As I watched the Bucknell Forum production of The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, I considered how the interruptions evaluated elements of Mike Daisey’s original monologue. I enjoyed the explanations of Chinese cultures that various professors brought to the forefront and how these challenged Daisey’s claims. I felt that these rebuttals of sorts made the audience develop their own stance on particular issues, especially regarding the economic implications on factories in China.
However, the clips of Ira Glass researching Cathy and his interrogation of Daisey were insightful, but also frustrating. I could understand why Glass was disappointed by the fact that Daisey had not actually met workers who suffered neurological deterioration from n-hexane exposure. My issue with Glass is that he claims to have fact checked Daisey’s narrative in the original podcast. In my opinion, thorough fact checking would include reaching out to Daisey’s translator. Glass does not actually do this until the “Retraction,” and even then he says the process was easy and Cathy is pretty forthcoming in distinguishing between fact and fiction. Although I have not listened to the full retraction podcast, the elements provided in the Bucknell Forum production make me more annoyed with This American Life for their seemingly lazy fact checking procedures than with Daisey.
My feelings stem in part because I don’t feel that Daisey was deceptive about his story. While he not a journalist, I don’t think that he needs to report to be honest. Maybe my feelings are a result of my experiences in both journalism and creative writing, but I think that storytelling as an art form is honest not in its facts, but in the feelings it evokes and the social constructs it explores. I think that journalism is honest in that it covers the facts as the reporter knows them. By relying on an artistic medium, Daisey was striving to reach people on a personal and emotional level and in doing so inspire them to act. As Cathy says, “he is not a journalist,” and I don’t think there is anything wrong in Daisey’s methods of storytelling. However, I do think that it is wrong to have marketed the story as reporting and that is something that both This American Life and Daisey are complicit in.
What do you think the difference is between art and journalism? How does honesty play a role in either or both?
[Photo: L. S. Lowry’s painting of Huddersfield in 1965.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L._S._Lowry%5D