Like so many others, I’ve noticed my attention span shrinking. When you spend a lot of your day communicating in one-to-two sentence blips, as I do, having the patience for longer-form things can be difficult. It’s like my attention muscle is flabby and focusing on anything for too long seems like a chore. I pin while watching TV. I send emails while I’m cooking. It’s getting a little ridiculous.
So it’s into this micro-economy that the This American Life team has debuted Serial, which tells one story over a series of shows. The story they’re currently telling is spread out over a dozen episodes! If you’ve never listed to This American Life, the shows are all based on a theme, usually with several different stories in one show. The word “story” can refer to many different things–essays, radio journalism, short stories, occasional songs, etc. They’re all so well told and beautifully produced, and suffice it to say that I’m madly in love with everyone who works on it because it’s made my life richer and happier and more beautiful.
Anyway, the stories on TAL are always surprising. James and I went to see Ira Glass speak (twice!) about how they choose stories for the show. The stories usually follow the format: this happened, then this happened, then this REALLY SURPRISING THING happened. Serial takes the pieces of radio journalism that can’t fit into a few minutes, or even an hour, so there’s time to look at every facet; every perspective.
The current story is about a murder that happened at a high school in Maryland 15 years ago. A girl was killed and buried in a shallow grave, and her ex-boyfriend took the blame. Only, there are so many holes in the case–including an alibi–that no one is really sure if the right person was convicted. Sarah Koenig masterfully navigates all the facts, interviews everyone she can find, and even re-creates the event, in order to try to figure out what really happened. Who’s lying? Who’s telling the truth? And why do we suddenly care so much about these people?
I started listening to Serial last week and I was immediately hooked. Binge listening may be my new thing. All five episodes were gone in a flash and now I have to wait until Thursday for the next one. It feels like an eternity.
Serial is a podcast available at SerialPodcast.org or on iTunes.
Photo Credit: Better Homes and Gardens