Media criticism

Familiar reporter uncovers lies about Apple

cathy-lee-china-mktplace.jpgRob Schmitz, the "Marketplace" correspondent in Shanghai who is being hailed today for debunking "This American Life's" explosive January report on working conditions at the Foxconn plants Apple uses in China, used to be the Los Angeles reporter for KQED and "The California Report." His story today for Marketplace has forced a retraction on this weekend's "This American Life," an explanation by the show's reporter, Mike Daisey, that he is an artist not a journalist, and much commentary (including from our own Mark Lacter.) "This American Life," which peppered its original report with numerous claims that it had throughly fact-checked Daisey, now says he lied to the show's producers.

Audio of Schmitz's story:

From Schmit'z report:

With the help of a Chinese translator, Daisey finds underage workers, poisoned workers, maimed workers, and dismal factory conditions for those who make iPhones and iPads....

Daisey told This American Life and numerous other news outlets that his account was all true. But it wasn’t.

For the past year and a half, I’ve reported on Apple’s supply chain in China, where I work as Marketplace’s China Correspondent, based in Shanghai. When I heard Daisey’s story, certain details didn’t sound right. I tracked down Daisey’s Chinese translator to see for myself.


Cathy Lee, Daisey’s translator in Shenzhen, was with Daisey at this meeting in Shenzhen. I met her in the exact place she took Daisey—the gates of Foxconn. So I asked her: “Did you meet people who fit this description?”

“No,” she said.

“So there was nobody who said they were poisoned by hexane?” I continued.

Lee’s answer was the same: “No. Nobody mentioned the Hexane.”

In the episode on "This American Life," producer Ira Glass said "We have gone through his script and fact checked everything that was checkable ... Overall, we checked with over a dozen people." It became the show's most downloaded podcast ever. Glass now says the show contained too many uncheckable facts and will be retracted this weekend. Daisey says, "it's theater, not journalism."

Photo of Cathy Lee by Rob Schmitz/Marketplace

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