NEW YORK — Even if you aren’t a big public radio fan, you’ve heard all about the podcast “Serial” in the past few months.
Millions of people have downloaded the 12 episodes to hear reporter Sarah Koenig lay out her own investigation of a murder that happened 15 years ago.
But with such popularity comes opinions and — surprise — not everyone is such a big fan. And at the heart of some conversations is the issue of race.
The victim, Hae Min Lee, is the daughter of Korean immigrants. And the ex-boyfriend who is behind bars for the murder, Adnan Syed, comes from a Pakistani Muslim family. Both were seniors at a high school in Baltimore County, Maryland at the time. On the other hand, the reporter and her team — producers from the show This American Life — are white.
At the crux of the debate is whether or not Koenig, or any white journalist, can fairly and accurately report on people of other races and cultures.
“I am still disturbed by the thought of Koenig stomping around communities that she clearly does not understand,” wrote Jay Caspian Kang in The Awl.
Rabia Chaudry, a civil rights attorney who grew up near Syed and tipped Koenig off to the story, backed up Kang’s point.
“I explained to her that anti-Muslim sentiment was involved in framing the motive in this case, and that Muslims can pick up on it, whereas someone like her, who hasn’t experienced this kind of bigotry doesn’t quite get it.”
Others argued that race isn’t an issue.
“But how much does she need to ‘get’ in order to accurately and thoroughly report a who-done-it, and to treat her subjects and their community with dignity and respect?” asked Sarah Miller in Cafe, a digital news magazine.
Some even think that the way Koenig reported the story could serve as a model for other reporters.
“Koenig has very consciously forefronted her ethno-cultural ignorance, the things that compromise her as a reporter and an actor in this drama, in ways that I think very few white journalists choose to do,” wrote Quartz’s Jeff Yang.
The final show was released this week and (spoiler alert!) no, we didn’t find out who did it.