The ads for the latest "Undisclosed" podcast are compelling, no doubt about that.
“The Killing of Freddie Gray,” an ad that ran in Sunday’s Baltimore Sun said. “There’s the story you’ve been told, and there’s what really happened.”
The producers who brought “The State V. Adnan Syed” podcast to millions of listeners aren’t trying to hype the audience with ads like that, executive producer Dennis Robinson said in a telephone interview this week.
“Believe it or not, when we went back and forth in our team, over the course of several emails and phone calls, we feel that the title that we came to is the most honest representation of how we believe the events occurred,” Robinson explained.
“It’s obvious that he was killed. Now whether or not there were homicidal intentions beyond that, we leave that to our listeners to make a determination after they hear the assertion of the facts that we put out there," he said. "But, at the end of the day, Freddie Gray was killed and we believe the title should reflect that rather than equivocating with something that was less honest about the manner in which he died."
Charges were brought against six Baltimore officers in the 2015 death of Gray. The offenses ranged from second-degree depraved-heart murder to manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.
None of the officers were ultimately convicted on any of the charges.
Robinson said episodes from the three cycles of “Undisclosed" podcasts have been downloaded 170 million times. In 2016, it was rated one of iTunes’ 25 most popular podcasts.
“I think the key ingredient for our podcast is that we approach each podcast as lawyers would approach a case,” said Robinson, who is a lawyer. “By that I mean lawyers look at the breadth of data points available to them. We can’t put out every single data point across on an hourlong audio program. So, our job essentially becomes to tell a story.”
Media critic David Zurawik talks about how media influenced the process that led to Adnan Syed's request for a new trial that was granted by Judge Martin Welch. (Emma Patti Harris/Baltimore Sun video)
The three hosts of the podcast – Rabia Chaudry, Colin Miller and Susan Simpson – are also lawyers.
Chaudry is the lawyer and family friend who brought Syed’s case to Sarah Koenig, which led to the hit podcast, “Serial.” Undisclosed’s first podcast was intended in part to expand on what was covered in Koenig’s telling of the case. It also took a clear position on what Rabia has championed as Syed’s innocence.
Robinson says the team's approach is much the same as that of a good attorney.
“You’re trying to frame the story for the audience and get them to your side of the story,” he said. “I don’t think good lawyers pick and choose the facts that makes their case. I think they do their best to try to show the strongest facts in a light that logically speaks to their case. I’m pretty confident we do that on our podcast.”
“The Killing of Freddie Gray” will consist of at least 15 episodes presented in chronological order starting with Gray’s arrest, Robinson said.
It will debut at 6 p.m. March 6 with subsequent episodes arriving each Monday at that time, according to the executive producer.
In addition to the Monday podcasts, there will be a discussion of each week’s podcast on Thursday, which will feature a “prominent Baltimore personality” as host along with some of the people involved in the story as panelists.
The host for what Robinson characterized as a “Thursday talk show” will likely be announced in ads next week, he said.
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