Category Archives: Journalism

The Experience of Listening to the SERIAL Podcast

SERIAL, the podcast is quite addictive. I came to it late in January 2016.

I’m trying to avoid, “The Making of a Murderer” because, well I would feel manipulated and that’s an investment of time where I can’t do much else but watch. By reading around, I also largely agree that the police screwed up a lot and likely enhanced the evidence. Beyond that, not idea but I can’t quite get into it, yet.

But Serial – I can listen while cleaning, while washing the dishes and doing other things. So, I plugged into Season 2, I think on Jan. 19 after the first four episodes were out: 01 – DUSTWUN; 02 – The Golden Chicken; 03 – Escaping; 04 – The Captors. I quickly buzzed through those 204 minutes / 3.3 hours and I really wanted to check in on the next installment. This is how old radio worked; oh wait, this is how current TV works, still. I’m not saying that’s a good or bad thing, it just takes a lot to get used to.

As evidence, of the point ending the last paragraph, I point to the X Files, the Resurrection or whatever it’s called. We watched the first, Carrie and I since it was after a football game – score 12 for marketing and scheduling. We then didn’t watch the one the next day and didn’t watch the next one. Even though I REALLY wanted to; I did remember the second episode but was too busy and completely forgot the third one on February 1.

Listening to Season Two
I paid attention to Soldier Bowe Bergdahl only a little last year when he was part of a prisoner trade with the Taliban. That didn’t seem like a great idea for a soldier who might have gone AWOL – and President Obama got a raft of shit for it. Usually my instinct when that happens is to push the raft away so it floats away. Beyond that I had no recollection or curiosity about the details.
Here’s part of the intro on the website page:

“In May 2014, a U.S. Special Operations team in a Black Hawk helicopter landed in the hills of Afghanistan. Waiting for them were more than a dozen Taliban fighters and a tall American, who looked pale and out of sorts: Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier, had been a prisoner of the Taliban for nearly five years, and now he was going home.

President Obama announced Bergdahl’s return in the Rose Garden, with the soldier’s parents at his side. Bergdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, planned a big celebration to welcome him back. But then, within days—within hours of his rescue, in fact—public reaction to his return flipped. People started saying Bergdahl shouldn’t be celebrated. Some of the soldiers from his unit called him a deserter, a traitor. They said he had deliberately walked off their small outpost in eastern Afghanistan and into hostile territory.

Hailey canceled its celebration. The army launched an investigation….”

Sarah Koenig is narrating the series – both of them. And she’s doing a lot (most) of the digging into the details and what happened. The reporting. She quickly gives the impression of wanting to believe Bergdahl and, in the first season, Adnan Syed. That’s perhaps because I know these stretch out to many episodes; however I haven’t hit the end of either series, yet.

But Koenig asks good question and she has doubts, which she airs, often. There’s a true narrative and true story being displayed for the listeners to think on to; it’s not all handed to us, the listeners with conclusions and resolution.

I listened to Season 2, Episode 05 and now it’s going to be every two weeks because they are being inundated with a lot more information and details and context. I really want to find other programs like this. RadioLab is similar but a little all over the place; there is not one overall story arc.

Right now I’m listening to Season1, Episode 08 of Serial, titled “The Deal with Jay.” Jay has actually been a suspicion for me since the first episode and it really sounds like he’s a storyteller himself who was jealous of Adnan’s close friendship with his girlfriend; Jay sounds like he saw an opportunity and calculated this, pushing people’s doubts in the right direction. This is the story of a murder out of a high school in Baltimore. A girl was murdered. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, haw been convicted. He’s been in prison over 10 years already.

I didn’t think I’d be as interested as this story started; it’s more routine and covers smaller issues than a soldier leaving a post in Afghanistan and being a POW for 5 years. But this 1st season involves a lot of regular people trying to figure out this tragedy among them.

Until I just went to the Serial Podcast website I didn’t know proper spellings of people’s names or seen any visuals – such as a picture of Adnan.

“Rather than trying to get to the truth, you’re trying to build your case” it’s said at one point in Season 1. I think that’s the crux of so much of what goes on in the world. That’s inconsistent and hurts my confirmation bias.

The next episode comes out in two days, Thursday Feb. 4. Life is a continuum.

Content Marketing Doesn’t Work for All Businesses

I left this comment on a piece about shorter news articles online in the comments, in reference to another which said the author was speaking as a content marketer, not a journalist. The author of the piece, is former journalist Kevin Delaney, now editor-in-chief of Quartz.

Content Marketers recommend longer pieces, as well. But most content marketing is meant for businesses to have a bigger and broader and better and more informational footprint for search engines to grab onto. Delaney here speaks more toward the consumption of news, which is different. As even the limited – so far – comments so far indicate though, his approach is too black and white.

I did like Delaney’s idea of beats being outmoded and journalists should follow their “obsessions” though hopefully he didn’t mean as fanbois or fangyrls. I’ve never read the site (until today when I glanced few a few articles) but someone who has read it says the shorter approach often leaves gaps and too many questions unanswered.

So there’s obviously a correct middle ground no one’s perfected, yet. Unless you’re just talking about “what appeals to the most people.” However, that’s never a good road to go down unless $$$ is your dole objective.

Just looking at the homepage by the way, I can scan just as easily on or or and then click on links from there I’m interested in. Except the range of choices is much less. And where’s the original reporting. The blurbs just point to other, um, longer articles on the subject.

I’ll read more over the next few days to see if that initial “what’s the point” impression chnages.”

Bradley Manning’s Statement After Sentencing

This is a statement from Pfc. Bradley Manning following his sentencing to 35 years in prison on several charges related to releasing state secrets. I do not know if he wrote it all, but to me it seems well thought out. I do wonder if there were other ways to go about it effectively. I think he is a modern-day hero:

The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.

I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown out any logically based intentions, it is usually an American soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission.

Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few. I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.

As the late Howard Zinn once said, “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.

If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.

PBS / NPR Attempts Investigative Journalism Save

This Newsonomics piece shows one model for trying to keep politically unbiased investigative journalism alive. Not only alive but thriving.