Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder are podcast geniuses, and a couple days ago they looked me in the eye.
They have both worked at WBEZ’s This American Life for over a decade and created Serial a few years ago. It was revolutionary — it broke download records and introduced millions of people to audio storytelling.
Koenig and Snyder visited IU on Friday to give a talk about how Serial was created and meet with some podcast junkies (like me!). They told us that Serial was created on accident, after a weaker idea fell through. Koenig had already been reporting on the case of Adnan Syed, which is the story explained in Serial‘s season one. She said she felt drawn to the story, characters and setting, and wanted to keep exploring. She advised the people in the room to “do what you like.” Snyder added that “a good idea can be easy because it’s obvious. The most work can go into saving a weak idea.” These women were inspiring and insightful.
I am drawn to audio stories because they are more conversational and personal. When listening, I can envision myself in the room with the narrator, experiencing the story as they guide me through it. I’ve wondered if the creativity and innovation in audio storytelling distanced it from journalism or serious reporting — an invalidation. Snyder answered that question: “Artistry is OK in reporting as long as you can stick to the truth.”
I’m so glad to have soaked up some of their wisdom. Listen to Serial and S-Town!