S-Town Review

Firstly, I would like to ask you what your opinions on podcasts are? I have little to no experience in regards to podcasts due to the fact that I am more of a fan of visual media. My brain processes much better when I not only have an auditory factor but also a visual factor. By this description, I enjoy shows and movies more than I do podcasts. I also find it very interesting when people say that they are capable of multitasking when listening to a podcast. I had issues focusing and comprehending audio books so I had the same experience when listening to a podcast. I know people who are able to listen to a podcast while doing other tasks such as driving or cooking. From prior experience, I have learned that my own self, is not capable of multitasking while listening to something that is complex with a plethora of details.

Now let’s get into the most recent podcast that I listened to, “S-town.” I can honestly say that when I first began listening to this, I was unaware that it was a podcast. I thought that this was an audio book that was being read to me due to the fact that Bryan Reed’s words seemed very scripted. It wasn’t until he started to implement phone calls with John B that I figured out that this was not an audiobook (you’re probably thinking this is quite sad; however, this is an honest review of my experience with “S-Town”). I felt as though episode 1 of this podcast did an adequate job of catching my attention. The way the material was presented, with this random man from a random town in Alabama claiming there was an unsolved mystery. I was intrigued and wanted to know more about this “murder.” Episode 2 also kept me on the edge of my seat but it took a drastic turn at the very end of this episode. When we discovered that this “murder” that John B had discussed in his emails and phone calls was not actually a murder, I was quite perplexed on where exactly this podcast could go from there. Once it was revealed that John B had killed himself, I became even more perplexed on how there was still several more episodes that I had to listen to. I would classify episodes 1 and 2 as well thought out and interesting. However, I felt as though this story began to decline beginning with episode 3. The rest of the episodes were solely about John B and what was going to happen to the life that he left behind. I found myself dragging through these episodes, just waiting for a purpose to develop. Unfortunately, I do not believe that I ever found this underlying purpose. I also found the majority of the presented information to be unnecessary. For example, Bryan Reed investigates this idea of mercury poisoning. After all of his investigations, the conclusion that he came to was that it was possible that John B MAY have developed mercury poisoning. I found the last 5 episodes to be quite disappointing due to lack of content and purpose.

As for the ethics that this podcast, I have a few thoughts that I would like to entertain you with. There were several instances where I thought that some of the things that Bryan Reed did were questionable but it was not until after I discovered the long list of lawsuits that NPR was receiving for this podcast that I realized all of the unethical activities. There was one distinct part of this story that rubbed me the wrong way. This was after John B had passed away. Bryan Reed put a segment of conversation that he had had with John B prior to his death. This conversation discussed John B’s sexuality and at one point, John B asked Bryan Reed to stop recording so that he could tell him something. Bryan Reed did stop the recording; however, he decided to repeat what John B said off the record in his own words. He claimed that he had two reasons for thinking that this was okay. He said that one, John B was no longer around and two, that John B was an atheist. I’m not exactly sure how either of these reasons lead Reed to believe that telling this private information without permission was acceptable. I felt as though the further along I got into the podcast, the more the story became an exploitation of the people in Woodstock, Alabama rather than a story with plot and purpose.