|Hosted by||Phoebe Judge|
|Original release||January 2014– present|
Criminal is an independently-produced podcast that focuses on true crime. It is recorded in the studios of WUNC in Chapel Hill, NC, and is part of the Radiotopia network from PRX. The show describes itself as telling "stories of people who've done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle."
History and development
Phoebe Judge in an interview with The Boston Globe
Lauren Spohrer, Phoebe Judge, and Eric Mennel met while working on The Story with Dick Gordon at WUNC. After the program ended, they decided to make a podcast together. Remarking that there was an overlap between fans of podcasts and fans of the fictional procedural Law & Order, Spohrer suggested that they make their podcast about crime. The show launched in January 2014. Nadia Wilson came on as a producer who joined the show in September 2016. Meanwhile, Spohrer was working as a WUNC producer who was teaching essay writing at Duke University; Judge was anchoring the station's broadcast of the program Here & Now; and Mennel was a producer at All Things Considered.
Criminal tells a different story in each episode across a wide range of topics. For example, the show has covered a mother-daughter coroner team and an African-American man who was wrongfully shot by police in front of his mother and father. Spohrer and Judge have said they find episodes by looking up topics they are interested in until they find one that may be suitable for the show. Then, they conduct a pre-interview with the subject to find out the person's willingness and suitability to be covered in the show. Once a story has been decided, the team will develop interview questions, and Judge conducts the interview, often in person. In-person interviews require travel and procurement of a studio. Then two will work on a rough draft, before presenting it to a third for input, so that, according to Judge, that person "can be a fresh set of ears." After the first long edit, there's a second draft, and a final edit. Judge records her narration, then Spohrer will edit the piece together. The first season was recorded in the closet bedrooms of either Spohrer's or Mennel's room.
In interviews, Judge has explained that episodes that center around a single interview or straightforward story can take as little as 25 hours to produce. But other stories that require more investigation can take up to 70 hours.
New episodes come out twice a month, on Fridays. Nadia Wilson is the senior producer, alongside assistant producer Susannah Roberson. Audio mixing is done by Rob Byers. Julienne Alexander makes original illustrations for each episode. The crew works on multiple episodes at a time.
Criminal was described as "the best new radio show in America" in The Huffington Post, as "the thinking person's true crime podcast" in The News & Observer, and as "the purist's true crime series" in Time. Contrasting the program with the podcast Serial, Jason Loviglio of RadioDoc Review said thata "cofounders and producers Lauren Spohrer and Phoebe Judge (and recently hired producer Nadia Wilson) ...[have] moved beyond mere crime journalism to something that aspires to a bit more philosophical heft," adding, "Original artwork by Julienne Alexander adds distinctive nuance."
Critics have included Criminal in lists of best podcasts. In its selection of "The 50 Best Podcasts of 2016," The Atlantic wrote, "Criminal's ethos sets the true-crime bar high." Criminal was chosen by Wired as one of the Best Podcasts of 2015, and was included twice in Vulture's annual lists: once on The 10 Best Podcasts and also the 10 Best Podcast Episodes of 2015, where it was described as "a true-crime podcast that understands crime as something sociological, historical, even anthropological — that crime is a function of people, time, and place." The episode "695-BGK" was one of nine award winners at the 2015 Third Coast International Audio Festival. In March 2017, Entertainment Weekly included the program on its list of the best "true-crime" podcasts.
Criminal's first live show was held at the Motorco in Durham, North Carolina, a venue which is within walking distance of Judge's home at the time.
- "Criminal podcast, review: These skilfully shaded crime cases are such". The Independent. 2015-04-01. Retrieved 2016-05-29.
- Rao, Sonia (2 Nov 2016). "'Criminal' podcasters will take to the stage in Somerville". The Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts: B12 – via Newspapers.com.
- "This Is Criminal: The Best New Radio Show in America". The Huffington Post. 2014-08-15. Retrieved 2016-05-29.
- "ABOUT | Criminal". thisiscriminal.com. Archived from the original on 2016-05-26. Retrieved 2016-05-29.
- McDonald, Glenn (July 6, 2017). "'Just tell a story': Behind the scenes at the thinking person's true crime podcast". The News & Observer. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
- Partin, Will (30 July 2014). "Three public radio veterans go independent with a podcast on the criminal mind". INDY Week. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
- Locker, Melissa (2015-09-24). "Criminal: the podcast that's a life of crime". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-05-29.
- Kennings, Josh K (October 12, 2015). "A Q&A with Criminal's Phoebe Judge". Josh Jennings: Freelance Journalist. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
- Gross, Daniel A. (March 8, 2016). "Annotation Tuesday! "Criminal" and "The Fifth Suspect"". Nieman Foundation. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
- Huberdeau, Jennifer (February 14, 2020). "'Criminal' Live Show: A 'look behind the curtain' of popular podcast". The Berkshire Eagle. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
- "'Just tell a story': Behind the scenes at the thinking person's true crime podcast". newsobserver. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
- Locker, Melissa. "Serial: What to Watch, Hear and Read If You're Obsessed with the Podcast". TIME.com. Retrieved 2016-05-29.
- Loviglio, Jason (10 February 2017). "Criminal: journalistic rigour, gothic tales and philosophical heft". RadioDoc Review. 3 (1): 1–7. doi:10.14453/rdr.v3i1.3. ISSN 2203-5176.
- "Waiting for Serial? Try Some of These, Our Favorite Podcasts". WIRED. 28 December 2015.
- "The 10 Best Podcasts and 10 Best Podcast Episodes of 2015". Vulture. 11 December 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
- "The 10 Best Podcasts and 10 Best Podcast Episodes of 2015". Vulture. 2015-12-11. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
- "Episode 18: 695BGK (4.3.2015)". thisiscriminal.com. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
- "Third Coast International Audio Festival :: 695-BGK Integirty". Third Coast International Audio Festival.
- Everett, Cristina (March 17, 2017). "Best True-Crime Podcasts". Entertainment Weekly (1457/1458): 100.
- "Criminal Podcast". The Webby Awards. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
- "Criminal". The Webby Awards. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
- Kastrenakes, Jacob (20 May 2020). "Here are all the winners of the 2020 Webby Awards". The Verge. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
- "5 Burning Questions with WUNC's Phoebe Judge". Durham Magazine. 27 October 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2020.