts and confusion; we became entangled in the mystery by listening to recordings of her phone calls with the imprisoned Adnan Syed, who, rightly or wrongly, was convicted of killing Hae.

Koenig played us recordings from the courtroom and police interviews with suspects and witnesses. She searched out key players in the story and inquired about their recollections of a single day from 15 years ago. Suddenly, investigative journalism became our hobby, our passion. People were talking about it everywhere you went. It was a true cultural phenomenon, and radio was once again front and center in our daily lives. I can’t wait for Season 2, and neither can millions of my closest friends.

McGregor is a Scottish actor now directing his first feature film, American Pastoral

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