If you are a fan of true crime, like really a fan, then you know that Dateline NBC is the granddaddy of them all. I had the pleasure of sitting in on a panel with June Diane Raphael of Grace and Frankie and team at Dateline. Including the two men behind the voices we all know and love, Keith Morrison and Josh Mankiewicz as well as executive producers Elizabeth Cole and David Corvo. Dateline made the decision years ago that true crime is what the people wanted, with 31 seasons under their belt they are still going strong, and they seamlessly transitioned into one of the most listened to podcasts on all platforms.
It was fascinating getting a behind the scenes look at how they pick the stories they decide to report on. I often wondered about this as I’m listening to the latest episode. It always seems like they find the most obscure stories from the farthest reaches of this country. How do they do it? They have a team for that. This team scours the news across the country looking for stories of murder, deceit and cold cases. That is their only job. Once a week they have a morning meeting and the team presents every single story they have found. Josh Mankiewicz said that all of the stories are important because the victims and the victim’s families matter. But if it’s a clear cut and dry case without any twists and turns then it’s probably not going to make it on to the cutting room floor. “We need to think it’s the neighbor that did the crime, but later on find out it’s the grandma out for revenge, “ Mankiewicz.
One thing that is rarely considered, the relationships that dateline forms with these families that they talk with. Keith and Josh spend countless hours with the victims families. It would be hard not to form a bond. Keith Morrison said that he keeps in touch with most of the victims’ families, checking in from time to time. Which sounds just like Keith Morrison. What an angel. Morrison and Mankiewicz take this job very seriously because as Mankiewicz put it, “ This may be the only time a family has to tell their story. We owe it to them to give them a platform to be vulnerable. It’s not easy but necessary.” Some of these stories are still happening when they start tackling them. They are at the mercy of the court system in some cases. So some stories can take two years or more to reach a conclusion.
If you thought because your favorite true crime podcast was coming from NBC that there was a swanky recording studio, you would be wrong. Keith and Josh both said that most of the time they are rolling out of bed, grabbing a coffee, sitting at a desk at home and getting straight to work. No glamorous podcast recording studios here. So if you are looking to create your own podcast. Just know that you too can have a hit podcast, all you have to do is roll out of bed.
If you have been jonesing for a new true crime story to dive into, look no further. Dateline just released “The Girl in the Blue Mustang.” Reporting by Keith Morrison and it’s a case that has spanned two decades. If you have Dateline Premium, like I do, the first 3 episodes are out now and it’s ad free! I have listened to the first three episodes and let me tell you it’s going to be a wild ride.