American Journalist Sarah Koenig is a former producer and guest host for the television and NPR program “This American Life” and the host and executive producer of its spinoff, “Serial.”
Koenig, who is Jewish, was born in New York City. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 1990 with a bachelor of arts in political science. She then attended Columbia University for a postgraduate degree in Russian history, but ultimately decided not to complete the program.
Koenig began her career as a reporter for her local weekly newspaper, The East Hampton Star. She then moved to Moscow, Russia, living there for several years while working for ABC and later The New York Times. After returning to the United States, she worked as a crime and political reporter for the Concord Monitor and the Baltimore Sun.
In 2004, Koenig became a producer for “This American Life” and is responsible for some of the show's most well-known episodes, including “No Coincidence, No Story,” “Switched at Birth,” “Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde,” and the Peabody Award-winning “Habeas Schmabeas,” which was about detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Koenig launched “Serial” in 2014. The program ranked number one on iTunes even before its debut and is credited with bringing mainstream attention to the podcast format. With more than 420 million downloads, it is the most listened-to podcast in history.
“Serial,” which belongs to the Serial Productions group and was acquired by The New York Times in 2020, explores a different case each season. Season one investigated the 1999 murder of 18-year-old student Hae Min Lee, season two focused on an American soldier held captive for years by the Taliban and then charged with desertion, and season three explored cases within the Justice Center Complex in the Cleveland area. In 2014, “Serial” won a Peabody Award, the first time the award had been given to a podcast.
Koenig has not taken her responsibility as a storyteller lightly as her podcast has skyrocketed in popularity.
“These are real people with families and lives, who have trusted me with their information or with their anonymity, and so it makes it nervous. It makes me really nervous,” she said in an interview with Nieman Storyboard.