By now, many of you know about the piece Mike Daisey did for This American Life, during which he provided alleged “examples” or “proof” of worker mistreatment and workplace hazards at Chinese plants producing Apple products. As you also probably know, it turns out Daisey took a lot of “artistic license” with the story–a story that was presented as fact-based, rather than theatrical or fictionalized.
Then, Ira Glass, the host of This American Life, produced an hour-long This American Life which NCPR aired on Sunday.
Today, a really interesting personal reflection on Mike Daisey’s work from columnist Jason Zinoman.
The most important part of the retraction program, for me, was the final segment during which Ira talked with a reporter who co-authored a story for the NY Times on working conditions in Chinese plants producing Apple products. Finding out that Daisey’s piece was inaccurate is one thing; hearing what the known facts are in this story is the important follow up.
Too often, news outlets make mistakes and then offer some brief retraction or correction–usually in an obscure location and usually taking up considerably less space than the original incorrect version occupied. Ira Glass acted well in this episode–not only admitting to his own mistake (insufficient vetting of the Daisey story), but then giving as much time and attention to the retraction and correction as the original piece was given.
I’ve been a fan of Daisey’s work, but his conversation with Ira made me squirm. I kept thinking of politicians who try to avoid saying a simple “yes” or “no,” who ultimately will not take the first step of making amends by saying, “I was wrong.” While Daisey says he shouldn’t have offered his piece to This American Life as “journalism,” he defends his “artistic” truth-telling. He doesn’t convince me.
If you’ve listened to the retraction program, what was your reaction?