For all the handwringing by smaller, independent podcasters about the entry of big media companies into the industry, here’s an example of what deeper pockets can achieve. American Public Media says it spent $100,000 per episode to develop and report In the Dark, the podcast series that in its second season uncovered new evidence that just helped a man on death row in Mississippi get his conviction overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. With 14 episodes in the series—including a just-released update— that puts production costs for In the Dark at more than $1 million.
“Making In the Dark costs roughly $100,000 per episode,” APM told listeners in a fundraising pitch. “Living and reporting in Mississippi, scanning hundreds of thousands of court documents ... it all helps lead to a result like this one.”
Host Madeleine Baran, who reported the story along with producer Samara Freemark, echoed that sentiment in her own message on Twitter to fans of the show. “Facts aren’t cheap,” she wrote. “We couldn’t do this kind of in-depth reporting without support from listeners. Your donations make our work possible.” Baran says she and Freemark lived in Mississippi for nearly a year as they tried to ferret out how Cutis Flowers could have been tried six times for the same crime. “It’s a story about race, junk science, jailhouse informants, and power of prosecutors in this country,” she told followers.
As we reported last week, The Supreme Court last Friday handed down a 7-2 decision overturning a 2010 conviction that said Flowers murdered four people in a Winona, MS furniture store in 1996. The Court said his constitutional rights had been violated since the district attorney in the case intentionally kept African Americans off Flowers’ jury. The case presented to the court included reporting from APM Reports, which uncovered a pattern of racist jury selection by District Attorney Doug Evans, as laid out in the second season of In the Dark.
Reporters for APM were back in Mississippi on Friday when the decision was released in Washington. They tracked Evans down to a Mexican restaurant in Kosciusko, MS, a small town near Winona. Evans disputed the Court’s conclusions that he attempted to keep African Americans off the jury. “That is not true,” he said. Evans also said he has not yet decided whether he will move forward with a seventh trial against Flowers.
Over the weekend In the Dark released a follow-up episode entitled “The Decision” that examines what could come next.