Before listening to Pig Iron, I had never heard of Christopher Allen but the first episode drew me into his tragic story. I do not want to become a war reporter but hearing about Allen’s experiences as he covered the events in Ukraine in 2014 transfixed me.
I was impressed by his bravery and shocked by his boldness as he jumped head-first into the very dangerous situation taking place. It made me want to experience an adventure like that.
Pig Iron is a seven-episode podcast series focused on the killing of 26-year-old Christopher Allen in South Sudan in 2017. The podcast follows Basia Cummings, a journalist for Tortoise Media, and Jeremy Bliss, Allen’s cousin, as they attempt to find out the truth about why Allen was killed.
This isn’t the type of podcast I normally listen to. I like historical podcasts that explain events that have happened, which is similar to this one. However, where they differ is those podcasts are not searching for something. This one obviously is.
As Cummings narrates, you find yourself going along for the journey, trying to rationalize and understand Allen’s decisions. You try to put yourself in his shoes and inevitably decide that you wouldn’t make those decisions because your head is screwed on the right way and you’re more mature. This is where I think the podcast shines.
Cummings never allows you to sit in your contempt for very long. She consistently reminds you of all the circumstances Allen faced at the time he was making his decisions. She puts things into perspective but doesn’t justify Allen’s actions. She merely explains the situation in totality and then provides the listener with his decision.
I enjoyed Bliss’s contributions tremendously. At some points, he seems biased, but he makes clear why he is so emotional. It was eye-opening for me because I hadn’t fully considered his perspective. I was following along with the journalist, as a journalism student doing my best to be unbiased and weigh all the information. He was trying to do the same but he was connected to this in a way neither Cummings nor I was and it was a breath of fresh air.
Finally, I appreciated the interviews Cummings conducted particularly with Anthony Loyd, an English journalist and noted war correspondent and James Brabazon, a British documentary filmmaker, journalist, and author. They both provided a tremendous amount of insight into what covering war is actually like, because while everyone listening to the podcast thinks they can imagine what it’s like, none of us can unless we’ve seen it.
I highly recommend this podcast. It’s very well produced and takes you on an emotional journey as its two main participants try to discover the reason for the tragic loss of a man’s life.