The retraction episode of This American Life slightly angered me. I felt uncomfortable as I listened to Ira Glass and Rob Schmitz tear apart Mike Daisey’s story and constantly apologize to their viewers for their failure at fact checking Mike Daisey’s story. In my blog post on This American Life’s “Mr. Daisey and Apple” I wrote that Mike Daisey should have been up front about the parts of his story that were misrepresented. However, I saw the reasons for why he chose to incorporate some details into his story that he had not personally experienced. Mike Daisey is a writer and actor and his purpose is to tell a story and make people care. In this task, he greatly succeeded.
I have a problem with Mike Daisey’s intentions. He intended to deceive Ira Glass and the entire This American Life Team. Mike Daisey admits to purposefully deceiving these people and worrying whether these actions were ethical and if he would get caught. The second he attempted to deceive the public he lost my vote. He should have been clear with his viewers both on This American Life and of the live performances of his show. I believe that if he had been truthful at the outset, people would have still seen his show and cared about what he had to say. Now that it has come out that Mike Daisey knowingly deceived viewers, people are less likely to appreciate his work. If he had done an interview after his first show and explained the five details that he added to the show for effect, he would have had a successful response to his show.
In my last blog post I spoke mostly about Mike Daisey and the entertainment factor he was going for. In this post I will not forget to touch upon the complete failure of This American Life and National Public Radio to fact check Mike Daisey’s story. Mike Daisey was not a journalist and did not have the same responsibility to have factual information. He did make a contract that meant he should have disclosed all deceiving information. This American Life is a journalistic enterprise and the primary responsibility of a journalist is to tell the facts. The moment that they were unable to corroborate Mike Daisey’s story they should have killed the story. However, they chose to run the story anyway, which hurt their reputation. I do not think that this conundrum has negatively affected This American Life’s relationship with viewers. They did a nice job in the retraction show to put the blame on Mike Daisey. Of course, they apologized to their viewers, saying they did not do their normal level of due diligence before releasing this story. They then proceeded to bash Mike Daisey for the rest of the show until they brought in a “true” journalist to tell “the real facts”. The whole situation was one big mess.