Serial and the uncomfortable sensation of reality radio

hae-min-lee

This American Life offshoot Serial, where Sarah Koenig is presently digging into the 1999 murder of 18 year-old Hae Min Lee, has become a sensation. Koenig's deep dive into the oddly-patchy evidence and her interviews with key people -- notably Hae's ex boyfriend Adnan Syed, who was convicted of the crime and is still incarcerated -- has turned a nation of listeners and Redditors into amateur sleuths and jurors.

There is something unsettling about The Guardian's recent series of photographs of the case's key locations: it's their bleakness, their small town-ness. Or maybe it's because they serve as a reminder that what's effectively become "reality radio" for listeners concerns a real-life place, a real victim and family.

The Guardian also interviewed Syed's family on what the apparently wholly-unexpected Serial sensation has meant for them. It's certainly interesting to listen to Koening's methodical study of the case, and my household's definitely hooked. Wouldn't it be amazing if her work leads to the truth about a situation where there arguably weren't enough answers?

Watching the murder become property of public opinion—especially with Syed's brother being told by a Reddit moderator that a key witness and former person of interest in the crime might be participating in the threads—leads to complex feelings.