Sunday, December 13, 2015

"That's Me Calling The Taliban"

Sometimes the best presents aren't wrapped and placed under the tree. While it may not be as festive, simple and straight forward can also have exciting results. 

That's what we learned earlier this week when the second, highly anticipated, and super secretive season of the podcast Serial kicked off without a single warning. Frankly, since I had stopped hearing about it, I assumed the release was slated for sometime next year. 

Well, I was fit to be tied (along with the rest of the world) on Friday when I found episode one of the new season just waiting for me already downloaded on my listening device.

The rumors had been kicking around earlier in the year that this season would be focused on the controversial tale of Bowe Bergdahl - the solider who was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan and was held captive for five years before the US negotiated his release. Anyone who followed this story in May of 2014, remembers our nation being happy about his safe return home, but also at the same time feeling iffy about the circumstances, including that the US had to release five Taliban members from Guantanamo Bay as a trade for Bergdahl.

There was another issue - it turned out that Bergdahl had "abandoned" his post, which had resulted in him being away from his camp when he was abducted by the Taliban.

Since his return, the government has been investigating his ordeal, and he was eventually charged with two counts, having to do with his desertion and misbehavior.

His fate is still to be determined, which makes it perfect timing for the Serial podcast to dig more into this story.

The best part about the first season was how the producers and researchers were able to go in depth into one story. Everyday news outlets can only spend time on the headlines and big breaking news, so once a story isn't "hot" or new anymore, they tend to move on. Shows like 60 Minutes have the ability to tell long form investigative pieces, but what's compelling about a podcast like this is that they are taking the time, week after week, in about 8-10 hours of content, to tell the stories that deserve more time.

I have been wanting to hear more about this mysterious Bergdahl situation for months, so I am elated that the people behind Serial settled on this as their topic. I might be in the minority however, according to the host and producer of Serial, Sarah Koenig. In an interview a couple months ago, she admitted that she didn't think people were going to care as much about this season.

"We're really not planning on having the same response that we had in season one, and frankly, we're really totally okay with that," she said.

She could be right, but Koenig might have also just been trying to lower expectations.

While I did appreciate that season one brought attention to a lesser known story and it would have been nice to highlight another mystery that hasn't already gotten national attention, I still think a story like Bergdahl's deserves the attention of the masses instead of being buried as a news story on the ticker that goes by on CNN.

Just after the first episode, I am very intrigued to hear more of Bergdahl's side of the story, as well as anything new Koenig and her group of sleuth's have dug up. What's exciting about this kind of journalism is asking the questions, listening to stories from different points of view, and gaining a new perspective on a situation.

The truth is always there, somewhere in the middle.

Until next time.

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