Are these journalists, interviewing Jobs in 2010, representing a high standard of truth-telling and fact-digging? They are Walt Mossberg, and Kara Swisher, widely considered to be among the “best” tech journalists.
I found the “Retraction” podcast very interesting for a few reasons. First, I found it strange that This American Life would spend an entire hour framing Mike Daisey as a liar. To me, it was somewhat unprofessional to use him as a scapegoat in this way, rather than to use the work they had paid for and broadcasted in a positive way. By this I mean that instead of bashing his claims, simply clarify that what was said was an act of fiction BASED on true events than an act of journalism. While in some parts they did just that, I think the overall tone of their podcast was meant to shame Mike Daisey, rather than clarify a confusing situation.
That said, I feel that there was absolutely fault on both sides. On one hand, Mike Daisey should never have positioned his story as journalism due to his lack of proof and frequent use of exaggeration. Continue reading Sacred Trust
Look folks, This American Life is not easy to pin down either. Ira Glass held himself up as the mantle of journalism, but the show is famous exactly for its lyrical, narrative, unusual approach to story-telling.
There’s a theme to each episode of This American Life, and a variety of stories on that theme. It’s mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always. There’s lots more to the show, but it’s sort of hard to describe.
Mike Daisey is an American author and actor, most famous for his monologue “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”. This American Life host Ira Glass has now produced two episodes on the subject, the first containing Daisey’s monologue, and the second retroactively exposing the inaccuracies of the first. Glass apologized for endorsing and reporting Daisey’s embellished story, explaining that journalists have an obligation to report facts- something Daisey’s story was apparently lacking. Daisey agreed that misleading the public is wrong, but argued that his monologue was art, not journalism. His goal was to make people passionate about the very real labor problems going on in China, and he thought that would be better accomplished by reporting what had been happening, even if he hadn’t seen it himself.
I don’t have an issue with Mike Daisey’s “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” monologue. Although the story is routinely embellished, if not completely made up, it accomplished its goal- to get the public thinking. As social commentary, the monologue is great. My problem with it arises from Daisey marketing his piece as journalism, a view that Glass shares. Art and journalism are two completely different beasts and should be acknowledged as such. A journalist should report the facts. Ideally, they would be free from biases and focus on informing the public as accurately as possible. Art, on the other hand, is much more open to interpretation. There is no “wrong” art in the same way that a journalist could be wrong. Art is used to express feelings and emotion, something Daisey did quite well. However, when he went on This American Life and discussed his “experiences” as “fact”, Daisey attempted to blur the line between art and journalism- without the public’s knowledge.
While I disagree with Daisey’s conduct ethically, and logically comply with the idea that journalism and art are different, I cannot refute that there is art in journalism. In describing the epitome of a journalist earlier, I used the key word “ideally”. In reality, and in concurrence with the technological boom of the past two decades, journalism has devolved into a competition to see who can create the most eye-catching headlines or tell the people what they want to hear. Generally speaking, I think mass media still has the ability to be a trusted news source, but it is not currently the case because of the merger between art and journalism. Daisey gives a perfect example of this mentality. There is truth in what he had to say, but he felt the need to dramatize it to increase public reception. In doing this, Daisey created a moving piece of art, but not a piece of journalism.
After listening to This American Life’s Retraction episode, I was still severely unsatisfied with Mike Daisey’s justification. After all, Ira Glass and the TAL staff made it abundantly clear to him the purpose of their show, and that everything he said “must live up to journalistic standards.” Yet through his own twisted moral compass and complete disregard for integrity Daisey chose to lie to millions of people anyway. Last week, I claimed that Mike Daisey did more harm that good to his cause by lying about what he saw at Foxconn. He discredited himself and everything he was trying to raise awareness about. I also could not bring myself to blame Apple or hold anything against them for the alleged conditions at some of their suppliers. This week, not only do I stand by both of these statements but the Retraction episode only strengthens by belief in them. Continue reading Daisey’s Failed Shot at Redemption
In our daily lives we watch a different variety of movies, TV shows etc., and if we believed in everything we watch, then our lives would be full of drama and problems. Yes, sometimes the movies or shows we watch affect us deeply, and we have a strong emotional reaction to them, but we usually don’t devastate ourselves over them, since we have the ability to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Mike Daisey’s show is a form of entertainment, and even if he is very successful in fabricating his story, and making the audience believe it is real, at the end of the day his end goal is to entertain his audience, therefore its acceptable for him to use exaggerations to make his audience laugh. In the case of the Apple story however, his primary purpose is to make people aware of the labor conditions in China, and he does a good job in doing so. Continue reading This is NOT Based on a True Story
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. Continue reading Honesty: The Difference Between Journalism and Art
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, Continue reading A Greater Purpose
Listening to the retraction from This American Life, I was annoyed as I listened to Mike Daisy squirm under the questions of Rob Schmitz and Ira Glass. It was as if a child was caught stealing from a cookie jar and was trying to justify why he still deserved the cookie, or why his work should still be deemed credible. He was clearly uncomfortable during both interviews and rightfully so in my opinion. Daisy’s believes his lies are the truth and that it’s okay because his show was about making people care. This irritated me. Lies are lies and they should not be displayed to others as the truth. Continue reading Painting A Picture: Art, Journalism, & Truth
What is truth? Lies? Who gets to decide?
Now things get complicated. You heard This American Life’s podcast focusing on Mike Daisey’s monologue-play and the issues it raises about Apple, China, worker rights, us as consumers, and globalization. Continue reading iTruth- Digging Deeper into the Apple Controversy