If 2016 was the year when the world finally understood the beauty of podcasts, then 2017 was the year when creators and reporters and storytellers created a lot of great content that was worth sharing through this medium.
Will 2018 be the year when we start to have a discussion around the role podcasts play in our society? I ask because of one podcast I listened to last year that got me thinking about this topic.
That podcast is Up and Vanished.
[Editor’s Note: There be spoilers ahead!]
For the uninformed, Up and Vanished is an investigative podcast about the disappearance of George beauty queen, Tara Grinstead.
Grinstead disappeared from her home in 2005. The presence of host Payne Lindsey in the small town of Ocilla, Georgia (where Grinstead lived) while he recorded the podcast led authorities to re-open the cold case after new evidence came to light. This evidence led to arrests in the case after 12 years of little movement.
Of course, this is great news. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that bringing a murderer to justice is always an ideal situation. Not only did it bring some peace of mind to Grinstead’s family, but it helped a small town recover from a traumatic experience.
Lindsey, for his part, hit it out of the park when it came to finding a cold case he could investigate. Would you believe he came across it by accident after inquiring about the case on WebSleuths.com? What a stroke of luck.
If Lindsay was a trained journalist, however, I think this podcast would have played out differently.
Lindsay mentioned on more than one occasion that the reason for movement on the case was because of his podcast. If the words didn’t come out of his mouth, he shared recordings of others saying the same thing.
This doesn’t sit well with me.
A trained storyteller would never use a tragedy for personal gain. And while Lindsay’s motivation to tell this story was respectable, the way he inserted himself (and the podcast) into the story was not. There was too much promotion around how Up and Vanished solved the case.
Will this become “a thing” in 2018? Will the trend of investigative podcasts and cold case solvers eventually give way to criticism of how we tell these stories?
It’s not hard to imagine a scandal where a true crime podcaster plants clues or purposefully withholds information to shift the focus of an investigation to better ratings.
The battle for listeners is a constant one.
It might just be a matter of time before we see a podcaster try to boost downloads by nefarious means.