By late fall 2014, you could count on one thing coming up in every conversation with anyone who might ever have listened to NPR: Sarah Koenig’s podcast “Serial.” From hours-long debates over the possible guilt of Adnan Syed — the convicted murderer who was the podcast’s subject — to parodies of the ad for MailChimp, one of the show’s sponsors, that preceded every episode, the engrossing true-crime story seemed to be everywhere.
Koenig, 46, daughter of the legendary Jewish advertising copywriter Julian Koenig, has been a producer on “This American Life” since 2004 and produced the show’s 2006 Peabody-award winning episode “Habeas Schmabeas.” And she brought serious journalistic chops to her podcast’s first season. Koenig managed to strike a balance between intense investigative reporting and exceptional storytelling.
Speaking with NPR’s Terry Gross in December 2014, Koenig said the show’s producers “wanted it to feel like a living thing… a vital thing.” They succeeded; “Serial” shattered records for podcast downloads, bringing unprecedented celebrity to the podcast form. This year Fox 21 Television optioned “Serial” for TV, although the show in development reportedly will not concern the case of Adnan Syed.
The second season of “Serial” is due to arrive on iTunes and on a new platform — the audio streaming service Pandora — sometime before the close of this year. A third season is also in development. Koenig and her team have stayed close-lipped about the subject, although rumors are circling that the season will focus on Bowe Bergdahl, the GI kidnapped then released by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Regardless of where Koenig next fixes her gaze, we can trust her to deliver something challenging and fascinating.