Podcasts Are the Future of Journalism


Andrew Heying, Deputy Opinion Editor

In the wake of the shocking 2016 election results, the traditional media has been criticized for being inaccurate, biased and even fake. While a significant portion of this criticism is just a result of President Donald Trump’s habit of attacking everyone who disagrees with him, there is some truth to these claims. Mainstream media did in fact convince the country that Hillary Clinton had essentially no chance of losing, which turned out to be incredibly misleading. This shocking turn of events revealed why it is so important that Americans do not allow one, two or even three media outlets to control the national conversation — diversity of thought is critical. To achieve this, reporting must come from numerous independent individuals who are not controlled or influenced by elite media outlets, and the best way to achieve this is through a relatively new medium: podcasts.

In 2014, Serial — a podcast tyat focused on re-examining the murder of Hae Min Lee during its breakout season —  became an international phenomenon, and it introduced the beauty of podcasts to millions. The program was led by Sarah Koenig, who thoroughly looked at various questionable components of Adnan Syed’s conviction. The podcast ultimately created so much public outcry surrounding the case that Syed was granted a new trial, which is still ongoing. Similar situations have occurred with other podcasts, such as Up and Vanished. The series followed an independent documentary filmmaker who looked at a twelve year old cold case in Georgia. Within months, the podcast created enough attention that new leads were reported, leading to the arrest of two individuals. Similarly, the podcast titled In the Dark uncovered years of police corruption in Stearns County, Minn., while also looking at various ethical and legal flaws in the sex offender registry — two topics almost entirely ignored by mainstream media.

To consider these developments is quite astounding. People often think that in order to create change as a journalist, they need a large platform such as CNN or MSNBC. However, podcasts continually prove that effective journalism simply requires perseverance and a microphone. None of the voices behind these aforementioned podcasts were household names like Megyn Kelly or Anderson Cooper.  They nevertheless brought attention to and even enacted change in immensely important cases.

There is no denying that the dawn of technology created immense challenges for the journalism field. These include everything from the fake news epidemic to the echo chamber phenomenon. However, technology also opens endless doors for journalists. Young people interested in enacting change through investigative work should stop obsessing over eventually working for The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal and instead grab a microphone and get to work.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 3rd print edition.

Email Andrew Heying at [email protected].