4 min read

State of the Blog: Thoughts on True Crime

Hello and welcome (back) to Mentally? A Magpie. This is your State of the Blog for July 19th 2021. Scroll down for what’s happened and what’s coming if you don’t want to be a part of my True Crime chat. 

I want to start out by saying: I’m thinking with his post. I haven’t found much about this topic that is a clear “not just an opinion”. I want to see what others think, and make a follow up post about the topic in general. Especially if anyone has decent series of resources on this.

I have been thinking about my podcast intake in the last few weeks. Probably spurred forward by my shift away from Apple Podcasts, and then release of the GoodPods indie search toggle function. I realized I have been sticking with the same podcast circles. I’m ready for a change. For the most part, I’m excited to dive into indie podcasts. However, I also will be treading very carefully, and looking closely at the podcasts I find before I listen. I take in a lot of true crime, and the reason for that is one I’ve thought about a lot. Especially recently. I’ve been wondering how I should approach some of these podcasts, and if a podcast comes up, should I look before I listen? I think definitely. Creators need to tread lightly, and listeners do too.

This week I have seen a number of people talk about the ethics of true crime as a storytelling niche. How we talk about true crime needs to be addressed and policed within the community of people who intake this type of media, outside of “I do/do not like their style”. It does come down to that some people simply will not have the understanding of how they are presenting these cases to do them justice. Unless one has the experience as a journalist or there is not the oversight of a network (and their lawyers); it gets harder. I know I wouldn’t touch putting one of these together with a ten foot pole. A podcaster may not have the support, resources, or downright skill to be a true crime podcaster.

I’m going to use My Favorite Murder to talk about this. I know their podcast well, I have listened to nearly every episode over the years and find them to be generally ok with their presentation. They’ve messed up, and they also backtrack, adjust and learn. They have marked their lines carefully with how they discuss cases, and how stories are chosen for them to talk about. They’re a skimming true crime podcast, rather than a deep dive. There was an empathy and understanding that came built into their system more than anything. I think that comes from each host having an understanding of true crime, storytelling, and the entertainment industry as a whole. They honestly got lucky in some ways to have pulled this off with relatively few major snags.*

Ah yes. The success. Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark have made a lot of money off of talking about tragedy. Is it okay that this has happened? This is where I think it’s a tough line. These two women were a lot like me and my friends who bounce true crime stories. They made their conversations public like so many podcasters did and they just… took off. Are they to blame for their success? Are we to blame for buying into it? We all see what the market is like. Every day there’s a new let’s talk about murder podcast popping up. Someone could be making money off of that. The kicker is, most of the time the money does not make it back to the affected individuals. Is it different when it is a skim versus a deep dive? Should it be? How do we reconcile making profit from essentially exploiting tragedy? Who does tragedy belong to when it doesn’t just affect the people it happens to directly?  

I do think we need to talk about true crime in general. Difficult things need to be discussed because, watered down, if we aren’t comfortable talking about them when they happen to other people, we will never be comfortable stepping forward for help if it happens to us. That’s my big thought for the week: How do we talk about true crime and in what ways is it appropriate and not appropriate? I’ve stepped away from podcasts because I felt like their work was getting too inappropriate.

On the other hand of exploiting tragedy: I take comfort in the fact that My Favorite Murder does a decent amount of charity work, and their network has podcasts specifically run and structured to look at underrepresented crime. The Murder Squad’s listeners have lead to cases being solved. The Fall Line looks at underrepresented and under investigated cases in the southwestern United States, particularly those of indigenous peoples. With the support of the Exactly Right Network these podcasts gain traction, listeners, and then perhaps get cases looked and hopefully solved. People ask these podcasts to put cases to light, and essentially put pressure on investigators. We live in an imperfect society: sometimes it’s needed. 

So there’s some degree of good that has happened. Can we weigh good and evil? Should we? What is the boundary? There are some clear ones, and then some gray ones. I’m not even talking about taste. I am talking about should and should not. 

I’ll end this thought on a personal pet peeve, that is a clear boundary. If you go through merchandise for My Favorite Murder, you will not see any mention of any serial killer, or specific crime in particular. It’s all jokes from the podcast, or related to Georgia Hardstark’s late cat, Elvis. I’ll scroll through Etsy looking for pithy stickers. I see things that don’t feel okay. People are selling items with the faces of serial killers on them, with jokes, and not good ones. I hope I do not have to point out the obvious difference between these two. 

Last Week on the Blog: 

Release day review of a new Thriller Drama: Aftershock 

A list of a few of my favorite long running podcasts. 

Coming Up on the Blog: 

Hopefully, soon, a book review or five. If you’re curious about my book reviews, please check them out. I have a few up! 

A look at Monster: DC Sniper, maybe Myths, Baby! As well as a few other podcasts I’ve stumbled on. 


Note: While this discussion should happen with any true crime media, I mostly listen to podcasts. I also see an accessibility for creation that does not happen with books, or documentaries.

*their fans as a group, however, I have seen some problems