Wednesday May 11/16

Essay analysis notes due today. Outline for persuasive essay due tomorrow.


Think for a moment about the experience of listening to a podcast. It tends to be a very intimate experience. You are usually listening through a set of headphones. There’s a voice in your ear that seems to be speaking directly to you which can make you feel like you have a relationship to the speaker. You may identify with the perspective of the narrator in the same way when you might reading a novel written from a first person perspective. At the same time, the aural nature of the podcast allows the creators to incorporate music and sound effects that evoke a certain mood. All of these features of the podcast affect the way you interpret the content.

This can be especially problematic if you don’t understand how influential these features can be on how you think about what you are hearing. In this case, that’s important when you consider the content of this particular podcast: an investigation of a murder. Since the podcast aired in 2014, there has been a great deal of controversy about it. The controversy hinges on the fact that some say Serial is entertainment masquerading as reporting. The narrator, Sarah Koenig, gives the impression of being unbiased, which is very important for a reporter, but some would argue that Koenig is not unbiased at all.

The features of the medium can affect the way you interpret the content, but different audiences will also interpret the medium in different ways. Think about how someone from a different generation or different part of the world might respond differently to this podcast.

(If you want a full screen version of the padlet below, click here.)

In this activity, you will listen to the final episode from the podcast. As you listen, make notes using the following organizer:It Says I Say and So.

Under the “It Says” heading, make notes on specific pieces of evidence provided (facts, dates, times).

Under the “I Say” heading, make notes on how you know that the medium can affect the way one interprets the message (Is the narrative underscored by emotional music? Does the narrator’s tone of voice sound skeptical?).

Under the “And So” heading, draw some conclusions. Do you think the narrator is biased or unbiased? Do you think Adnan Syed is innocent or guilty? Note: Please submit chartvia Sesame. If you’re having trouble accessing Sesame and you’ve tried the password reset, then email your work to me at

Listen to the podcast (use headphones please!):

Episode 12

For homework: Do some research on your own and investigate some secondary sources that have appeared since Serial aired. Try to find a variety of media: images, text, audio, and video. You may want to start on Serial’s website. There is a significant amount of secondary sources that have been added to the page. Start here. Each episode has related material if you scroll down.

Did the additional sources make you reconsider your original conclusion about Syed’s guilt or innocence? How did the type of media change your impressions of the information? Share at least three of the sources (and provide links), explaining what each source added to your understanding and opinion of the case. Try to find a variety of sources from both mainstream and alternative media. Make specific reference to the ways in which the features of the media text contributed to your impression. Click here for fullscreen version of padlet.