10 Best Investigative Podcasts for Journalists

1. Serial

“Serial” is a popular investigative journalism podcast that was created by journalist Sarah Koenig. The first season of “Serial” was released in 2014 and gained widespread acclaim for its in-depth exploration of the murder of Hae Min Lee, a high school student in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1999.

Adnan Syed, her ex-boyfriend, was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison. The podcast delves into the details of the case, questioning the evidence, witness testimonies, and the overall reliability of the legal process. Koenig re-examines the case with the help of investigative journalism and interviews with various people involved.

“Serial” is known for its captivating storytelling, meticulous research, and the way it presents multiple perspectives on the case. The format of the podcast is serial in nature, with each episode building on the previous one, creating a narrative that unfolds over the course of the season.

The success of the first season led to subsequent seasons, each covering a different true crime story. However, the first season remains particularly notable for its impact. If you’re an investigative journalist, you must listen to this podcast.

Link to Podcast: Serial Podcast

2. Reveal

Reveal is produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. It is a long-form investigative journalism podcast that covers a wide range of topics, including social justice, government accountability, environmental issues, and human rights. The podcast often features in-depth reporting, interviews with key figures, and compelling storytelling to shed light on hidden or underreported stories and presents them in a documentary-style format, using interviews, archival audio, and sound design to enhance the narrative. It’s a must-watch for journalists to learn how to dig deep down investigative reporting and present it to the masses in an effective way.

Link to Podcast: Reveal

3. The Daily

“The Daily” is a daily news podcast produced by The New York Times. Launched in 2017, it is hosted by Michael Barbaro, a journalist and former national political correspondent for The New York Times. The podcast covers current events including politics, culture, and international affairs, and provides in-depth analysis and interviews with journalists and experts. Each episode typically focuses on one or two major stories of the day, providing listeners with a comprehensive understanding of the story.

It has gained popularity for its informative and engaging format, breaking down complex issues and presenting them in a digestible manner. The Daily has a lot to learn for new journalists looking to polish their communication and presentation skills.

Link to Podcast: The Daily

4. In the Dark

“In the Dark” is a true crime podcast that investigates and explores criminal cases, primarily focusing on instances where flaws in the justice system may have led to wrongful convictions or failures in solving the cases. The podcast is produced by American Public Media (APM) Reports and is known for its in-depth research, storytelling, and journalistic approach.

The first season of “In the Dark” delves into the case of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year-old boy who was abducted in Minnesota in 1989. The podcast critically examines the police investigation, legal proceedings, and the impact on the community.

The second season of the podcast focuses on the case of Curtis Flowers, a man tried six times for the same crime – the 1996 murders of four people in Winona, Mississippi. The season explores issues related to racial bias, prosecutorial misconduct, and the broader implications for the criminal justice system.

Each season of “In the Dark” takes a deep dive into a specific case, combining investigative reporting with interviews, audio recordings, and expert analysis to shed light on the intricacies and flaws within the criminal justice system.

A MUST MUST listen to podcasts for investigative journalists.

Link to podcast: In the Dark

5. Criminal

Criminal is a true crime podcast that covers a diverse array of criminal cases. Hosted by Phoebe Judge, the podcast explores both historical and contemporary crimes, often from unique and lesser-known perspectives. Each episode tells a standalone story, from heists and fraud to mysterious disappearances and unusual legal cases, making an informative listen for those interested in true crime and investigative storytelling.

Phoebe’s engaging narration and the well-researched content make “Criminal” an excellent choice for those interested in true crime, storytelling, and the human experiences intertwined with criminal events. The podcast has received critical acclaim for its quality production and the unique angles it takes on criminal narratives, contributing to its popularity in the true crime podcast genre.

Link to podcast: Criminal

6. S-Town

“S-Town,” short for “Shittown,” is a podcast created by Brian Reed and produced by Serial and This American Life released in 2017, is a unique blend of true crime, investigative journalism, and character study.

The story begins with a murder mystery in the rural town of Woodstock, Alabama, when resident John B. McLemore contacts Reed with concerns about a covered-up murder. As the narrative unfolds, it takes unexpected turns, shifting its focus from a murder investigation to become an in-depth exploration of the eccentric and complex life of John B. McLemore himself. The podcast delves into McLemore’s intellect, relationships, and struggles, as well as the broader dynamics within the small Southern town.

The seven-episode series stands out for its thought-provoking examination of mental health, rural life, and societal expectations captivates listeners, Brian Reed’s reporting, and the ethical questions it raises about the responsibilities of journalists when dealing with sensitive subjects.

“S-Town” received widespread acclaim for its unique narrative structure, and it further demonstrated the power of podcasts as a medium for storytelling that goes beyond conventional genres. Hence, a MUST-LISTEN.

Link to podcast: S-Town

7. The Tip Off

“The Tip Off” is a podcast produced by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London. Hosted by Maeve McClenaghan, the podcast takes listeners behind the scenes of investigative journalism, providing an insider’s perspective on how impactful stories are uncovered and reported. Each episode features interviews with journalists who share the behind-the-scenes details of their investigations, shedding light on the challenges they faced, the sources they relied on, and the ethical considerations involved.

The Tip Off offers a unique glimpse into the journalistic process, showcasing the diligence, persistence, and determination required to bring important stories to light. It explores a variety of topics, from political scandals to corporate wrongdoing, highlighting the diverse range of issues investigative journalists tackle. By delving into the stories behind the stories, the podcast not only educates listeners about the intricacies of investigative reporting but also emphasizes the importance of journalism in holding power accountable.

Link to podcast: The Tip Off

8. The Intercept Podcast

The Intercept Podcast is an extension of The Intercept, an online news publication known for its investigative journalism and critical analysis of various issues, including politics, national security, civil liberties, and social justice.

Hosted by various journalists from The Intercept, the podcast features in-depth interviews and discussions about their investigative work and the stories they cover.

It covers a wide range of topics, often diving into government surveillance, corporate influence, and systemic issues. The discussions provide listeners with insights into the reporting process, the challenges faced by investigative journalists, and the impact of their work on public discourse.

The podcast serves as a platform for nuanced discussions on pressing issues, offering listeners a deeper understanding of the stories covered by the publication and contributing to the broader mission of The Intercept, which aims to provide independent and adversarial journalism that challenges powerful interests and promotes transparency.

Listeners interested in investigative journalism, critical analysis of current events, and a range of social and political issues will find this podcast to be a valuable resource for gaining a more comprehensive perspective on the news and the world around us.

Link to the podcast: The Intercept Podcast

9. Up and Vanished

“Up and Vanished” is a true crime podcast hosted by Payne Lindsey. It gained widespread attention for its investigative approach to unsolved cases, with a particular focus on the disappearance of Tara Grinstead, a high school teacher and beauty queen from Georgia who vanished in 2005. Payne Lindsey, a filmmaker and amateur investigator, initially started the podcast to explore the details of Grinstead’s case, which had gone cold for more than a decade.

The podcast follows Lindsey’s investigation in real-time, sharing his discoveries, interviews with key figures, and interactions with the community involved in the case. As the podcast gained popularity, it had a significant impact on the investigation itself, leading to renewed interest from law enforcement and the public.

Beyond its initial focus on Tara Grinstead, Up and Vanished has explored other cases in subsequent seasons, maintaining its commitment to shedding light on unresolved mysteries. The podcast’s success has not only contributed to raising awareness about cold cases but has also demonstrated the potential of podcasting as a medium for citizen-led investigations and community engagement in true crime stories.

Link to podcast: Up and Vanished

10. Embedded

Embedded is an investigative journalism podcast produced by NPR (National Public Radio). Unlike traditional news reporting, it takes a unique approach by embedding reporters directly into the stories. Each episode covers a wide range of topics, including politics, culture, criminal justice, and international affairs. Reporters from NPR explore and analyze complex issues by spending time with the people directly involved. This approach allows “Embedded” to go beyond the headlines, offering a more nuanced and intimate understanding of the stories.

Episodes often feature on-the-ground reporting, interviews with key figures, and a narrative style that combines storytelling with investigative journalism.

The podcast showcases the power of narrative journalism to connect listeners with the human experiences at the heart of important stories.

Link to podcast: Embedded