March 16, 2012
'This American Life' retracts Apple episode
By QMI Agency
U.S. public radio show This American Life has retracted its most popular episode after discovering a number of "fabrications" in actor Mike Daisey's first-person account of working conditions at the Chinese factories that make Apple products.
"We're horrified to have let something like this onto public radio. Many dedicated reporters and editors — our friends and colleagues — have worked for years to build the reputation for accuracy and integrity that the journalism on public radio enjoys," host Ira Glass wrote on his blog.
"It's trusted by so many people for good reason. Our program adheres to the same journalistic standards as the other national shows, and in this case, we did not live up to those standards."
The Jan. 6 episode, "Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory," was the Public Radio International show's highest rated episode with more than 888,000 downloads and 206,000 streams as of Friday. It featured an excerpt of Daisy's one-man show, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, about his experiences visiting Foxconn factories, where underpaid and overworked employees make Apple gadgets.
The retraction comes, coincidentally, the same day Apple's new iPad hit shelves.
While the factories have well-documented records of harsh working conditions and high suicide rates, the China correspondent for American Public Media's Marketplace discovered many of Daisey's experiences had been fictionalized.
Rob Schmitz has covered Foxconn for years and noticed discrepancies in Daisey's story. For example, Daisey claimed to have met a group of workers who were poisoned on an iPhone assembly line by a chemical called n-hexane.
While this did happen at a Chinese factory, Schmitz said, it was far away from the one Daisey visited in Shenzhen.
"It happened nearly a thousand miles away, in a city called Suzhou," Schmitz said in a press release.
"I've interviewed these workers, so I knew the story. And when I heard Daisey's monologue on the radio, I wondered: How'd they get all the way down to Shenzhen? It seemed crazy, that somehow Daisey could've met a few of them during his trip."
Schmitz tracked down Daisey's Chinese interpreter Li Guifen, who alleged Daisey fabricated other aspects of his monologue, including meeting underage workers and a man who mangled his hand on a factory line.
Daisey lied to This American Life fact-checkers about the interpreter's name and claimed there was no way to reach her, Public Radio International said.
This week's This American Life will be dedicated to explaining all the factual errors in the episode, and will feature interviews with Daisey about how and why he misled the show's fact-checkers.
On his own blog, Daisey apologized to This American Life and its viewers, but stood by his one-man show.
"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 licence to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity," he said. "What I do is not journalism."