Pretty embarrassing moment for the acclaimed radio magazine. A widely-discussed piece on working conditions at Apple supplier Foxconn turns out to have been "partially fabricated" - despite assurances at the time of heavy fact checking. The basic problem was that the piece had been prepared by Mike Daisey, who is a performer, not a journalist. Actually, the whole thing had been based on his stage performance, which producer Ira Glass had seen. From Business Insider:
["This American Life"] is quick to lay the blame on Mike Daisey, saying that he "misled" them during the fact-checking process. And Daisey apparently did "mislead" (lie to) TAL. On his web site, Daisey is now saying that he allows himself to take "dramatic license" with his material. (Translation: I made it up.) And Daisey also now says that he "truly regrets" pretending that his theatre show was journalism. But when the original TAL episode aired, one of the reasons it created such a stir was that the show said that it had carefully fact-checked Daisey's story.
Here's what Glass is saying:
When I saw Mike Daisey perform this story on stage, when I left the theater I had a lot of questions. I mean, he's not a reporter, and I wondered, did he get it right? And so we've actually spent a few weeks checking everything that he says in his show. We invited Apple to come onto the program and respond, and they turned us down. We invited Foxconn to come onto the program and respond, and they also said no. Mike, however, was willing to come in and explain his methods at Foxconn's gates and in the factories that he visited.
Here's what Daisey is saying:
I stand by my work. My show is a theatrical piece whose goal is to create a human connection between our gorgeous devices and the brutal circumstances from which they emerge. It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity. Certainly, the comprehensive investigations undertaken by The New York Times and a number of labor rights groups to document conditions in electronics manufacturing would seem to bear this out. What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic - not a theatrical - enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations. But this is my only regret.
In other words, he lied.
Also on LA Biz Observed:
Is it all right for a writer not to tell the truth?