A Greater Purpose


In the context of This American Life, Mike Daisy knowingly abused his story reporting it as journalism rather than storytelling. While his lies on the podcast were unethical, as he was told by the show that what he said must be truthful, his larger argument was in support of an ethical cause. Daisy explained and apologized in the retraction that his one regret was bringing his story to This American Life and telling it as journalism. After listening to the retraction, my question was, at this point in time, how does one change consumer behavior that is so strongly rooted in American culture? Can journalism achieve what Daisy’s story achieved in creating an emotional reaction to the working conditions in China?

In the retraction, Daisy said that every part of his story was created in a way to make people care. His story made listeners develop a better understanding of the effects of their consumption habits by opening up our eyes about where the products we use come from and how they are made. Although his story is not completely truthful, he told it in the context of everything he had learned about the labor conditions in all the tech factories, not just Apple’s. In doing so, he conveyed all of the realities of the factories and not just those of which he personally saw. I think Daisy’s approach was unfair in that it put the burden of responding to the public’s reactions on Apple; however, I understand why Daisy targeted Apple and not another tech company or all tech companies. The majority of people in the U.S., and other countries throughout the world, use Apple products and have become devoted and loyal to the company. Therefore, by targeting a company that the majority of us support, Daisy’s story becomes relative to most of our lives, which increases the number of people that will be affected by his story.

Mike Daisy could have gone about this telling his story in much better ways, especially in relation to This American Life. However, it is hard for me to condemn a man who took what he experienced, and what he learned outside of those experiences, and tried to instigate change in the consumption behavior of our society by telling a story. Mike Daisy’s intentions were to serve this greater purpose.

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4 thoughts on “A Greater Purpose”

  1. I agree with you, but I would even take it a step further. Daisey did something bold. He lied about a lot of things, but he allowed the public to finally think about where products are coming from. I don’t think what he did was unethical. It was almost like a plea for the public to start opening their eyes.

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  2. I found the question you asked at the end of the first paragraph very interesting. You wrote, “Can journalism achieve what Daisey’s story achieved in creating an emotional reaction to the working conditions in China?” Your question helped me reflect further on the story, so I wanted to attempt an answer. In the case of labor conditions in China I do not think journalism can achieve the emotional reaction that Daisey’s story received. Journalists must tell the facts of what happened where, who said what and cannot dress things up. Mike Daisey was able to take tons of information, most of which had some amount of truth to it, and compress it into a focused and effective story. In other less complicated cases Journalists can tell fascinating stories about people that are completely true.

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  3. Apple’s asset as a brand is exactly what makes it vulnerable to pressure from stakeholders. If Daisey, or others, can tap into the deep relationship between Apple and its users, then the potential for pushback from consumers is higher. At least, I assume that is the strategy.

    By the way, Apple is not the majority tech brand in PCs or Phones these days. Maybe on campus…

    But here is latest PC shipments globally…

    http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/07/09/mac-sales-continue-to-slide-in-q2-as-overall-pc-market-rebounds

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  4. The more I consider what Mike Daisey did in his fabrication of the truth for this piece, the more it disgusts me. I like your point that he put the burden of responding to these false allegations on Apple, who the public inherently should distrust more than Mike because they are a corporation and he is a story teller. I believe that he targeted Apple because they are a company that he is passionate about. However, I also believe that he targeted them because he knew that it would generate the biggest audience for his one man forum of lies and deceit to generate the reaction he wanted the audience to have: not the one that the truth would generate.

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