Brian Reed is the host and co-creator of the groundbreaking podcast S-Town, and co-host and co-creator of the new hit podcast from Serial Productions and the New York Times, The Trojan Horse Affair. Reed is also a longtime producer at the public radio show and podcast This American Life, where he oversaw the show for years as its senior producer alongside host Ira Glass.
The seminal series S-Town won widespread critical praise and shattered audience records with more than 100 million downloads. Reed spent 3 years reporting and writing S-Town, which began when a man named John B. McLemore asked Reed to investigate an alleged murder in his small Alabama town. S-Town won a Peabody Award for being a “pioneering classic of the form”, is being developed into a feature film by director Tom McCarthy and Participant Media, and received broad acclaim for elevating audio storytelling into the realm of great literature. As Rebecca Mead wrote in the New Yorker, “Among the half-million products released in podcasting’s brief history, it is “S-Town”...that seems most likely to endure as a work of art.”
This year, Reed teamed up with new journalist Hamza Syed to co-host the eight-part podcast The Trojan Horse Affair. In 2013, a mysterious letter that looked to be plans for an Islamist plot to take over schools appeared on a city councilor’s desk in Birmingham, England. The letter sparked a national scandal which led to school closures, lifetime bans from education, an investigation by Britain’s former counterterror chief, and to drastic changes in counterterror and education policy. Except – the letter was a hoax, and no official looked into who wrote it. So Syed and Reed set out to try and discover the author themselves.
Syed was a journalism student when he and Reed started reporting The Trojan Horse Affair, and their dynamic and friendship has prompted critics to praise the series as a “buddy comedy” of investigative journalism. Fresh Air declared it “Serial's best podcast since S-Town”; British journalist and commentator Owen Jones called it “the most sensational podcast of the year - exposing a huge scandal damning our society, politics, and media.” The Trojan Horse Affair has spent weeks as number one on the podcast charts, was downloaded more than 13 million times in its first month, and is prompting calls for a public inquiry based on Reed and Syed’s findings.
At This American Life, Reed has produced some of the show’s most ambitious stories, including “The Secret Recordings of Carmen Segarra,” an investigation into the Federal Reserve and Goldman Sachs, which prompted a congressional hearing; “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 Reed his first Peabody Award. Reed has also received the Dart Award for Reporting on Trauma, two Overseas Press Club Awards, multiple Webby Awards, and an Education Writers Association Award, among others.
Before joining This American Life as an intern in 2010, Reed reported and produced for NPR as one of their Kroc Fellows. He also reported on climate change in the island nation of Kiribati as NPR’s first Above the Fray Fellow. Reed has traveled the world speaking about the craft of audio storytelling, including to sold-out audiences at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Sydney Opera House, and his work is some of the first in podcasting to find itself on college and high school curricula, as well as the subject of academic writing and inquiry.
Photo Sandy Honig