Tag Archives: this american life

The Art of Storytelling, Like Painting a Picture


Although Daisey wasn’t initially a journalist, he became one once he decide to investigate what happens at Foxconn. He went to a foreign country, interviewed people, and then reported back a story to the public. That is journalism. And Investigative journalism is a daunting task. For one, the journalist must dig really far, including traveling into foreign countries, to find the truth. He or she must then take the ‘factual’ information they found and transform it into something that people will find interesting and want to listen to. These are the sort of pressure Mike Daisey was facing when he decided to twist the truth in This American Life podcast.
Even though This American Life retracted the story about Apple, doesn’t mean that there weren’t facts that went into the story. As is with every sort of published piece of writing, film, or theatre, there is always going to be some subjectivity to it. There is anything that is truly objective. So for anyone to believe that initially about the podcast really needs to reconsider how much they trust everything and see in the media, in magazines, and books. So similar to everything else, Mike Daisey colored this story with his own subjectivity. He really wanted the viewers to grasp what was happening in China and make an impression on them. And as I wrote about in my last blog post, he really was the first person to make an impression on me about Apple and human rights issues. And that was his end goal.
Despite believing that it is okay he twisted reality quite a bit, I do think that this retraction immediately takes his creditability away from his viewers. The average person is going to dismiss everything that was said in that podcast, despite some of it being true. So in the end, he probably made the problem worse by fabricating parts of the story. Did you dismiss everything you heard in the podcast once you heard the retraction? Do you still think that major human rights abuses occur in Foxconn’s facilities?

Blog Council 1


This week’s blog council consisted of Jordi Comas, Luke Vreeland, and Will Owens. We really enjoyed going through everyone’s posts and comments and we hope you like our theme change. Before announcing what we thought were some of the best posts, we thought it could be helpful to give some general feedback:

  • Titles
    • Should be informative but still hook the reader
      • Controversial
      • Clever
      • Wordplay
      • Quote
    • Tying the title back into the end of the blog can be a very effective literary technique
  • Comments
    • Good job getting to the point
    • Comments can be broken up into smaller comments if they are distinct points
  • Proofreading
    • Proofread your posts before submitting!
    • Example: This American Life should be in italics

 

Everyone did a great job, but here are a few posts that we thought stood out:

Best Title:

Best Overall:

Honorable Mentions:

Featured Picture: Mike Daisey 

Does Ira Glass Hate Mike Daisey?


This week, I listened to the Retraction episode of This American Life. I found the characters involved in the podcast to be more interesting than the topic they were discussing, and my blog post will focus on this aspect of the podcast.

Mike and Ira are two very interesting characters, and they are now forever connected. This post will analyze my emotional reaction to Mike’s apology, as well as my thoughts on Ira’s response to Mike’s apology.

Mike has a unique, deliberate speaking style full of uncomfortable, thought provoking pauses that truly give you the sense that he choses every word he says carefully. This same style that makes him such an interesting, attention capturing, thought provoking monologuist makes him very unlikable when he comes back on the show during the retraction episode. To say that it is his speaking style that made him unlikable in his return to the show sells himself short: it is his refusal to admit that he duped Ira, and duped the public that makes him the most unlikable. His speaking style simply exacerbates the frustration a listener feels listening to Mike defend his journey to China. I am honestly surprised he would return to the show if his message was going to summarize to the following in my opinion: he admits that he deceived listeners to make them care, but quickly, proudly, and loudly points to the fact listeners now care! They care! and that matters more to him than the fact that he deceived them, which I did not like.

A quick point on Ira’s reaction to Mike’s retraction. He did not take very kindly to Mike’s retraction, and I don’t blame him because I didn’t either. However, isn’t this the best thing that ever happened to Ira’s show? Mike’s original podcast was the most downloaded podcast ever of This American Life. And I firmly believe that the followup podcast amounts to “there’s no such thing as bad news” as a boon to Ira’s show. I wonder if his on air anger at Mike is supplemented by an off-air appreciation– one that he would never admit to Mike– that Daisey’s monologue on his show and the circus that followed was the best thing that could have happened to Ira: it did not damage his journalistic integrity, and created a huge boon of interest in him and his show.

Sacred Trust


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

This American Life- not what you think


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.

This is how they describe themselves:

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.

Journalism vs. Art- Crossing the Blurred Line


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.

This is NOT Based on a True Story


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

Honesty: The Difference Between Journalism and Art


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

Knights and Knaves


“Retraction” is an attempt by This American Life to restore their credibility. It succeeds in this respect to an extent, but it does not completely negate their failure to do sufficient fact checking for the original story. Unfortunately for Mike Daisey, all of the credibility This American Life and Ira Glass restore for themselves is at his expense. They paint Mike Daisey as a liar by asking leading questions and eventually outright asking if he lied. Continue reading Knights and Knaves

Making People Care


I knew the This American Life retraction would expose some over-exaggerations Mike Daisy had made, but I was not prepared for the extent to which his story was hyperbolized. He conducted far fewer interviews than he claimed, Foxconn was much more approachable and accommodating to visitors, all meetings were set up in advance, underage workers were not commonplace, and n-hexane was not a concern. In addition, Mike did not experience dorm room conditions and likely did not talk to a man with a mangled hand.

I felt much less sympathy, and almost uncaring, towards the Foxconn workers, writing off their true working conditions as not very dire, especially compared to how their conditions were originally portrayed. So, that being said, I agree with Mike Daisy when he argues his story would have had much less impact if it was not told entirely from the first person and embellished the way it was. Continue reading Making People Care