Hit Podcast Sued for Revealing Man's Intimate Details

'S-town' delved into the life of John B. McLemore
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2018 6:45 PM CDT
Updated Jul 18, 2018 7:15 PM CDT
In this May 3, 2017, file photo, Tyler Goodson of the hit podcast "S-Town" stands at the grave in Green Pond, Ala., of his late friend John B. McLemore, who is also featured in the show.   (AP Photo/Jay Reeves, File)

(Newser) – Millions of people know all about John B. McLemore, and that may be a problem. In fact his estate is suing S-Town, one of the most popular podcasts ever, saying it revealed highly personal details of McLemore's sexuality, friendships, and mental-health issues without his consent after he died, Vox reports. "The podcast itself acknowledges that McLemore did not wish certain information ... [to] be publicly known, particularly with respect to McLemore's sexual orientation," says the suit. The podcast began in 2012 when This American Life producer Brian Reed visited McLemore in his hometown of Woodstock, Alabama, to pursue McLemore's belief that a murder and cover-up had occurred. Reed dismissed the murder story, but found McLemore fascinating.

S-Town probes deep into McLemore's life, revealing a manic-depressive, gold-hoarding, antique-clock-fixing, liberal conspiracist with a photographic memory, per an earlier Vox story. But McLemore's estate claims Reed never got McLemore's written consent to reveal all this. For his part, Reed says "trying to understand another person is a worthwhile thing to do" and argues that others corroborated details revealed in the podcast. Media opinions are worth checking out, with the Guardian in April 2017 calling S-Town "morally indefensible"; the Atlantic at the same time asked whether the achievement was worth the possible exploitation: "These questions are worth asking in a larger way, especially if S-Town helps give rise to a trend in podcasting where in-depth explorations of a single life are told as bingey-worth narratives," the Atlantic says. (Read more podcast stories.)

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