A This American Life story may help a woman prove that Washington, D.C., police violated her civil rights when a detective obtained a false confession from her 18 years ago. Kim Crafton filed a lawsuit Sept. 3 against the Washington Metropolitan Police over the 1994 incident, which became the subject of an October 2013 TAL story. The report featured D.C. Officer James Trainum, who had interrogated Crafton, discussing what led to the false confession in her case. In February 1994, Crafton, who was 19 at the time, confessed to killing D.C. resident Lawrence O’Connell.
This American Life announced today that it will launch a new podcast this fall, titled Serial. TAL host Ira Glass said on the show’s blog that the weekly podcast will feature longform investigative stories broken into chapters, with a chapter per podcast. It will launch with a crime story that will run for 12 weeks. “Our hope is that it’ll play like a great HBO or Netflix series, where you get caught up with the characters and the thing unfolds week after week, but with a true story, and no pictures,” Glass wrote on the blog. “Like House of Cards, but you can enjoy it while you’re driving.”
The expanding portfolio of Public Radio Exchange, the Internet-based distribution platform, has prompted some public radio insiders to question whether NPR’s Public Radio Satellite System can adapt to stiffer competition for business from content producers. The latest program to move to PRX is the widely carried This American Life, whose producers announced May 28 that they would take over distribution of the show and rely on PRX to deliver weekly editions to stations. TAL will split from distributor Public Radio International July 1, ending a 17-year relationship. That announcement came on the heels of a May 7 decision by Chicago’s WFMT to move its 200 weekly hours of music and spoken-word programming to PRX. Other producers have told Steve Robinson, WFMT executive v.p., that they may be interested in following suit.
The producers of public radio’s This American Life will take over distribution of their show starting July 1, using Public Radio Exchange to deliver the program to stations. TAL and Public Radio International, its distributor of 17 years, announced in March that they would part ways effective July 1. Under the agreement announced Wednesday, Chicago Public Media and Ira Glass will handle distribution and underwriting, while Marge Ostroushko will be responsible for marketing and station relations. Ostroushko handled those duties before PRI picked up the show in 1997. “We’re excited and proud to be partners now with PRX,” Glass said in a statement.
After This American Life parts with longtime distributor Public Radio International July 1, it could become public radio’s most widely carried show without a major distributor representing it. That’s if the show pursues that option. Program host and creator Ira Glass has hinted in interviews with the New York Times and Chicago media reporter Robert Feder that he’s considering self-distribution. But there may be good reasons that few shows have gone that route. Self-distribution poses challenges that few resource-strapped program creators are willing to take on, including handling their own billing, marketing and station relations.