Oh dear. It seems that the “This American Life” episode of “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” wasn’t “journalism” after all – it was “theater” according to the “journalist” Mike Daisey (who calls himself a performance artist).
From small fabrications (the number of factories he visited) to larger ones (falsifying what his interpreters relayed to him, transferring incidents from one location to another, making up falsehoods from full cloth), Apples seems to have been vindicated calling him “unreliable.”
“This American Life” host Ira Glass is taking full responsibility, saying that when Daisey approached him and the show’s producer, they found little things that should have raised flags but let them go. They will be devoting this week’s episode to detailing the errors of the previous story, which takes some mighty large balls in my opinion. Even though they should certainly be held responsible for what they aired (and you can bet they’ll be vetting independently-made stories with a fine tooth comb from now on), in my opinion they deserve at least a small piece of forgiveness for actually having the spine to come out and say, “Damn. We made a mistake. We’re going to tell you all about it, too.” Too many people nowadays take absolutely no responsibility when called out on spreading falsehoods, knowingly or unknowingly.
Daisey says on his own blog that he is “proud” that he has “sparked a growing storm” of debate about where our devices come from and how they are made. Yes, I have to (grudgingly) agree that that is a good thing; however, it was done so under false pretense (I’m going to go out on a limb an guess that he did not dissuade PRI – the producers of This American Life – of their interpretation that this was journalism, and in fact he may have actively represented it as such). THAT should always be condemned. If you are reporting, you should be clear on that. If you are entertaining, you should make that clear as well.
Sources: This American Life’s Retraction PR, The Verge, Mike Daisey’s blog response