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‘Serial’ Host Sarah Koenig On Stories Without Concrete Endings

Meredith Heuer
Sarah Koenig previously was a producer for 'This American Life' before creating 'Serial.'

Serial reshaped the audio world last fall, spurring 80 million downloads and a months-long conversation about the decade-old murder of a Baltimore teenager and the young man convicted of killing her.

Serial host and co-creator Sarah Koenig is touring Texas this weekend -- Austin on Saturday, Fort Worth on Sunday and Dallas on Monday. She sat down to talk about making the 12-part podcast that became a binge-listening sensation.

Interview Highlights: Sarah Koenig…

…On recreating Serial’s success in upcoming seasons:

“All of us at Serial are pretty realistic that our second story will not garner the same numbers of listeners as the first, and that’s okay. As long as we’re excited about the story, we like the story and we care about it, like we’re really just trying to focus on that. You just forge ahead, there’s really nothing else you can do.”

…On the lack of a concrete ending to the first season:

“We didn’t plan an ending [because] we didn’t know what we didn’t know…I did a ton of reporting before we starting making the podcast – so I probably reported for almost a year – so I knew a lot of what we had, but when started making the first [couple of] episodes, I had no idea how it was going to end.

I didn’t fret about that too much because your reporting takes you somewhere, so I knew I would get somewhere. I was comfortable with that. I’m not so sure the listeners were quite as comfortable with that.”

…On whether she’s sick of people talking about Serial:

"No, I don’t want people to stop talking [about it]. I’m really glad that people took the time to listen to a 10-hour audio documentary, you know what I mean? I just think that’s weirdly, oddly exciting that you can have something that’s really carefully reported, really meticulously fact-checked, done slowly, presented slowly…and people like it." 

...On whether talking about "Serial" makes her feel like Mick Jagger singing "Satisfaction" over and over again:

"No, not yet. Like in another 10 years, if anyone remembers any of this, ask me that. Maybe I'll feel more like Mick Jagger."

Texas Appearances

  • Saturday, Aug. 1  Sarah Koenig headlines at the Long Center in Austin. Find tickets here.
  • Sunday, Aug. 2 –She'll be the closing speaker at the Podcast Movement conference in Fort Worth’s Omni Hotel. Find tickets here.
  • Monday, Aug. 3 – Sarah will discuss "Binge-Worthy Journalism" on the final night of the summerlong #thinkspeak series at the Winspear Opera House in the Dallas Arts District. The #thinkspeak series is a co-production of the AT&T Performing Arts Center and KERA. Find tickets here. Note: KERA members can receive a 10 percent discount on individual tickets using the promo code “TSKERA.”