Following the release of the excerpt of Mike Daisey’s performance on This American Life in 2012, both TAL and Mike Daisey received tremendous backlash from fans around the country. For this blog post, I want voice my opinion on where I think the blame should be placed, and if the reactions by either Daisey or Ira Glass were warranted in the Retraction piece.
After listening to the Retraction by Ira Glass with contributions from Rob Schmitz, my thoughts were “OK, now what?” It had been obvious to me after listening to Mike Daisey’s piece that his story was fabricated. Why was TAL so concerned about proving that Daisey’s story was false?
If TAL is really the “journalistic non-fiction” type of radio show that they identify as, then they did a pretty horrible job “fact-checking” Mike Daisey’s story. For example, in its 2012 progress report, it found that 97% of the factories audited were in compliance with the “prevention of child labor practices” policy. Yet Daisey claimed to stumble on a handful of underage employees hanging around the gates in Shenzhen? It would have taken very little effort on the part of TAL to figure this out.
Daisey reports meeting victims of hexane poisoning when the only reported instances occurred 1000 miles away. As noted, he reports that Foxconn’s security guards are armed. Yet TAL decides to air these wildly unlikely charges without any corroborating evidence. Their “fact checking” apparently consisted in asking Daisey “are you sure?” While I am not in support of what Daisey did, I think what this comes down to is the fact that Mike Daisey is not a journalist. He is, at his core, an entertainer. When Daisey was answering Schmitz & Glass’ questions, it almost seemed to me like he was playing dumb. He did not take their “interrogation” seriously at all.
To conclude, I think Apple has a case against Daisey for providing misleading material to a wide audience in what was advertised as “journalistic non-fiction.” I also think that TAL did a terrible job of placing their trust in one man’s reputation and not doing their due diligence.