Oops. Public radio show This American Life announced early today that they could no longer stand by an episode they broadcast in January featuring Mike Daisey, the author of a popular monologue about Apple supplier Foxconn in China. A Marketplace reporter (a show from the same family as This American Life) found that Daisey had fabricated a number of scenes with people claiming they had suffered from working for Foxconn. Ira Glass, host of This American Life, offers a stunningly direct mea culpa for the show; he says in hindsight they should have killed the story before broadcasting:
But other things Daisey told us about Apple’s operations in China checked out, and we saw no reason to doubt him. We didn’t think he was lying to us and to audiences about the details of the story. That was a mistake.”
In a blog post today, Daisey responded that he stands by his work, explaining that his show uses a “combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license.” He adds, “What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue.”
Kudos to Glass for issuing an apology for a story gone wrong, and taking charge of the narrative before anyone else really picked Daisey’s story apart. China is a maddeningly complex place to report, and one wonders if this will trigger other disclosures.
Update: Mike Daisey had earlier excoriated tech journalists for committing the "terrible sin" of evading our "responsibilities.” Oy.