Why does that defense (from a disgraced journalist) sound familiar? Oh yeah, David Pogue, when faced with serious charges of conflict of interest: "I am not a reporter. I’ve been an opinion columnist my entire career...I try to entertain and inform."
And where did I read that? The Atlantic Wire piece on Dave Pogue. And how did I find that piece? Oh yeah, Mike Daisey linked to it from his indictment of David Pogue on his blog.
Summary: Daisey endorses a critique of Pogue that calls the defense of "I'm not a journalist" ridiculous, then Daisey invokes the exact same (pitiful) defense. Yechh...
For the record I support Daisey's crusade and think Pogue is a fool on this issue, but it's really irritating to find out that the highest profile critic of Apple labor conditions is both a liar and a Class-A Hypocrite. Now those who want to dismiss critiques of gadget-makers' labor practices have a great new reason to do just that. The campaign to improve working conditions for gadget makers would be better off if Daisey had stayed out of it completely; his contribution was (imo) a net setback.
This is a case where I suspect that both parties were mis-interpreting the intent of the other party; This American Life does a lot of "artistic" work (e.g. nearly everything by David Sedaris, or David Rakoff), and perhaps Daisey felt that he fit into that model. Likewise, TAL seems to have felt that Daisey was venturing into journalism, even though he's clearly an amateur at it (they make skeptical statements to this effect in the original piece).
That said, I think there's a bright-line distinction between "art" and "fabrication" -- when you present your work as a documentary without disclosing it as a work of fiction -- that Daisey seems to have crossed.
The question isn't "is he a journalist or isn't he" it's "did he lie and intentionally mislead" and the answer is "yes;" his chosen profession has no bearing on this fact.
What really chaps my butt is that he could have told this whole narrative without lying. To wit: clearly present it as a work of fiction, based on fact, and thoroughly footnote the whole thing to real sources. Awareness raised, emotional connection with consumers made, integrity still intact. This is essentially what he did (the issues he cites are real), he just lied about it and said they were his personal experiences, presumably to sell more tickets and get some insta-gravitas.
Oh, come now. You're assuming something critical: that Daisey went into the project representing his work as factual. If he walked into WBEZ and said "hey Ira, this segment is a dramatization of what I encountered in China, but I'm not a journalist, and I don't know all the rules", and the staff ignored that statement, or neglected to fact-check completely, then Daisey has a legitimate defense.
Likewise, if I create a radio show that sounds like an NPR news program, but is actually a fictional simuation of an NPR news program, full of falsehoods and distortions of the truth, am I lying? Technically, yes. But I don't think anyone would hold me to an ethical standard that requires absolute truth in a work of art. And perhaps that's what was going on here (that's certainly Daisey's defense.)
As I said before, I doubt that this is true -- it certainly seems as if Daisey crossed an ethical line with all of his appearances on news programs and whatnot. But there's wiggle room here. There's room for someone else to be wrong.
Here’s a transcript of his appearance on the Ed Schultz show on MSNBC:
SCHULTZ: OK. What did you see?
DAISEY: I saw all the things that everyone has been reporting on. I saw under-age workers. I talked to workers who were 13, 14, 15 years old. I met people whose hands have been destroyed from doing the same motion again and again on the line, carpal tunnel on a scale we can hardly imagine.
SCHULTZ: Making Apple products?
DAISEY: Yes. And making products across the electronics industry. All our electronics are made in this fashion.
I'm not wrong. I said that he's not a journalist, and that's true. He's a playwright.
Beyond that, and beyond what I heard him say on This American Life, I have no idea. The man could be a pathological liar. But he's not a journalist, and never pretended to be one.
How's this any different from any other Made in China electronics product?
EDIT: The replies are aligned with what I was thinking: If anything, Foxcon is above average in factory conditions. The major reason for the Apple focus is because of its high visibility.
I despise this easy targetism! I felt the same while watching Supersize Me, which focused on McDonalds, and some of Michael Moore's films. The basic premise may be correct, but selecting targets to ride on their name (McDonalds, Walmart, Apple) is an easy tactic and in fact puts off the critical thinking people who resist the manipulation (well, at least it puts me off). And what's more, in most of these cases the (more naive) audience is led to believe that the situation is this specific company's fault, leading to behavior like "Man, I'm never gonna eat another BigMac, will go to Burger King instead".
Quite the opposite, really. The founder of China Labour Watch has outright said that workers in Apple's factories are a lot better off than those in others (he specifically cites Dell and HP).
Not that Apple is anything close to perfect, but its odd that they catch all the flack when other big names are doing worse. Or not so odd. Apple's famous secrecy seems to keep them from shmoozing the labour groups and journalists, which is part of why they seem to get a much shorter end of the PR stick than the conditions on the ground would dictate.
I suspect the other reason is simply the fact that Apple is a market leader (dominant in certain of its segments) and so as a journalist it makes sense to go after them, as your readers are likely to have heard of them or own one of its products. A lot more consumers have an iPod than a Dell computer.
The reason why the media chooses to focus on Foxconn, and Apple in particular, is for the easy clicks.
I'm not saying that conditions in Foxconn factories are ideal - they're not - but they're much better than some of the truly awful factories that can be found in various developing countries. It's a real shame that the media chooses to ignore them.
If even a well liked company that people regard as being highly ethical can't manage to maintain humane working conditions while building products in China then who can? That story is all the more impactful because many in the audience will own devices made in those exact factories, or have close friends or relatives who do.
If you did a story on how some tiny company nobody's heard of making frobnobbins and how bad their factory conditions were people wouldn't care as much because it lacks that connection and that sense of import. For example, one response to such a thing could be "well, just stop making frobnobbins then! they don't seem so important", but when you own and highly value the output of those factories the tradeoffs get put into a much sharper focus.
What's probably really relevant, though, is people read stories about Apple. So if you're a journalist and you want people to read your stuff, you write about Apple and not no name fireworks companies.
(i) There is no evidence presented that Apple is doing something other companies are not doing.
(ii) The reasons for these working conditions are pretty well known: (1) China is still a relatively poor country (2) Electronics customers are very price conscious - you can't compete if your costs aren't low.
I think it's fine to pressure large companies to improve working conditions (even if it leads to higher prices) - but I have not seen the reason why Apple got almost all the scrutiny on this issue.
Foxconn makes a lot of products other than Apple, but focusing on Apple products guarantees that most of the target audience will knowlingly own a Foxconn-made product.
As well, I suspect Foxconn allows greater access to its factories than other Chinese manufacturers (and my guess is conditions there are probably better than the median factory)
To me, this puts the lie to the idea that any of this has to do with concern for the actual workers in these factories. If you think the conditions in Apple's factories are bad, but then you buy something made in a factory just as bad or worse, what exactly has been accomplished?
All the arguments against what you and I are saying come down to branding. Apple's brand is this, but their factories are like that. OK, fine, Apple's brand misrepresents reality. But who seriously cares about brands?! Wasn't the concern here supposed to be humans?
I’m writing to tell you that tonight, This American Life and Marketplace will reveal that a story that we broadcast on This American Life this past January contained significant fabrications.
We’re retracting that story because we can’t vouch for its truth, and this weekend's episode of our show will detail the errors in the story, which was an excerpt of Mike Daisey's acclaimed one-man show, "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." In it, Daisey tells how he visited a factory owned by Foxconn that manufactures iPhones and iPads in Shenzhen, China. He's performed the monologue in theaters around the country; it's currently at the Public Theater in New York.
When the original 39-minute excerpt was broadcast on This American Life, Marketplace China Correspondent Rob Schmitz wondered about its truth. He located and interviewed Daisey's Chinese interpreter Li Guifen (who goes by the name Cathy Lee professionally with westerners). She disputed much of what Daisey has been telling theater audiences since 2010 and much of what he said on the radio.
During fact checking before the broadcast of Daisey's story, I and This American Life producer Brian Reed asked Daisey for this interpreter's contact information, so we could confirm with her that Daisey actually witnessed what he claims. Daisey told us her real name was Anna, not Cathy as he says in his monologue, and he said that the cell phone number he had for her didn't work any more. He said he had no way to reach her.
At that point, we should've killed the story. 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 that he was lying to us. That was a mistake.
Schmitz does a 20-minute story on our show this weekend about his findings, and we'll also broadcast an interview I did with Daisey. Marketplace will feature a shorter version of Schmitz's report earlier in the evening. You can read more details on our website, and listen to our show on WBEZ at 7 p.m. tonight, and noon tomorrow.
We've been planning a live presentation of Daisey's monologue on stage at the Chicago Theatre on April 7th, with me leading a Q&A afterwards. Maybe you've heard me advertising it on the air. That show will be cancelled and all tickets will be refunded.
I've never had to write an email like this. Like all our friends and colleagues in public radio, I and my co-workers at This American Life work hard every day to make sure that what you hear on WBEZ is factually correct. We will continue to do that, and hope you can forgive this.
Full quote: "When I saw Mike Daisey perform this story on stage, when I left the theater I had a lot of questions. I mean, he's not a reporter, and I wondered, did he get it right? And so we've actually spent a few weeks checking everything that he says in his show."
From http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/454/t... or http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:www.thi...
adding “this is theater,” he said. “Not journalism.”
Calling to mind Jack Shafer (now at Reuters, formally Slate's media critic) on the problematic nature of narrative journalism:
Whatever the case, the frequency of reported cases in the mass media is significant. Poynter has been tracking it for years; here are some of the reported cases from last year:
Remember James Frey (tricked Oprah and her staff).
He's doing quite well, see "current work":
Interestingly his show's run off broadway is scheduled through the 18th; anyone want to start a pool on that?
There's Henry Blodget as well:
My understanding is that he settled when he was accused of touting stocks he didn't like. But I also understand that he actually lost a lot of money on such stocks.
He paid $4m in restitution to investors, but apparently the total amount of lost money that could be traced to his transactions was less than the interest on the $4m over the half-decade after the fine. So the case looks a lot more complicated than the capsule version.
James Frey lied about his own personal experience and Henry Blodget was involved in securities fraud. They are relatively unknown outside their industry.
Mike Daisey told lies that he presented to news organizations, blogs, etc. as facts -- for money and self-promotion at the expense of a well respected company. CNN, NYTimes, The Washington Post, etc. wrote articles based on Mike Daisey's lies. In my view this is similar to what happened to Dan Rather a few years ago. People will forget, but they will remember.
By the time the novel was finished, Sinclair was convinced the pair were guilty; but he released it anyway because of its "higher truth".
I have always considered Truman Capote, Tom Wolf, Terry Southern and their ilk my heroes and sources of inspiration, even though I have been well aware of their use of composite characters and other "embellishments" that are frowned upon in modern magazines and newspapers. While I have never created a composite character myself, a couple of times I did describe a composite scene: say I had spent a week with my subjects and one night one of the characters made a remark at dinner, and the next night someone else said something else during dinner, I chose to recount those two events as taking place the same night during the same meal. I made that decision (which I'd discussed with my editor) becaue either the two events occured on two different nights randomly, and could have just as easily taken place on the same night, and I didn't want to interrupt the flow of the story or the reader's image of the scene, or, they may have been a good reason for these two events to have occured separately, but that reason was complicated, and explaining it would have detracted from the story. Did I do a disservice to the truth? I don't think so. Here's why.
To explain it in terms familiar to the readers of this forum, journalism is a "reverse problem". The journalist's job is not listing facts, but extracting a model of the truth from a sample set of observation data. This is a very difficult problem. In contrast to what many critics think, a good journalists must not only stick to "the facts", because the facts are simply a biased sampling of reality. Sticking to the facts is just like connecting sample points with lines - it's called overfitting and it's as gross a mishandling of the truth as negligent interpolation or extrapolation is. Neither sticking to facts nor "completing" them is "the truth". A good journalist is one who is able to recreate a good model of reality, a fine approximation of it, by relying on observed facts as well as on gut instinct and genuine emotion, and who's able to convey the model as clearly as possible to his audience, introducing neither outright fabrications nor irrelevant and confusing facts.
To extend your model, you're conflating direct data collection/experimentation with literature assessment, and essentially saying that's acceptable. It's not.
A journalist interviewing an expert (academic, or other specialist) is analogous to the literature review in a research context: you do not have direct observation, but you are assuming that peer review and other mechanisms have ensured the literature is grounded in direct observation.
A journalist recounting first-hand experiences or recounting those of people he/she has interviewed is really doing direct data collection or experimentation: the reason you try to get multiple sources for a significant claim is precisely why scientists run experiments multiple times.
A journalist claiming second-hand experiences as first-hand is equivalent to claiming to have observational data when in actuality you are relaying the conclusion of another experiment.
Take this neuro-toxin example: it happened to N people, but by claiming to meet them personally, he's implying it happens more often but is covered up, which would mean the real prevalence is higher (when in reality, we have no evidence that they are).
Or take the suicide rates. By claiming concentration via personal experience, the claim is contrary to what we know through more rigorous data collection, which is that the rates firm-wide are lower than for the Chinese population in general.
Also, the problem of your metaphor is you presume that the model f(observed facts, gut instinct, emotion) yields more valid inference than the sum of multiple journalists' f(observed facts). This is crap. If f(gut instinct, emotion) skew systematically -- a more reasonable conclusion than the counterfactual -- then no, your approach is less valid.
Nassim Taleb had a nice bit about how he doesn't read the news; instead he reads textbooks or other long-production-cycle reports. This is because, he says, the frontier of knowledge doesn't change very often. So what you get in the news is a fundamentally biased sample of only the outliers (which sells papers) and never the consensus that is generally 99% of the body of knowledge.
And just to make sure: I'm not claiming that a longer, more careful and more rigorous observation does not yield a more accurate approximation. I'm just responding to a common complaint against journalists that if only they would stick to what they've actually observed and can prove that would necessarily produce better journalism; this is wrong.
And as for Nassim Taleb not reading the news, only textbooks - well, I don't have a problem with the first part, but if the obsessive, anal Mr. Taleb insists on only the most rigorous sources for learning about this world, than he has a very limited soul, indeed.
Actually, I've learned a lot of interesting things about the startup culture (specifically that of Silicon Valley) from reading HN comments (seriously, it's fascinating). There's probably a story there, one that hasn't been told yet.
A lie is still a lie.
Journalists report. Pundits opine.
You're one, or the other. You cannot be both. Or act like one while claiming to be the other.
No journalist should lie, even pundits, and it is indeed a reporter's job to report rather than opine, or, as I prefer to call it, "pass judgement". However, even when reporting, and especially in long-form non-fiction pieces (be it a magazine feature or a documentary film) it is is the unintelligent reporter who limits his audience's perspective to the clearly observable facts. The camera, as the saying goes, truly does lie, if only because the viewer cannot see what lies beyond its field of view. The mere selection of which facts to report (as you cannot report all of them unless you want to turn your audience into reporters) is the first act of building a model of reality. A lie is indeed a lie, but sometimes just reporting a few facts is a bigger lie (i.e. a worse approximation of reality) than completing the picture with the experienced reporter's gut instinct. It is not the reporter's job to pass judgment - that is indeed the realm of the pundit - but it is his job to reconstruct a good model of reality.
A reporter is not supposed to be merely a sensor, transcribing measurements. It is his job to try and extract meaning from those measurements as well; meaning, though not judgement. When you actually go out in the field, there is valuable meaning that you just sense even though you can't waive a piece of hard evidence to support it. A reporter that decides to spare that meaning from his audience betrays both his audience and the truth.
You might say, well, if that's the case, two reporters going out there might tell a very different story. That is true. That would also be true if both were simply reporting the hard facts. That would be true even if they both were to place a camera and let it stream images directly to your screen without any human intervention.
Um, no. your observation of the facts is biased. It's important that we accept that subjectivity lies within ourselves.
Hypothetical Mike Daisey who takes pride in his decisions: "I use a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell the story, and I do so with integrity."
Actual Mike Daisey who knows he's full of shit: "It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity."
Bill O'Reilly's spent days on rants based on deliberately misrepresenting what Sandra Fluke testified about. (1. She wants government to pay for birth control. No, students pay for insurance and wants contraceptives covered by the insurance they pay for. 2. She can't afford birth control but she can fly all over doing interviews. No, she was testifying about other students who had problems affording birth control without insurance, so what Fluke can afford is irrelevant. Etc.)
Fox News's whole raison d'être requires this kind of misinformation.
Calling lapses of journalistic integrity "slip-ups" is a disservice to serious journalism. Running a story without adequate fact checking because it will gain you viewers or because it closely aligns to your biases is a serious breach and shouldn't be downplayed, no matter what the ideology of the perpetrators are. The media is in a sorry state these days and this is a big part of why.
Edit: On second thought it's possible I may have misinterpreted your intent. If you mean that it's not worthwhile to delve into ideologically based score keeping, then I agree. I only object to the notion that we shouldn't highlight past transgressions, or that we should downplay them as effectively "accidents". In reality there is a history of effective hoaxes and "black bag" operations involving the press, in some of the most egregious cases where members of the press were fully complicit. That's worth talking about and bringing to the surface even if an attempted reckoning of the integrity of, say, Fox News vs. CBS is not.
They are devoting THEIR ENTIRE SHOW this weekend to the retraction.
If you honestly think Fox News would do this, I want some of your drugs.
Towards our 10,000 member goal, we heard from 9,025 folks over the last eight days, and we couldn't be more grateful. Some of the Summer Pledge Drive has been eliminated, but with your help, we can still eliminate some more.
'twoodfin is right to be cautious about valorizing WBEZ.
His "investigative journalism" of ACORN was shown to be edited to the point of nearly complete fabrication. No retraction from Fox.
I have noticed a drum beating on NPR since the piece aired regarding Apple's working conditions, on the news and the various podcasts. Will be interesting to watch for a change in tone.
I hear this asked, once in a while, on WPR, when the station manager is on a call-in show in the morning: why do you guys program to the left. And the answer is (I'm paraphrasing) That's who our audience is, so that's what we program for.
Heck, last week he as much admitted as such when he noted that they focused more on politics since the election of Scott Walker (R) as governor, and they will focus less when he's out of office: that's what our audience expects.
Which is understandable: if they had a Rush Limbaugh kind of guy on they'd loose audience and see donations drop. Be nice if they just admitted it.
I mean, what would consist of "balanced" in your view? The science leads towards a global warming hypothesis, and what's what they report. Most non-foxnews viewers agree that no WMD were found in Iraq. How are they supposed to split the difference on stuff like that?
NPR does not have ranting opinion shows that are political first. They have programs that are intended to inform. To the extent that liberals are more attracted to outlets like NPR than they are to outlets like currentTV, that's a statement about liberals, not about NPR.
I'm not the parent post, and I generally agree with you, but I'll take a stab at it.
I used to have the opinion that NPR was left-leaning. This was primarily due to when I listened to it, which was during my late-morning commute. I believe I was listening to "All Things Considered," which is usually quite a good listen.
However, on certain subjects, I noticed what seemed to be a significant bias in the moderator. Expressions of shock or disbelief at certain things, giving some speakers more time than others, and not calling some speakers on blatantly talking around the question, for example.
Last time I checked, I think I was evaluated as a mildly socialist libertarian. I happen to know a fair amount about guns. As such, I notice terrible inaccuracies and biased language fairly often when reading mainstream media reports on gun-related incidents. The misuse of automatic, semi-automatic, "assault rifle" (which means "scary looking" to journalists), cache versus personal arsenal, etc. It's really a lot like the low quality of technical and science coverage. Basically, similar technical ineptitude leads journalists to appear right wing (e.g. climate change deniers) as what leads them to appear left-leaning (e.g. complete ignorance of gun terminology).
Other parts of NPR have a ridiculously narrow view of the world. "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" drives me mad with the narrowness of the comedy on there. As it happens, much of their comedy would probably fall under the category of leftist, but I was personally offended by the narrowness and inanity of an apolitical joke (specifically, they were laughing at an experimental airbag for motorcyclists which protects the often-broken hips from impact with the gas tank, but the commentators repeatedly assumed it was solely to protect the groin, so they effectively made "pee-pee" jokes for five minutes).
Anyway, while I don't consider NPR to be a leftist news outlet, per se, I would appreciate if they spent more time educating themselves on certain subjects and tried harder to hold guests accountable for answering questions presented.
Those are imperfections more than the sign of some ideological motive. Presumably, the NPR hosts know very little about guns, so they misuse some terminology. Would be better if they were more educated but journalists are generalists, they can't know everything. They're not the gun network.
The climate change thing is totally different, Fox News will spend significant airtime harping on global warming, like we're talking many mentions per day, and the point isn't that they're not climate scientists (I'm not either), it's that they have no desire to listen to what climate scientists say. At all. Unless it agrees with their pre-conceived narrative. There are miles of distance between that and ignorance on the technicalities of the subject.
You don't have to be "the gun network" to know basic terminology about guns. If you don't have knowledge of something, don't report on it, or simply repeat the literal words of, say, the police. Don't try to spice up the story for broadcast by misusing terms. Similarly, you don't have to be a physicist to realize that you should create inflammatory headlines like, "neutrinos traveling faster than light, Einstein in tears!"
And anyway, the gun thing was just an example of how news outlets in general often get things wrong in a way that effectively creates a bias which is perceived to be left-leaning. I've seen the same thing happen when discussing nuclear power, military weaponry research, and countless other topics. And it's not simply about ignorance of technicalities, it's about misuse of terms and misinterpretation of information.
I was in the car, listening because they were going on about Jean Ferraca - whom I really dig. And it did catch me out as something extraordinary, but not unexpected, for WPR. I started to write it down when I got to my desk and thought 'whatever'.
Joy Cardin show for 3/12/2012, show number 120312C. I'll download and give it a re-listen, reply here.
Listening twice to Cardin - the things I do for integrity.
Show is archived here: http://www.wpr.org/webcasting/audioarchives_display.cfm?Code...
The things I do ...
Joy Cardin Show
Dir WPR Mike Crane
Greg in Stevens Point "I get tired of the political talk in the first two segments (tl:dl - he doesn't like politics, would donate, would like the morning programs to be more like the mid-day one, with gardening, home handy tips and various other stuff) "It's just listening to college teachers with an opinion .. it never ends .. been going on for three, four, five years however long it's been."
Mike WPR Director "Bascially starting with the election two years ago now that there just seemed to be a lot more politics to talk about. that we had a significant change in governance that I think has caused a lot of people to be
curious about it maybe we'll find after this next election that things will shift a different way and there will be other things to talk about."
The second comment was rich. Greg complained about diversity - race issues. "Only one person of color."
Mike:(paraphrase) We have a Latina, too. And we're working on some other stuff.
The 'person of color' is the (imho) best guy _on_ WPR, Jonathan Overby. His 'Higher Ground' used to be a really entertaining live show with an audiance, live music. A few years ago they cut it back to Overby playing records.
I miss the way it used to be.
Now, Crane's comments can be seen as innocuous. And, maybe, he really did mean them that way.
But it's funny that the swing to 'talk about politics' didn't happen until after Walker (R) was elected. And that he said it would swing right back if he was voted out.
Thanks, I hadn't heard of Behind the News, found it on iTunes and it sounds awesome. Link for those interested:
I can't figure out how he's been able to keep a career going. Maybe this will--mercifully--be the end of it all.
Story about the fabriaction: http://jimromenesko.com/2012/02/02/marketplace-scolded-for-a...
I listen to Marketplace everyday, and I just donated to both groups because it takes a lot of integrity to admit when you're wrong.
EDIT: donated to This American Life as well as Marketplace
I could see if the guy had maybe not earned some medals he claimed he had, or if he was lower rank than he claimed, but he claimed to be a returning veteran and was never even in the army.
Maybe it's just me, but verifying his army background and veteran status would be the first thing I would check going with a story titled, "Returning veteran has few marketable skills"
Admitting they were wrong is nice, but that's a pretty big wrong that was easily avoidable by doing even a little checking.
This is usually a distinction without a difference, but when it comes to evaluating the standards and practices of a particular show, it helps to know who actually has oversight.
A real news outlet determines the truth before, optionally, looking for or fabricating facts to support it.
Now, what's a good synonym for "slut"?
It's scary how easy it is to socially engineer people and get what you want.
While some of this comes from experience I feel that some people are just wired in a way that makes them easier to dupe independent of their education and intelligence.
The largest company in the world making their money on the backs of exploiting the very poorest is a common trope so it's one that doesn't get much fact checking.
People aren't wired that way, it takes a good 12 years of teaching them to regurgitate 'quasi-facts' to get them out of their more curious fact checking nature. Every kid wants to know why the sky is blue, but by the time they get to history class no one wants to know why Columbus discovered America.
Except they did fact check those parts:
"In our original broadcast, we fact checked all the things that Daisey said about Apple's operations in China," says Glass, "and those parts of his story were true, except for the underage workers, who are rare. We reported that discrepancy in the original show. (...)"
What wasn't true was the stuff that the guy claim to had experienced personally.
I'm a Chicago Public Radio member, too, but I didn't get an email. I'd certainly like to be on this list... checking spam folders now...
Apple was a sponsor of NPR in FY 2008 and 2009, and 2010.
I suspect they continue to be one.
Money is the best explanation for the PR push behind your email.
That's nice, but This American Life isn't made by NPR.
> PRI is a major public media content creator and also distributes programs from many sources, competing with National Public Radio and American Public Media to provide programming to public radio stations.
in the words of Mike Daisey:
"I used a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell a story"
PRI, as you note, is in competition with NPR (and CPM). They are producers of the journalistic expose' about a one man show not meeting the standards of investigative journalism. A strawman argument indeed.
So your position is that Apple is pressuring NPR which is pressuring Chicago Public Media which is pressuring Chicago Public Radio which is pressuring Public Radio International which is pressuring This American Life to issue a retraction?
I really don't think This American Life needed much pushing to retract admitted falsehoods.
Your statement however is worthy of a WOW.
Chinese factory conditions are often horrible, and there's often a blatant disregard for human life and dignity. Mr. Daisey did a pretty good job of conveying these ideas in a way that well-heeled westerners could understand at a gut level.
However, his pursuit of storytelling over journalism is going to destroy all that. People are going to (rightfully) pitch the fact out along with the fiction, because there's no way to distinguish the two.
It just makes me sad.
[disclaimer: I have never taken journalism classes but I date someone majoring in journalism in college :-)]
Disclaimer aside, I believe you comment is the whole 'moral' of the story. And were someone to write a pulitzer prize winning fictional story about a journalist who was so passionate about the topic they were reporting on they stepped into the cess pool of making up 'facts' and by doing so, lost their soul, and the thing that they were most passionate about gets dismissed and ignored. Its like a Greek tragedy except that instead of the hero dying its some noble cause that dies because of the acts of a selfish reporter.
This is why people who want to be known as journalists have to never, ever, cross that line. Sadly it has a similar mechanism to cheating on your spouse, you do it once and don't get caught and its thrilling and exciting and nouveaux so you want to do it again, and again, and again. And then you do get caught at some point and all the good that was your marriage goes "Poof!" in an instant. (not a personal experience but related by folks daily it seems).
As a literary tool it is very powerful, you can relate to the protagonist's passion, but cannot forgive their transgression.
I can't speak to the particulars in Daisey's story (since I don't know which ones were made up), but the overall picture he painted sounded familiar. It's unquestionable that there are horrible working conditions in Chinese factories.
That's the tragedy here. There's millions of awful wonderful horrible stories you can tell about Chinese factories, and Mike Daisey is obscuring them by making up his own.
I think it is more important that there is a trend towards improved work environments and opportunities than bemoaning the fact that any particular work environment isn't as good as some cushy 1st-world white-collar job.
Let me paint a fictional picture for you. Say there's this island that's been ravaged by natural disasters and famine, and its entire population is starving. Rich people from a nearby country realize the islanders are in real distress and will be willing to do a lot for anyone who will save them from certain, horrible death, so they decide to use them as workers. So the rich people set up shop on the island, and the locals start working for them. Some of the rich people pay the workers (each of them producing, say $100's of product a day) with one loaf of bread, oh, and they also rape the women. Some pay their workers $2 a day, and they don't rape the women. Naturally the locals love the latter group, while that group of rich people from the mainland describe how they've saved the poor islanders from certain death and have even treated them rather humanely - well, at least compared to some others. They praise the wisdom of the market who let them gain from the islanders' cheap workforce, while letting the islanders survive.
Now, this (fictional) story is not about China. It's about anywhere an impoverished population, or anyone under extreme duress, lives. Speaking about choice under such conditions is preposterous. People will choose a quick death over slow mutilation. People will choose enslavement over annihilation. Believe me, there's no "free will" at work here, and whether or not the rich people from the mainland have done any good to the island, they certainly have nothing to brag about because they're exploiters who've saved a population merely to enslave it.
My story is extreme and I am not making any direct comparisons. I am saying that poor people are not "free" and they most certainly can't "choose", and if they do have a sliver of choice in their miserable lives (akin to the choice an innocent man might have for his last meal before execution), there is certainly nothing for anyone here to be proud about - certainly not about providing them with "alternatives" (like commuting the innocent's sentence to a life of forced labor).
This is all hardly surprising - just as individual physical particles have inertia, so do we.
I hear this argument a lot, and I consider it BS. What their original work was has no bearing on whether the conditions in the factories are good or bad. It just tells us that they are better than the alternative.
Working as a human slave in 16 hours shifts for money barely enough to make it day-to-day is still preferable than dying of hunger in a chinese village because of lack of resources. That doesn't mean that it is good in itself, or that it should not change.
Doubly so if the chinese farms and village economies are broken down by pollution, regulations and measures taken to ensure the farm population is driven to work in factories.
You know, like the Stalin-era forced industrialization of USSR (which is not unknown in the West too: that's how most workers where forced to leave previously livable farm work and seek work in industry, starting from the 18th century Manchester (UK) case to the colonies. In most cases it was not a contemplated choice of what is most beneficial to the individual, but a forced decision).
Unless you can fact check it.
He claimed that something to the effect of "nothing there was made by machine, everything tiny little chip is put there by hand" - which I found hard to believe then and even harder now.
To what extent if any is this true?
Take a bare PCB, screen print it with solder paste (sometimes glue), run it through a pick and place machine (or a series of machines) then put it through a reflow oven. Once it comes out the oven you give it an auto test, and send it to have the rest of the components put on. (Some things will be damaged by heat, or can't be placed by machine. Examples include connectors on the "wrong side", but I guess massive machines have solved this problem.)
Note that in a huge factory you'd need few people for all the steps until the product finishes testing - most of it is automatic.
Even in tiny factory one person can keep a line running producing a lot of product by pushing a few buttons now and then, and moving boards from one machine to the next.
Having said that, a lot of stuff is done by hand; tiny coil winding and placement is one example.
Here's a UK documentary where youth went to a factory in the Philippines. The tech episode is ep5. I don't know if it's available online anywhere.
Now mounting a BGA without a largely automatic machine would be stupid for high volumes (and even for very small one, and maybe even for unitary prototypes), and in this case it would also be stupid to not pick and place all SMD.
Indeed even with very low wages, it would probably be stupid to mount a board manually except for very low volumes and very small boards. Mouting a small SMD can be done quickly with practice, but you are amazed when you count the amount there is (try on an iphone photo or on a random motherboard)
What was your impression of working conditions on the rural farms that are one of the most often-cited alternatives for many of the Foxconn workers?
If there is a famine in an area, and people are dying, is it OK to offer them food and water in exchange for slave labour? No pay, just food and water, and everybody that doesn't like can go and die of hunger. How does this deal sound?
A forced choice is not much of a choice.
Also check how the once substinent farm economy is affected by industrialization, pollution and the state push for ever more production.
My impression is that like most Westerners living today, you have no earthly idea what the term "slave labor" actually means, so we'll leave it at that. Peace.
And my impression is that I very much have an accurate idea, plus I hardly consider myself a "westerner", and not only because I'm some 15,000 miles away from the nearest Walmart. It's not like we grew up with Fox News (or NPR at best) -- we have a penchant for history in these here parts plus we have been living it in the live, frequently (including now).
OTOH, you might be unaware that beside the basic determinant (i.e no choice on the matter), slave labour has had a great variety of working conditions in the past. Some were even better that Foxconn by a lot (say, a black lady cooking and/or taking care of the kids in a huge Southern estate would often be treated quite like family -- or in Ancient Greece slaves were even able to amass their own fortune and run businesses, while remaining legally slaves).
The point is that this will do damage to the existing, unchallenged evidence, because it'll have some kind of guilty by association attached to it.
I don't think his story taints any other particular investigation of Foxconn. But I think his whole story is now hazmat.
It's funny how people want to whitewash how Daisey slandered Apple here. He wasn't speaking generically about Chinese factories -- the entire piece is built around a crucifixion of Apple. Apple, the bad Chinese sweatshop exploiter, that's what tens of millions of people who read the wave of publicity from this story took away from it. Each piece I've read has a few bits tacked on about "the rest of the industry" almost as an afterthought.
Maybe Apple's the worst and deserves to be raked over the coals. But if the truth is that Apple holds it's suppliers to higher standards and should be held up as an example for other companies well you wouldn't know it.
"In our original broadcast, we fact checked all the things that Daisey said about Apple's operations in China," says Glass, "and those parts of his story were true, except for the underage workers, who are rare. We reported that discrepancy in the original show (...)"
Apparently the lies are more about what he claimed to have personally experienced.
Yes, and Chinese businesses also put melamine in baby formula sold to Chinese families, that made hundreds or thousands of babies sick, and probably killed some.
Frankly, if the Chinese factories are disregarding human life and dignity, it's probably not something pushed on them by Western companies.
If anything, this kind of Chinese business ethics is something that will impede Western companies trying to clean up their supply chains.
He doesn't seem to get why lying and exaggerating and sensationalizing a topic for the sake of its awareness doesn't work out in the long run.
If it's accepted when you do it for your cause, it's accepted when others do it for their cause. Now all you've done is diminished the attention garnered by the nature, impact and realities of a given issue by legitimizing the use of hyperbole and alarmism spun by its champions. To take a page from The Power of Nightmares, in the end the winners aren't the issues that genuinely need more attention, but the issues whose supporters can pitch the scariest stories to the public.
Any issue still needs good supporters and good supporters still need to frame strong, influential narratives, and there's plenty of room in journalism for creating a narrative while staying within the bounds of facts. There's also room in theater and the arts in general to contribute fictional narratives towards an issue but the distinction is very important. To lower that gate of verifiable facts and evidence for journalism does nothing but to erode the important role journalism has in society at large.
If what TAL says is true about Daisey misleading them with the fact-checking rounds, then Daisey certainly crossed a line and knew full well that he was passing off performance as reporting. His peers in this respect are the likes of Fox News where it's considered acceptable to spread information you want others to believe as truth, for the sake of the issues you yourself feel are important. It's a shame because I think objectively most would agree the working conditions in china are an issue that doesn't deserve the same tactics used by say the Obama birth certificate "issue".
Saying he regrets doing so now, while simultaneously saying he's proud of the attention raised on the issue, shows that he is in fact not regretful at all. It's even easier to see it since he never expressed regret until now. His only regret is that he was caught.
I pressed Cathy to confirm other key details that Daisey reported. Did the guards have guns when you came here with Mike Daisey? With each question I got the same answer from Lee. “No,” or “This is not true.”
Daisey claims he met underage workers at Foxconn. He says he talked to a man whose hand was twisted into a claw from making iPads. He describes visiting factory dorm rooms with beds stacked to the ceiling. But Cathy says none of this happened.
I must say that while listening to the story some things seemed a little exaggerated, and the his whole style didn't seem very objective. But I didn't suspect that he made things up from whole cloth.
Just to be clear, Rob Schmitz, the Marketplace reporter breaking this story, reported on underage workers making Apple products for Marketplace, last year: http://www.marketplace.org/topics/business/apple-economy/app...
Note, the claim Schmitz is actually refuting is not that underage workers are employed making Apple products, but instead that Mr. Daisey saw underage workers - and to do so, he literally employs, he-said she-said.
Furthermore, Mr. Schmitz has reported (again for Marketplace) on ordinary Chinese reporting to have been threatened for speaking ill of Apple:
I recently returned to Tongxin village to see if things
had changed since Kaedar shut down the production lines.
This time, nobody wanted to talk to me. Some people hid
in their homes when they saw me.
When I ask two men about the pollution, they say, "What
pollution?' There's no pollution here." Another man said he
and others who spoke to journalists have been threatened --
he angrily accused me of working for Apple.
I ask one woman if she's been threatened.
"I don't know," she says nervously.
But then Dong Qiaozhen invites me inside her house.
Dong Qiaozhen: Yes, we've been threatened.
Village officials have warned us not to talk to
reporters about the pollution.
The villagers might have been threatened, but it probably wasn't Apple who did it. The suppliers are probably lying to Apple about their environmental controls, then polluting to increase profits. So the supplier's owners or management, who might be important Party figures, or military officials, leans on the local officials, to lean on the villagers.
Although it is rooted in finance news, they end up covering all sorts of interesting business stories.
With a great deal of effort it is possible to craft moving narratives about events that happened after the facts of a story have settled. But when a story is breaking through the lens of a riveting narrative, start worrying.
His apology seems to concede a fair amount of dramatization, and he didn't (in advance of hearing the Ira/Mike conversation) appear to assert the truth of those specific parts of the story. But supposing he did stand by some of these details, we'd have a he said/she said, with strong incentives on each side.
Blog post: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://...
There is no integrity in lying to fact checkers to ensure your piece gets on the air.
[...] But what joins D’Agata and Capote is this: Both love “real” facts, but when blocked by journalistic convention from the literary effects they desire, they willingly leapt that fence to create whatever rules they needed to enhance their work. Because he admits to his shape-shifting, D’Agata’s work is harmless. Capote’s book, on the other hand [...]
That other field, the much smaller one strewn with landmines, rusting rebar and barking dogs is called non-fiction — or in its less effete incarnation, journalism. Oddly, without an accurate record as our anchor, it would be difficult to create fiction, as former New York Times Executive Editor Max Frankel observed in a 1998 essay. “Wrong facts and the truths derived from them are always correctable — with more facts. Fictional facts are forever counterfeit,” Frankel writes.
I believe in journalism, not journalists, and welcome anybody with a notebook, a recorder or a 94 percent total-recall memory to help clear our field and plant it with their work as long as they have a true story to tell. As for latter-day Capotes and D’Agatas, I can give you Google Maps directions to the land of fiction.
There is no sane interpretation in which he did not knowingly and with gusto embrace the misunderstandings his shading of the truth created. I can't respect that.
So many of the things he claims to have seen aren't in essence untrue: hexane poisoning did happen, he just didn't meet (and tell a true story) about how. Underage workers do exist, but I think it is less than clear whether Daisy met any of them. Terrible abuses resulting in lasting, terrible physical damage (or death) clearly are occurring, but Daisey isn't the one uncovering them, he isn't the heroic reporter interviewing the victims to reveal their plight.
When Daisey defends his work, he's really defending himself as the champion of the oppressed. This, I think, is really about his ego, not about the plight of any abused Chinese worker.
What kind of explanation is that? Public accusations should be supported by things like evidence and facts, “journalism” or not.
He's not blaming anyone but himself, and by devoting his next show to this topic, is demonstrating more integrity than what we have come to expect. The public deserves no less, but in our era that is still rare.
It would be interesting if TAL (or others) would gather together a group of experts who are connected in various industries and bounce stories off of them before publishing.
This could even be a startup idea - a marketplace of experts and connected people for the purpose of fact checking. We live in a super-connected society where 'stories from China' should be easy to debunk.
Marketplace's journalism is akin to investigating the false claims in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. That no person named "Stanislovas Lukoszas" was ever eaten alive by rats, is hardly a revelation.
It's This American Life which is unclear about where journalism begins and ends and what constitutes journalistic integrity and what constitutes muckraking.
A particularly poignant bit for me was near the end, as Ira Glass is having a conversation with Rob Schmitz. I'm paraphrasing slightly from memory. Ira asks Rob after discussing the fact that it is established fact that many Foxconn workers do double shifts and insane amounts of overtime, "I own many of these products, should I feel bad?"
Rob replies (again paraphrasing), "It isn't my job as a reporter to tell you how to feel. It is my job to gather facts and report them as accurately as possible and let you decide."
I feel like that is one of the most important ethics missing from so much of journalism today. And it isn't just Fox News: almost every journalism source which fits into mainstream reporting these days seems to want to editorialize the news and push us on how we should feel.
That's a stand-up move. I hate it when a retraction gets far less attention
than the original story.
Also, as many have pointed out TAL is not a NPR show.
It's designed for a western audience and plays on assumptions and stereotypes that exist of China/Chinese people - apart from interviews with serious professionals or scholars who have spent time there (like on Charlie Rose) you're bound to be left with a very distorted view of what "China" is (and isn't).
How do you describe one quarter of the entire population of earth in any sort of accurate way? It's impossible, but it sure does sell copy when you try.
These are serious issues about how human beings are treated and they deserve more from than a reframe into a silly tribal squabble over who prefers what brand.
China's labor problems aren't limited to their electronics factories.
I'm going to listen very intently to this episode. Is he telling what could be true, or is he the worst kind of liar, manufacturing controversy?
>"In our original broadcast, we fact checked all the things that Daisey said about Apple's operations in China," says Glass, "and those parts of his story were true, except for the underage workers, who are rare."
>Some of the falsehoods found in Daisey's monologue are small ones: the number of factories Daisey visited in China, for instance, and the number of workers he spoke with. Others are large. In his monologue he claims to have met a group of workers who were poisoned on an iPhone assembly line by a chemical called n-hexane. Apple's audits of its suppliers show that an incident like this occurred in a factory in China, but the factory wasn’t located in Shenzhen, where Daisey visited.
>"It happened nearly a thousand miles away, in a city called Suzhou," Marketplace’s Schmitz says in his report. "I’ve interviewed these workers, so I knew the story. And when I heard Daisey’s monologue on the radio, I wondered: How’d they get all the way down to Shenzhen? It seemed crazy, that somehow Daisey could’ve met a few of them during his trip."
But he mushed them all together into a narrative and framed it as if he has personally seen and talked with these people.
Skimming the mainstream coverage I get the impression that both his personal story and the facts about the manufacturing culture were equally wrong. So he did the cause was fighting for vastly more harm than good: people now believe the problem itself doesn't exist. Whoops. Way to go dude.
I'll be interested to hear the correction episode to see how they detangle the falsehoods in the author's personal story vs things that aren't happening (or aren't happening with enough frequency to be concerned about.)
Certainly suggesting that a westerner with a single week in China would encounter all these problems exaggerates their frequency even if the problems are real. It suggests that if he can find all this out so easily, what else must be going on? On the other hand, many of his claims about conditions so seem to be real issues backed by other reporting. It will be a tricky episode.
edit: lol, lowest rated comment out of hundreds. my judgement must be out of whack, i'll take another look at this story tomorrow with a clear head.
In the last case, his claim made it sound as if underage workers were more common than they are, if he could just show up at the gate and meet some. Underage workers have been found, but they don't seem to be as common as Daisey would have you believe, so not a routine policy of hiring kids.
Those create a very impression different from the one that we're left with. I'd say that for the most part what Daisey adds beyond the official reports is his fabrications.
It definitely struck a cord in me; two specific things.
#1 Excellence is in the culture. Unabashed, aggressive, and strident. If you didn't read the docs then why are you even talking? That kind of attitude. iOS more than any other language is a club for readers, because devs here respect the legacy of code. But since I am American and because I have my pick of whatever platform or language, I have a choice. No matter what my situation, what excuse I may make, at the end of the day I chose iOS and I adopted Apple's culture. But, if I were in a different situation, where there really isn't another job out there, and culture is not really a choice, and I was forced to perform on such a level (and Apple's culture bleeds into every facet of its organization, software, hardware, sales) it might be a waking nightmare. It is one thing to embrace the grind to stay up night after night, eating garbage, working on your next startup because it is in your blood, and being broke and poor and performing to the beat of a driven man's rhythm.
#2 I'm sure there is a significant reason why China doesn't see the release of iOS products until much later but it still just rubs me the wrong way. Having iOS products released sooner than later in your country is a privilege. Does the country that make these products not deserve that privilege?
I love This American Life, I love iOS and the objective-c language, and am an admirer of Steve Jobs and the company he created. I don't have any heated feeling about anyone in all this so let me say I have nothing but respect for all parties involved. However there is a common thread in all this between Apple, Steve, China and startup culture--the pursuit of excellence at the cost of normal human needs, and the amount of suffering/neglect man is willing to put himself through to achieve his/her goals--that widened my eyes, because it somehow reminded me of what I was doing to myself. You all know what I'm talking about. If you have ever hustled, tried your hand as a founder, embraced the grind you know; the depth of depravity we all put yourselves through to reach an ephemeral goal. It has no taste though sweet in our minds. Always driven with trained eyes unwavering stares, focused, mental, cold as some might describe us. All for what? But to perform at a high level. All else being secondary.
I look forward to the corrections episode and am working harder to embrace my fun side.
If my radio station played Bill and Melinda Gates Underwriting spots, it'd probably influence the culture of the station - does this have any effect on NPR's culture and did it effect the presentation of the story? Payola is a tricky thing...
Furthermore, The Bill & Melinda Gates foundation has no connection to Microsoft, and even if it did, it would make no sense for Microsoft to put out a hit on Apple by way of Foxconn: Foxconn makes a lot of hardware for Microsoft.