Opinion

Is It So Wrong to Love True Crime?

Produced by ‘The Argument’

Does our culture have a true crime problem?

The genre seems ubiquitous — there’s always a new documentary to stream or a grisly podcast to binge, not to mention entire cable channels dedicated to true crime programming.

Some, including Jane Coaston, the host of “The Argument,” call themselves “obsessed” with the genre. Is that a bad thing? Does being a fan of crime storytelling inform the listener of the failures of our criminal justice system, bring exoneration to wrongfully convicted people and reveal possible dangers in the world? Or does true crime cause net harm as it twists the ways we think about punitive justice, perpetuate myths around who the typical victims of violent crimes are and convince many that their armchair sleuthing could solve a case?

Jane takes the debate around consuming and creating modern true crime content to two true crime creators: Rabia Chaudry, an attorney, the author of “Adnan’s Story” and the host of the “Undisclosed” podcast, and Sarah Weinman, a writer and editor and the author of “The Real Lolita” and the forthcoming “Scoundrel.”

[You can listen to this episode of “The Argument” on Apple, Spotify or Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

Mentioned in this episode:

  • Amelia Tait in The Guardian, “The internet has turned us all into amateur detectives”

  • “Suspect,” a podcast by Wondery and Campside

  • Elon Green in The Appeal, “The Enduring, Pernicious Whiteness of True Crime”

  • Helen Rosner’s interview with Jean Murley in The New Yorker, “The Long American History of ‘Missing White Woman Syndrome’”

  • “In the Dark,” a podcast by American Public Media

  • “Murder in Alliance,” a podcast by Obsessed Network

  • “Through the Cracks,” a podcast by WAMU and PRX

(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)

Credit…H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock, via Getty Images

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“The Argument” is produced by Phoebe Lett, Elisa Gutierrez and Vishakha Darbha and edited by Alison Bruzek and Sarah Geis; fact-checking by Kate Sinclair; music and sound design by Isaac Jones; additional engineering by Carole Sabouraud and Sonia Herrero; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

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