‘Serial’ founders offer Boston a peek behind Bergdahl series

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/03/17/serial-founders-offer-boston-a-peek-behind-bergdahl-series/

Note: This event has been postponed due to illness until April 20, 2016, according to event organizers. Please check the organizer’s website for more details.

BOSTON – Newly released documents show that accused deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had a psychiatric disorder when he left his post in Afghanistan, according to a U.S. Army panel, shedding new light Thursday on a case that has come into focus for many through “Serial,” one of the most popular podcasts ever.

The diagnosis of the soldier, made last summer in an  Army Sanity Board Evaluation, according to the Associated Press, was released by his lawyers as preparations for his military trial continue. Bergdahl’s actions and motives in 2009 have been the subject of “Serial” segments this year, which have included interviews with Army officials, members of the Taliban and Bergdahl.

The sergeant from Idaho allegedly deserted his unit, was captured by a Taliban-affiliated group and held for five years before he was swapped for five Afghan prisoners in the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His disappearance led to attempts to rescue him, which some say cost six soldiers in his battalion their lives.

Questions raised by Serial include whether Bergdahl walked away from his post for an honorable cause, and whether his actions stemmed from mental illness. The show’s previous season focused on a Baltimore murder case and has helped prompt a bid for a new trial.

Serial’s creators, Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder, will appear in late April at Symphony Hall to give the public a peek behind the curtain and discuss aspects of putting together the podcast, which can be downloaded from the show’s website or on Apple’s iTunes online service. Their now biweekly show can also be streamed over the Pandora Internet service.

During the podcast’s first season, which began in 2014, Serial explored whether Adnan Syed, a Baltimore man convicted of murder, was actually innocent in the killing of his ex-girlfriend in 1999. The case led to a February hearing on whether to give Syed a new trial.

As Serial progressed in its examination of the Syed case, the podcast became a cultural phenomenon. It was the fastest ever to reach 5 million downloads from iTunes, despite delivering in-depth reporting over 30- to 60-minute segments, in contrast to most podcasts, which are short with brief soundbites.

Koenig worked for more than 10 years as a producer of public radio’s “This American Life” before she and Snyder started “Serial.” Earlier in her journalism career, Koenig covered criminal justice and was a State House reporter with the Baltimore Sun and New Hampshire’s Concord Monitor. Snyder is senior producer of “This American Life,” which she runs with Ira Glass, and has been with that show since 1997.

During the Boston event April 20, Koenig and Snyder will use their favorite recordings to tell personal stories, explain the construction of certain Serial episodes and discuss journalistic tactics, according to Celebrity Series of Boston, the presentation’s promoter. The event begins at 8 p.m. and tickets start at $45.

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter @karabettis.