bestof2014-5

Every day between now and Christmas morning, we’ll share the twenty-five stories that engaged, enchanted, amused and amazed us the most in 2014. If you missed them, now’s your chance to catch up; if you’re looking for a gift for the wonk in your life, then these are our most enthusiastic recommendations!

Today, Serial.

Few would have predicted, just three months ago, that a long-form spin-off from the venerable radio institution This American Life would attract quite as much attention as Serial has; certainly, no-one could have foreseen that the investigation of a fifteen-year-old murder case would rejuvenate the entire medium of podcasting.

The show caught the public imagination from the very first episode. We learned about Hae Min and the circumstances of her death, and we learned about Adnan Syed and the circumstances of his conviction. We speculated about Jay, the lead prosecution witness, and Don, the oddly-absent boyfriend. Over coffee and the watercooler, we discussed cultural subtext and prejudice, notions of innocence and reasonable doubt, theories and conjecture, and MailKimp.

Serial is vibrant, human, personal journalism. It rejects the impersonal sheen of purported objectivity, and embraces instead a complex, messy, contradictory perspective that refuses to reduce any person or group to a caricature. Despite what some critics have claimed, Serial isn’t compelling because it’s exploitative or cheap; rather, it rests on a solid foundation of intellectual and emotional honesty.

And perhaps most remarkably in 2014, it is journalism that treats its audience like the adults they are.

The season won’t end with a startling reversal of Adnan Syed’s fortunes; it won’t involve the discovery of a new smoking gun that definitively implicates someone else, or removes all doubt as to Adnan’s guilt. It will, however, leave us with a greater understanding of the people around us, in all their complicated and paradoxical glory.

Get it now: Serial.