As people and outlets scramble to capitalize on the podcast platform, listeners like us get inundated with lots of junk. For every S-Town, there are a host of incognito infomercials and poorly produced podcasts that aren’t worth your time. So you’ll understand why we were skeptical when we heard the Los Angeles Times had teamed with Wondery to release a podcast. Those fears of an overly promotional audio journey were quickly assuaged in the first few minutes of Dirty John.
Dirty John is a real-life crime brought to life through audio, and it will hook any Making a Murder fan within minutes. The story focuses on a mysterious man who enters the life of Debra Newell, a 59-year-old looking for love, after the two meet through a dating service. Without giving too much away, everyone can tell something’s off with this guy except for Debra, who falls for him head over heels. When Debra’s daughter starts to look into John’s past, she begins to discover inconsistencies in his story. Thus begins a creepy, enthralling, and wonderfully reported story that you’ll want to fly through in a weekend.
The series marries reporting and storytelling beautifully. There was plenty of homework done, as host/reporter Christopher Goffard talks with everyone you need to hear from to flesh out the story. You can tell this is rooted in print journalism. Then, the story is pieced together to form a gripping narrative that moves rapidly. You move from LA Times column to Hollywood blockbuster. You’re thrown right into the relationship and shit hits the fan so fast you’d think CC Sabathia tossed it up there.
Dirty John represents an exciting new avenue for newspapers. Here’s a hot medium ripe for original reporting and great stories, and the Los Angeles Times was wise to give it a shot. Yes, you will hear ads and brief asides about subscribing to the paper for more stories, but they’re unobtrusive and, frankly, welcome when the quality of the content is this high. You want to pitch us a subscription after some shoddy piece of noise? Yeah, no thanks. You want to do it after putting something together this compelling and well executed? You earned that right.
At only six episodes long, Dirty John is a quick binge. Hell, you could finish it in a couple commutes, depending on how far you travel. We’d recommend hoping on it now, as everyone will be talking about it soon. You can listen and learn more here.