This American Life has retracted its story on abuse of workers at a factory in China that assembles Apple products:
The public radio show This American Life has retracted an entire storyline told by comedian and self-described Apple fanboy Mike Daisey that aired in early January after Daisey’s translator said he made up significant details of the tale. . .
The China correspondent for the radio show Marketplace, Rob Schmitz, wrote that he decided to track down Daisey’s translator after he found it suspicious for Daisey to ferret out some of the worst labor abuses reporters have been hunting for years in a six-day trip to the site. Translator Cathy Lee told Schmitz that she never saw the underaged or poisoned workers, and that she also never saw armed factory guards, which Daisey describes.
As is often the case in this kind of story, the producers failed to uphold their own standards:
So why didn’t This American Life talk to Cathy Lee earlier, before they aired the episode? In a press release, the show says Daisey told them he lost her cell phone number. “At that point, we should’ve killed the story,” show host Ira Glass said in the release.
This should remind us that we cannot rely on the media’s self-proclaimed standards. They will drop those standards in a heartbeat if they stand in the way of a good story.
POSTSCRIPT: The list of Daisey’s lies is pretty impressive, but Daisey is stand by the old “fake but accurate” line:
Daisey, however, stands by his original storyline. “It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity,” Daisey said on his blog. On the show, he struck a more contrite note. “I’m not going to say that I didn’t take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard,” Daisey says, according to the press release. “My mistake, the mistake I truly regret, is that I had it on your show as journalism, and it’s not journalism. It’s theater.”
UPDATE: I forgot to add: someone brought up the This American Life piece at a meeting at work, before it was revealed as a fraud. It didn’t take us long to conclude that the story was implausible. A little critical thinking helps, people . . .