During the year Sarah Koenig spent embedded in Cleveland’s Justice Center Complex for the new season of “Serial,” a few employees on separate occasions mistook her for a student journalist and asked what school she attended, the Washington Post reports. Even the bellwether of the criminal-justice podcasting world doesn’t get recognized in a courthouse. “Serial” has been downloaded more than 340 million times since it launched in 2014 with Koenig leading its serialized exploration of whether Baltimore County high-schooler Adnan Syed was rightfully convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend. The podcast electrified the medium, becoming the first to win a Peabody Award.
It also exposed an appetite for true crime stories that has been satiated by a growing number of podcasts: “S-Town” and “Crimetown,” “Missing and Murdered” and “My Favorite Murder,” “Wine and Crime” and “White Wine True Crime!” On Thursday, it is in this saturated true-crime environment that the show releases Season 3, in which Koenig and reporter Emmanuel Dzotsi tackle the criminal justice system by presenting multiple Cleveland cases, each allotted one to three episodes. Will the podcast’s newest endeavor be heard above the noise? “There are a lot of reporters, there are a lot of researchers, there are a lot of people who have been banging this drum for a while, wanting to talk about the criminal justice system,” co-creator Julie Snyder says. This season will go into every corner of the courthouse, from one attorney seeking advice from another in the middle of a hallway to Koenig’s conference-room tete-a-tetes with the defense. The show is more concerned with the aftermath and implications of crimes than the actual actions: “A lot of times, you need to move past the idea of innocent and guilt and who did it,” Snyder says. “I want to talk about the people who are actually affected by it.”