Bear Brook returns with a second season of true-crime 

Bear Brook returns with a second season of true-crime 

There’s a point during Bear Brook season one where narrator/reporter Jason Moon takes an online DNA test to illustrate how it works for listeners. He finds out he’s over 40% British and Irish and “more Neanderthal than 60% of customers”. 

Has he investigated the Irish side of his family tree in the interim four years? “I actually forgot that,” he admits. “That’s another mystery to look into next time.” Perhaps it’s no surprise that Moon, a reporter for New Hampshire Public Radio, which released Bear Brook, hasn’t had time to dabble in his family history. 

The first season had over 21 million downloads and widespread praise as one of the best true crime podcasts around. Moon tells the story of four bodies found in two separate barrels 15 years apart and the search to identify them and pinpoint the killer. Spoiler alert: Unlike some other true crime shows, all the loose threads are tied together by series end.

Moon says he’s been burned by such podcasts himself, listening to, say, a 14-parter without a satisfactory ending. It’s something Bear Brook eschews. “You have to find a way to tell stories about things that don’t have endings in a way that’s satisfying for a listener, because at the end of the day, the reason I want to tell these stories is because they’re important, I think people should know about them, about what’s going on.

“And if not having a final, satisfying narrative conclusion to that keeps me from telling that story, that, to me, sets up a pretty arbitrary barrier that we shouldn’t have.”

 Considering the sheer number of true crime shows to consume nowadays, is there a fine line between an idea being worthwhile or interesting for the listener, but also then being voyeuristic or exploitative?

 “It’s something I think about all the time and worry about all the time,” says Moon, explaining that before you pick up the phone or pull at a story thread, you have to have a good reason for doing so. He says he often imagines the moment of calling a source who’s close to a person who was killed and explaining why you want to talk to them. 

“Your answer has to be better than, ‘I think the way your loved one died was really interesting.’ I don’t want to do that on a personal level.” 

Bear Brook – Jason Carroll in court. Picture: Gabriela Lozada/NHPR

There’s a meta-level, of probing this true crime explosion in popularity, in season two of Bear Brook, which was released on Monday, February 20. This season focuses on the 1988 murder of Sharon Johnson that resulted in a conviction for 19-year-old Jason Carroll. 

It’s not an untold story – indeed it was actually investigated by another podcast series with which Moon tagged along a couple of years ago. “Through the first season of Bear Brook, I had become interested in the way that true crime media can influence real life, can change the events of the case it’s covering and the blending of art and reality,” he says.

“Looking at the layers of true crime narratives and how that’s played out, and how that’s affected this case over 34 years – that’s the thematic core of the series (Bear Brook season two). And it raises – and I hope we are able to provide – some interesting insight into how justice works in the US.” 

Did Moon feel, like the cliched difficult second album, a pressure following up the success of season one? “I don’t want these stories just to be listener service. I didn’t want to be setting out just to find a

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