S-Town Investigative

Hosted By: Brian Reed
Produced By: This American Life

It all started with an email with the subject line “John B McLemore lives in Shittown Alabama.”

What transpired was an initial investigation into the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder followed by a twist in the case that no one saw coming. This twist leads to listeners learning more about just who John B. McLemore was and the life he lived.

S-Town Podcast Host:

Brian Reed is the senior producer of the public radio show and podcast This American Life. In his seven years with the show, he has created some of the program’s most ambitious stories, including “The Secret Recordings of Carmen Segarra,” an investigation into the Federal Reserve’s supervision of Goldman Sachs; “Cops See It Differently,” a nuanced look at the relationship between African Americans and the police; “Abdi and the Golden Ticket,” which follows a Somali refugee desperately trying to get to America; and “What Happened at Dos Erres,” the story of a massacre in Guatemala and its reverberations decades later, which earned him a Peabody Award.

Praise from Listeners*:

  • Social Commentary: S-Town’s dedication to exploring important social issues and shedding light on the intricacies of small-town America resonated with listeners, sparking conversations and fostering understanding.
  • Emotional Impact: The podcast’s storytelling evoked a strong emotional response in listeners, eliciting empathy and leaving a lasting impression.
  • Meticulous Research: The attention to detail evident in every episode added depth and authenticity to the narrative, enhancing the overall listening experience.
  • Thoughtful Reflection: S-Town inspired listeners to question their own perceptions of truth, morality, and the human condition, leading to introspection and meaningful discussions.

Criticisms from Listeners*:

  • Pacing: The slow pace of the narrative and the meandering nature of the storytelling have been cited as drawbacks by some listeners. The series delves into various tangents and side stories, which can be seen as detracting from the central plotline.
  • Ethical Concerns: Some critics have raised ethical questions regarding the exploitation of John B. McLemore’s personal life and mental health struggles for entertainment purposes. The podcast delves deeply into McLemore’s private life, which has led to debates about the line between journalistic exploration and invasion of privacy.
  • Accuracy and Bias: Given that the story is based on the perspectives and accounts of individuals involved, there have been debates about the reliability and accuracy of certain events and character portrayals. Additionally, some listeners have raised concerns about potential biases in the narrative and the lack of diverse perspectives represented.
  • Cultural Representation: S-Town has been criticized for reinforcing certain stereotypes about rural communities in the South, particularly in its portrayal of Woodstock, Alabama. Some argue that the podcast perpetuates a narrow view of these communities without fully capturing their diversity and complexity.

* The True Crime Connection teams aims to keep this as an unbiased search database. In order to do this, we curate what people love the most and the least about a podcast by analysing ApplePodcast reviews.

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Both show and individual episode descriptions for listings on the TCC website have been submitted directly from the podcast featured or found online. We do our best to make sure all information is accurate, however; if there are any corrections to be made, please let us know here.