Even two months after the true crime podcast Serial has ended, Redditors are still trying to solve the case.
The week-by-week podcast sought to poke holes in the conviction of Adnan Syed for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee when the two were in high school together 15 years ago, and listeners have taken to the public discussion forum to try to help.
But Serial host Sarah Koenig says she’s not so sure that listeners’ obsession with the story was a good thing.
In a roundtable discussion titled “Serial and the Podcast Explosion” hosted by New York Times media columnist David Carr at the New School in New York City, Koenig fielded questions from the audience about her popular show, which she said has been downloaded 68 million times. One audience member asked Koenig whether her production team was responsible for the Serial threads on Reddit.
“No. I didn’t even know what Reddit was before this,” Koenig answered. “I heard about it during the Boston bombing. I knew that there was this thing that had happened, but no I didn’t know Reddit.”
Koenig didn’t read the Reddit threads as she was putting out the podcast, both because she didn’t have time and because some of the posts “freaked me out a lot.”
Even though Redditors took it upon themselves to try to solve the 15-year-old murder, Koenig says the tips sent by listeners did not change the course of her reporting. “Nothing that happened on there became a part of the story,” she said. “There was no information that we got from it really that changed how we thought about the actual reporting.”
Still, Redditors did have an impact on the case once the show ended. Innocence Project lawyer Deirdre Enright, who appeared on the podcast and is continuing to help Adnan with his case, told TIME in December that tips from listeners led her to a possible new suspect in the case. “People have sent us even the identity of an alternate suspect who was not on our radar,” she said. “We can’t say that it was this person, but it’s certainly a person we now are going back and looking at the past and his history.”
When asked whether she would consider running an official Serial-approved subReddit for the second season in order to engage her audience and boost listenership, Koenig shook her head. She went on to say at the panel that she had mixed feelings about the first season’s Reddit phenomenon.
“I guess the thing that was good about it was realizing how closely people were listening,” she said. “I’m a very careful reporter anyway because I care but also because I’m not somebody who likes to make an error public. But it just really reinforced that we couldn’t mess up anything because we were being watched so, so closely. And I liked that.”
Still, Koenig was hesitant to incorporate Redditors or the information they offer into a second season of the podcast. “I haven’t been persuaded that crowdsourcing an investigation is a good idea. A lot of people are like, “You should put your next thing to the Redditors and see if they can solve it,” she said. “As a reporter I’m responsible for all this information, and it’s my job to use it respectfully and correctly and fact-check the crap out of every single thing I say, and that was not incumbent on the Reddit community. It’s a public forum. They can say whatever they want. But I also don’t want to encourage stuff that I think is irresponsible.”
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