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ITNTW: The Power of the Podcast

Podcasts are becoming a popular form of entertainment and education, as the digital format is easily accessible and requires minimal attention. There is an array of genres for podcasts constantly evolving each day over various platforms, and the power of the podcast is slowly but surely coming to light.

Recently, influencers have been expanding their social platforms to reach new audiences. The notable success of influencers transferring to podcasts can be seen from Emma Chamberlain after she shifted from her successful YouTube Channel to podcasts. However, there is a genre of podcasts that have proved to be powerful.

This week, Adnan Syed was released after new evidence was uncovered in the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, Syed’s ex-girlfriend. Syed, who pled not guilty, had served more than two decades in prison of his initial 30-year sentence for first-degree murder and kidnapping.

The overturn of Syed’s conviction came years after the 2014 podcast ‘Serial’ entered a deep-dive investigation into the murder of Lee, and the innocence of Syed.  Sarah Koenig, the presenter and journalist of the podcast, went through thousands of documents and talked to anyone she could who knew Syed and Lee at the time of the murder. In her findings, it was clear that there was no pressing evidence for Syed being involved in the murder; only one testimony from Jay Wilds, a friend of Syed at the time. He claimed Syed told him he had killed Lee and asked for help to bury the body; however his story had changed multiple times, and did not align with call records and cell phone tower ‘pings’.

Essentially, the podcast revealed the holes in the case of Lee’s murder and uncovered the likelihood of innocence for Syed. The unprecedented attention that came to the case after the podcast went viral aided the conviction eventually being overturned.

This isn’t the first time a crime podcast has aided justice. ‘In The Dark’ similarly brought attention and new knowledge to the case of Curtis Flowers, who had been tried six times for the same crimes. The podcast uncovered the racial injustice conducted by Doug Evans, district attorney, who had a history of prosecutorial conduct. Eventually, the case against Flowers was dropped, with a contributing factor being the damning knowledge uncovered by the podcast.

Even in Australia, podcasts have influenced criminal trials. Evidence uncovered by the Teacher’s Pet podcast catapulted the trial of Christopher Dawson and saw him convicted for the murder of his wife Lynette Dawson in 1982.

It comes as no surprise that the offspring of the internet is beginning to have real world effects. The power to tell a story with no locational boundaries and reach all ends of the Earth is an astonishing element of the digital realm. The power of the podcast is continuing to grow alongside the popularity of the format, and it would not be unruly to say more true crime podcasts may uncover damning evidence that can change the trajectory of a conviction overall.

By Clare Fitzgerald – PR & Influencer Assistant at InsideOut PR and #AsSeenOn

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