One of the nation's most popular podcasts will tell one of the Army's most talked-about stories in its new season, which started Thursday.
The first episode of the second season of "Serial" includes snippets of conversations between accused deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and filmmaker Mark Boal, who worked as a writer and producer on "Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Hurt Locker." It's the first time that the public has heard from the sergeant at length about his ordeal, which began with him disappearing from his post in Afghanistan in 2009, continued through a controversial prisoner exchange in 2014, and now rests in the Army court system. A decision on whether he'll will face court-martial is expected soon, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Maxim magazine reported that podcast host Sarah Koenig had interviewed soldiers in Berghdal's former unit and attended some of his courtroom proceedings.
Since then, the Serial team has spent significant time talking to many people for the story, not just about Bergdahl and his case, but also about the larger context of military operations and culture as it relates to what happened.
"This is a world we're just getting into — we have talked to a lot of people who have lent their stories and explained a lot to us. We're so curious about wanting to hear from people about what they think, what we might be getting wrong or what might be misrepresented," said Julie Snyder, "Serial" executive producer. "We have a Tumblr page devoted to questions and feedback because that felt more direct than just sending an email or putting it on Facebook," although there are options to interact with the show through Facebook and Twitter as well.
The Army in March charged Bergdahl with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The second charge can carry a life sentence.
Bergdahl's case brought on an avalanche of criticism and condemnation, particularly from members of the military who believe he deserted his post. Snyder said that wasn't unexpected, particularly from the military community, but she hopes the show starts a broader conversation among the American public that may be less familiar with the story and with the nuances of what it means to go to war and serve.
"I think the emotion and the anger and rage is so a part of this experience and this story … and certainly Bowe has a story to tell, but it's not just Bowe's story," Snyder said. "This affected a lot of people and happened to a lot of people, and we talked to a lot of people that have really significant parts of this story to tell. And that's the full story we want to tell, the one that goes beyond just one person's experience, beyond just the shouting punditry where this story has lived for a while."