I’ve started 2019 with a continued appetite for podcasts mostly featuring journalists exploring injustices and unsolved crimes. I’ve had more success finding great listens in this category than the others I’ve explored such as around health or government innovation.
I know I am very seriously late to the party on listening to Serial, but wow it’s good. All three seasons are different but gripping in their own ways. Season 1 explores the apparent murder of a Baltimore high school student by her recent ex-boyfriend who claims to have been wrongly accused. Season 2 is the remarkable tale of how a US soldier willingly left his post in Afghanistan, was captured by the Taliban and freed after 5 years in captivity – and now faces prosecution through the US military courts. Season 3 is harder to describe but essentially is a year following the justice system in Cleveland, really trying to understand all the players in the system and whether the system works as intended. It’s really good.
BBC World Service sports reporters luck into some extraordinary tapes of boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter talking to an author about his life. These lead them into a triple murder mystery which led Carter and another man to be imprisoned for nearly 20 years. The ensuing legal battles had Bob Dylan and Mohammed Ali campaigning for their freedom and even a movie of the trials with Denzel Washington. It’s a brilliantly produced series with cracking music. There’s also something really charming about the northern English burr of the presenter’s accent whilst interviewing New Jersey natives.
CBC do lots of excellent podcasts, as I’ve mentioned before. As a Canadian who, according to family legend has some indigenous blood, this series was particularly poignant. Each season covers the death of a young indigenous female, but also the shame of how Canada treated the indigenous communities more generally. They are gripping true-crime stories whilst deeply sensitive historical explorations of the horrors of forced adoptions, residential schools, violence against indigenous women, Police racism and more.
Another CBC podcast: Somewhat like Esther Perel’s series, this lets us listen in on real therapy sessions. However unlike Perel’s, where she doesn’t include her regular clients but specially selected couples who apply for the podcast series, here Vancouver therapist Hillary McBride has worked with her regular clients with their consent. It’s a fascinating series, particular because across the two seasons so far we get to follow the journeys of a number of her clients as they change and grow.