Written by: Emma Lin, Naia Williams, and Elyn Porter
The podcast Confronting: OJ Simpson presents itself as an outlet for Kim Goldman, sister to victim Ron Goldman, to gain closure about her brother’s death and the failure of prosecution to bring justice to “The Killer” who is known to many people as O.J. Simpson. Hosted by Goldman herself, we hear her confront key players from the iconic case/trial, confront evidence that wasn’t presented all those 25 years ago, as well as confront her emotions surrounding her brother’s untimely death. Listening to the first episode, it’s refreshing to finally hear about at least one of the victims in this case; however, that refreshing feeling is short lived as the remaining 9 episodes quickly morph into The Kim Goldman Show. The spotlight is directly on Goldman as she monetizes off of her brother’s murder, fishes for sympathy from the audience, and conducts interviews with her own unconventional and unprofessional style leaving audiences with an aversion for her by the final episode. From the beginning of our class’ analysis of the media involving the O.J. case, we’ve always been told that no one comes out of this case looking good… Kim Goldman is no exception.
Kim Goldman criticizes people who monetize her brother’s murder. Yet, the podcast definitely generated some cash. There are two ads per episode, both narrated by Goldman herself. At the beginning of Episode 3, she says “capitalism is alive and well in America” in a sarcastic tone. In the same episode, she tells the audience excitedly about a new app called “Best Fiends”, a mobile game advertised in between segments about confronting her grief. The transition from Kim mourning her brother to energetically talking about a mobile game is jarring to say the least. The choice of ads comes off as inappropriate given the subject being presented.
The ads wrench the viewer out of any emotional investment, which is what the show relies on. They make Goldman feel artificial, as if she is there for the money rather than for her brother. The choice of ads conflicts with the tone of the episodes and each one lasts around a minute. Most people listen to podcasts alongside another activity, so they may not skip each ad. Therefore, choosing the correct ads is extremely important. In this case, they come off as inappropriate and even hypocritical given Kim’s opinions on others monetizing Ron’s death.
Ads can be tricky since podcasts cost money to produce. They provide funding to the show and allow the producers to pay for sound editing, advertisement, and equipment. However, there is a point where ads can shift the tone and take the audience out of the moment. Ads are also not the only way to receive funding, when many websites for crowdfunding exist. Filtering the type of content presented is important to maintain the correct atmosphere for the podcast. In True Crime the subject is very rarely light-hearted, so including an ad for a mobile game requires the writers to pull the audience back into the narrative all over again. Getting an audience to care is one of the hardest tasks, which is why attention-grabbing hooks are important, and the podcast forces itself to create a new hook after each ad placement.
Fishing for Sympathy
The phrase “fishing for sympathy” is our twist on the common phrase “fishing for compliments.” When people fish for compliments, they often say something negative about themselves to prompt others to give them a compliment. When Kim Goldman fishes for sympathy, she often says something about how she’s been affected by losing her brother to prompt listeners to feel sympathy for her. This act of fishing is a continuous pattern that spans throughout all ten episodes of the podcast.
This podcast is filled to the brim with appeals to the listeners’ emotions and to reel in their sympathy. While a majority of the True Crime genre relies on pathos to illustrate their stories, both this podcast and Kim Goldman take pathos appeals to a whole new level and we don’t mean that in a good way. It seems like every episode there are at least two moments where Goldman is trying to fish for sympathy from her listeners. Of course we understand that this is an emotional topic to talk about, especially as a victim’s sister, but there’s a difference between making an emotional appeal to your audience and just brazenly fishing episode after episode hoping to get a bite. An example of Goldman’s fishing occurs in the beginning if the sixth episode titled “Get Over It.” We hear Kim Goldman describing her experience receiving hate and backlash after the release of the first few podcast episodes. She talks about people forming this mob mentality against her because of the discourse which the podcast is meant to insight. She mentions that it’s hard for her not to become the bully in this situation and that the highroad is “really lonely.” We can hear her clearly getting emotional about this topic and it’s here when Kim Goldman, in a way, victimizes herself. This episode was her way of saying ‘Don’t forget about me’ and reminding listeners that while her brother was murdered, she’s just as much a victim in this case. She wants listeners to feel bad for her and everything she’s having to live through 25 years post-trial. We won’t lie, in the beginning episodes she did get our sympathy. The first episode titled “The Life and Death of Ron Goldman” was a great way to start the podcast because it told us Ron Goldman’s story. There was the right amount of pathos, but from the following episode going forward the focus has shifted to Kim Goldman and the emotional appeals have gotten to be overbearing to say the very least.
The previously mentioned instance of Kim Goldman’s attempt to garner sympathy from listeners really has an opposite effect than what she intended. Rather than gaining sympathy from her listeners, Goldman ends up pushing listeners away with her constant, overwhelming, and excessive use of pathos appeals. By the end of the podcast, listeners are left with this negative impression of Kim Goldman and some could question her intentions behind the podcast. Was it really to give herself closure surrounding Ron’s death? Or was it just a feeble attempt to bring herself back into the spotlight, piggy-backing off the murders? This aspect also leads listeners to question the integrity of the podcast as a whole. Is it truly a reliable source of information? Can listeners trust that Kim Goldman is telling them the entire truth? What might Kim Goldman be choosing to leave out? By the final episode, Kim Goldman has laid the emotions on thick and they don’t seem to have worked in her favor. Listeners walk away not feeling bad for her nor for Ron, but feeling overwhelmed and perhaps, like the jury in the trial, glad it’s over.
It’s no secret that Kim Goldman is not a professional investigative journalist, nor is she experienced in conducting interviews, but the manner in which she performs her interviews in this podcast drastically changes from one person to the next. The treatment of the interviewee varies, we hear Goldman act very casual and friendly towards some while with others she becomes borderline accusative and even goes beyond “confrontational”. Not only this but the treatment of the interviewee highly depends on where they stood at the moment of the trial. Those who were on the side of prosecution were treated much more favorably than those who aligned with the prosecution or the stance of OJ Simpson’s innocence.
Although she is not a professional, listeners expect the tone with which people are interviewed to convey at the very least a modicum of respect or even the appearance of impartiality. However, there are multiple instances of the ten-episode podcast in which she displays an obvious disregard of this. It is not just that she has no respect for the people who took the time to be interviewed, she actually acts downright confrontational at times. The interviews in which this is most noticeable are with Chris Darden, one of the prosecutors, and two jurors from the criminal trial, Lionel Cryer and David Aldana.
Undoubtedly, Chris Darden is treated the most favorably in his interview with Goldman. She greets him with booze and a warm embrace. This treatment is quite polarizing compared to that of the two juror members, Lionel Cryer (the juror who allegedly raised his fist in a black power salute after the trial), and David Aldana. Goldman is perhaps the most confrontational with these two men. In Cryer’s interview it is obvious that she is trying to maintain a façade of being respectful but is unable to keep from making digs. One such example is when during the interview, Cryer is explaining how he felt conflicted and was contemplating his decision to vote not guilty during jury deliberation. Before he is even able to finish his sentence, Goldman roughly interrupts him and growls “you mean your deliberation of three and a half hours.” She quickly realizes her quip was a slip-up and offers a half-hearted, unapologetic “sorry.” To his credit, Cryer just lets this comment roll off his back. This exchange leaves listeners taken aback with such a shameless statement. The other juror, David Aldana, was not even treated half as well as Cryer, which is not saying much. Goldman did not even attempt to keep up the farce of being respectful or non-confrontational with Aldana. Once Aldana explains to her that he still believes OJ was framed and is innocent of the murders of Nicole and Ron, her claws come out. She begins to verbally attack his stance and criticizes his intelligence by bombarding him with questions of “you think everything was planted,” “you believe they [the police] would risk their pensions to frame OJ.” After this interview Kim still does not let Aldana loose. In a later episode, she states that the evidence is there and makes sense to a “logical brain” which seems to be a pointed reference toward Aldana. These two separate interviews with the jurors leaves the listeners with a completely different opinion of Kim Goldman from the beginning of the podcast.
To wrap things up…
In her own words, Kim acknowledges that the name of the podcast gives “the connotation of being confrontational” and that “was never part of her desire”. However, this message seems to have been a hail mary in an attempt to make the listeners overlook her antagonistic tendencies she had toward the people she interviewed. While it may not have been her intention to be confrontational, just saying it “wasn’t her intention” does not give her a free pass to be. Understandably, Goldman is angry because in her mind, her brother’s murderer did not receive the justice she thought he deserved. Blaming anyone except the murderer is where she goes wrong, accusing the people involved in the trial. Kim Goldman hoped that this podcast would finally give a voice to Ron after being voiceless for decades but this desire became twisted. Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson, the victims, were no longer the focus, they became lost in a media frenzy just like in the trial twenty-five years ago. Kim took the spotlight from her brother and shined it on herself. The podcast became not about Ron’s life but how her brother’s death affected her. How she missed the reporters after the trial. How she used her brother’s death for publicity. She criticizes those who use the murders for monetary gains such as the person who gives tours of the crime scene and even OJ himself for writing the book, If I Did It. Perhaps she should have looked in the mirror to realize she is no different.