It was nothing short of a phenomenon. The first podcast to win a Peabody Award, it was the talk of the nation, in a way that happens less often than years ago, given the fragmented media landscape and dizzying array of choices. But the inaugural season of Serial on NPR this past fall hooked listeners intently. The story was compelling, and presented in riveting fashion, hosted by journalist Sarah Koenig exploring the 1999 murder of Baltimore teenager Hae Min Lee and her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed’s subsequent life sentence. Syed continues to claim that he’s innocent. Following the conclusion of Serial‘s first season in December, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals granted Syed license to move forward with the appeal of his case, according to the Washington Post.
Hartford will get a behind-the-scenes perspective of the making of Serial as creators Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder take to the Bushnell stage Wedmesday (June 10), in a special edition of the popular Connecticut Forum, with “Binge-Worthy Journalism: Backstage with the Creators of Serial Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder.” The podcast, produced by Chicago Public Media/This American Life, has been downloaded nearly 60 million times.
In the audience will be nearly 100 local students who have used the 12 episode podcast series as the platform for education. Local teachers have been using Serial podcast to teach students about the law, advocacy and the judicial system – a new and apparently successful way to engage students. Students at the Law & Government Academy at Hartford Public Schools especially related to the Serial podcast – involving inner city magnet school students much like themselves. Other schools in attendance at this event include: Global Communications Academy in Hartford; Simsbury High School; Granby Memorial High School; CREC Public Safety Academy; and East Granby High School. The students attendance is made possible by underwriting from Audible.
This strong community – school connection is at the heart of the work of The Connecticut Forum, and their mission to inform, challenge, entertain, inspire and build bridges among all people and organizations in the community.
At the Law and Government Academy of Hartford Public High School, one class used Serial as the basis for a semester’s curriculum. Over the course of five months, students examined the issues in each episode of the 12-episode podcast and were asked to choose a side – such as defense counsel, prosecutor, or witness – and then advocate for their position. For their final exam, students wrote appellate court briefs and argued their cases.
Students from the other schools planning to attend had similar experiences, quickly becoming regular listeners, intrigued by the issues it was highlighting and the storyline. Other classes in Connecticut and across the country also used the podcast as part of the curriculum, to rave reviews.
“It’s use of new media and compelling storytelling has opened up many new opportunities for students, educators, and the intellectually curious to reexamine aspects of our legal system,” said CT Forum Executive Director Doris Sugarman. “We’re thrilled to see what is sparked when our community connects to the expression of big ideas that The Forum brings to Connecticut audiences.”
Serial, with a new story line, is set to return for a second season in the fall and a third next spring, according to published reports. (Photos: Sarah Koenig, above, and Julie Snyder, below)