People are really into the 7-episode podcast about Woodstock, Alabama from the producers of Serial and This American Life: S*Town. I don’t like it. I don’t like the reporter Brian Reed who thinks he is engaged with Americana, but is really just incredibly condescending. I finally threw my hands up in frustration in Episode 5, when the colorful character, John B. McLemore, who gets Reed involved in the project, tells Reed that he knows what Reed really wanted to ask when Reed asks if McLemore felt like a friendship was a two-way street. Reed says, “Do you think your guy’s friendship was more of a friendship or more of a paternal relationship?” McLemore says, “What you wanted to say but you didn’t come out and say it is, is your guy’s relationship more of a friendship or more of a usership?” Reed responds, “No, it wasn’t what I wanted to say. It’s what you wanted to say, apparently.”
This exchange might capture everything I do not like about the podcast. Reed is trying to be the nice thoughtful sympathizing reporter, and McLemore straight called him out and said, this was what you were really thinking, the thing that was not quite as nice. First, the thing that McLemore asks is not even that different than what Reed asks, and McLemore seems to capture what is meant by “paternal relationship” well, so it is surprising that Reed resists. I’m not sure how to interpret that resistance, but it felt like Reed was upset at not having the interview control he wanted to have. Reed’s response came across as petty and inauthentic to me. McLemore shared the basic sense that Reed has, why does he have to quibble with the language in an accusatory way? Is he upset with what McLemore might be accusing him of thinking? But he is thinking that.
The exchange is so painful to hear. Read more