4 important truths about Mike Daisey’s lies & the way ‘This American Life’ told them

Fact checking is a real process, but what “This American Life” did wasn’t fact checking.

When the news broke that “This American Life” was retracting the episode “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory,” Ira Glass made an effort to be clear that the show has verification standards, but that they fell short in this instance.

The press release about the retraction show referenced the “fact checking before the broadcast of Daisey’s story” and the original show included this from Glass:

This process of fact checking took days with long emails and conversations with Mike. Brian [Reed] spoke with 13 people who are knowledgeable about Apple or about electronics manufacturing in China. He combed through Apple’s own reports about worker’s conditions, he combed through reports by watchdog groups.

There is a tradition of fact checking that goes back roughly 80 years, and over that time standards and practices have been established. What “This American Life” did prior to airing the Daisey broadcast came close, but it was not fact checking. It shouldn’t be described as such, or used as an example of the failure of fact checking.

I’m not saying TAL didn’t try to verify Daisey’s story, or that they were negligent. Rather, my point is if they’d practiced real fact checking chances are the outcome would have been different.

It appears the most important parts of Daisey’s monologue — his account of what he saw, what people told him, who he met and where he went in China — were the precise parts that were not checked. Ira Glass admits this in the closing part of the TAL retraction show:

I wanted to say, before we leave this subject, that I and my co-workers at This American Life take our mistake in putting Mike’s story on to the air very seriously. As I said earlier in the program, when Mike told us that it would be impossible for us to talk to his interpreter for fact-checking purposes, we should’ve killed the story right there and then, and to do anything else was a screw-up.

Killing the story was one option, but it’s not what a fact checker would have done. I imagine they would have attempted to locate the translator themselves, just as Marketplace reporter Rob Schmitz did when he decided to look into Daisey’s story:

I just typed “Cathy and translator and Shenzhen” into Google.

I called the first number that came up.

That statement from Schmitz highlights TAL’s fatal decision in its vetting process.

When given a roadblock by Daisey, they chose not to check around it. This is a cornerstone of fact checking: a writer may mean well, but he cannot be taken at his word. The point of fact checking is to independently verify what he wrote, said or quoted.

Daisey tells you the translator’s phone number doesn’t work anymore? Ask him for the number and try to find her on your own. Does he have a picture of her? Where did she live? Did she mention any other clients she’d worked for?

Or, you know, Google her and see what turns up.

You could call up the factories in question and ask if they remember Daisey and his translator coming for a visit that month in 2010. (It’s not hard to hire a translator or fixer in China to help with all of this.)

There are plenty of people with experience as fact checkers who can be hired for a reasonable hourly fee, a fee TAL could afford. But TAL did some vetting and called it a day when Daisey set up roadblocks.

This is the puzzling piece of this incident: “This American Life” is one of the great journalistic storytelling institutions in the world. But they somehow didn’t verify the facts that underpinned this remarkable first-person story.

It’s ultimately a failure of storytelling.

Mike Daisey’s worst lie never made it to air, or into his monologue.

There are obvious challenges related to adapting a theatrical monologue into a journalistic radio piece. Yes, verifying and fact checking the material can be difficult. But in order for that to even be possible, Daisey needed to understand the culture of journalism and what’s required in terms of accuracy. He needed to understand it, acknowledge it, and embrace it. And the team at “This American Life” had to be convinced he was sincere about being part of the process and culture.

TAL producer Brian Reed attempted to convey these standards to Daisey in an email.

“Being that news stations are obviously a different kind of form than the theater we wanted to make sure that this thing is totally, utterly unassailable by anyone who might hear it,” wrote Reed in a email quoted from in the TAL retraction show.

“I totally get that,” Daisey wrote back. “I want you to know that makes sense to me. A show built orally for the theater is different than what typically happens from news stations. I appreciate you taking the time to go over this.”

This is the most important of all the lies Daisey told in his monologue and to the people he worked with at TAL.

When given a very clear description of the standard for accuracy the show needed to meet, Daisey responded with a theatrically sincere email that was deceptive bullshit. He plays just dumb enough to thank the producer for explaining this concept to him. (As if now he gets it.)

Daisey also repeats back what the producer wrote to convey that he understands it. This repetition of what someone has just told you is classic active listening; it builds a connection between you and the person. It makes them feel good, like they’ve really been heard.

This lie shows Daisey’s total commitment to doing whatever it took to get his story on the show. It enabled him to tell all of his other lies to a wider audience because it helped convince the team at TAL that Daisey was a genuine participant in the vetting process, rather than the subject of it. I believe this made it more likely that Reed and others would accept Daisey lies.

That email reply is Daisey the performer making sure he is as convincing as possible.

It was the same Daisey who, when confronted with his lies, posted this on his blog:

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. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic ­- not a theatrical ­- enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations.

As if he wasn’t told that. As if he didn’t parrot it back to put the producer at ease and make sure his story got to air.

What a reprehensible manipulator.

Liars eventually believe their story is true.

Emboldened by the “This American Life” broadcast and his newfound attention, Daisey began to embody the character he’d created: a trustworthy crusader with the moral and factual authority to comment on Apple and media coverage of the company.

Nothing represents this misrepresentation better than Daisey’s recent blog post, “David Pogue is only competent to review gadgets.” That post rocketed around the Web, getting linked and tweeted by many journalists.

Sitting high on his stallion, Daisey gave a recent article by The New York Times writer a thorough Fisking. It was a devastating critique of the way Pogue covered Apple’s reaction to concerns about conditions at its overseas suppliers, and Daisey made valid points.

But with Daisey exposed as a liar, the valid parts of the critique lose their impact. The sections of the blog post that question Pogue’s work and integrity are now laughable coming from Daisey:

Whether it comes from ignorance or deception, the stakes in labor, for working people’s lives every day, are too important to be left to the likes of Mr. Pogue.

He had an opportunity to study this story. He’s had the time to read and get up to speed. He could have been in the forefront, telling it, and instead he’s in the rearguard, behind the mainstream press who is doing technology journalists’ job for them, picking at the leftovers, making faces, and wondering when he can get back to slagging off the new Samsung tablet and embracing the next Apple device.

I’m not asking that Mr. Pogue agree with me. I’m saying he has shown he isn’t competent to have this conversation from the platform of the New York Times.

Having lied to “This American Life” in order to have his work appear in a journalistic framework that added credibility and brought him and his cause greater attention, Daisey still felt qualified to question someone else’s ethics and qualifications.

This kind of thing has happened before with Daisey, as Glass revealed during the retraction show. Here’s the host describing a New York Times article about a previous Daisey monologue about James Frey:

… a New York Times review of your monologue about James Frey that says in it, this is The New York Times, ‘Daisey admits in the monologue that he once fabricated a monologue because it connected with the audience. After telling this lie over and over it became so integrated into the architecture of his piece that it became impossible to remove, or perhaps to distinguish what really happened.’

This serves to prove the fourth truth:

Fooling the media is a justifiable means to an end for some people.

At some point Daisey made this calculation: My message, my monologue, and this cause are more important than the basic facts. The cause is more important than conforming to what “This American Life” and its listeners expect.

Once he squared that in his mind, he was going to keep lying and not look back. No code of abstract journalistic ethics or queries from a producer would change that. (Another reason why real fact checking was needed…)

Here’s what Daisey told Glass during the retraction show:

I think I was terrified that if I untied these things, that the work, that I know is really good, and tells a story, that does these really great things for making people care, that it would come apart in a way where, where it would ruin everything.

Mike Daisey thinks his work is serving a higher cause and purpose, and that makes him exactly the kind of source who needed to be thoroughly fact checked.

Daisey’s New York theatrical show closed on Sunday. The audience gave his final performance a standing ovation.

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  • Anonymous

    I have listened to TAL almost from Day One, and I have never considered it to be journalism. I would say it is primarily entertainment that is, like so much similar entertainments, loosely based on reality.  I was surprised when Ira’s excellent pieces on credit default swaps were presented as journalism.  Journalists do journalism (I spent 47 years as a journalist whose paychecks were always drawn on newspapers), and I had never heard Ira described as a journalist.  I love Ira, but I think he got a little carried away by all the acclaim on the financial-explainer pieces.

    A lot of bloggers consider themselves journalists too, but I think many of them fail to  fulfill some of the basic requirements of the profession, and in my personal value system, blogs fall below major traditional news organizations on the scale of dependability and believability.  Bloggers have no brief to cover the news; they are more like high school journalists, mingling commentary, fact and opinion willy-nilly and publishing it as news.
      

  • Mark Brunke

    The reason TAL is so popular, and that the original show in this narrative was so popular, are due to the story that Ira Glass tells. I think you really need to look at the TAL, and examine the artifice that it creates in each episode through the medium of radio before describing it as journalism. Just like Mike Daisy can say he’s immune from the facts because he tells the ‘truth’, and it isn’t necessarily so, just because TAL say’s its journalism doesn’t make it journalism. It tells stories, it constructs narratives, and in fact it takes raw content and attempts to do more than provide context, it attempts to create definition for that information. It’s far closer to what Mike Daisy does than it is to journalism.
    I find it incredible that no one has questioned the artificial narrative of holier than thou anger that Ira Glass constructed for his retraction show. It is one-sided, and obvious in its design. Its an attempt by TAL to have its cake and eat it too. If you ask me, the narrative they created with their Retraction show did far more damage to their credibility than simply being duped the first time around. It showed an Ira Glass to be someone is willing to form the facts around his desired ends. He is not a journalist. 

  • Anonymous

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    There’s nothing in this that isn’t regrettable (not the least of which is Daisey’s
    “what I do isn’t journalism” which is a grotesque echo of Rush
    Limbaugh, Entertainer).  I was a factchecker for Money and Esquire
    magazines for nine years, and the chief of Esquire’s editorial research
    department for four of those years, all of them pre-internet. We factchecked
    everything: fashion copy, photographer credits, essays, recipes, columnists,
    investigative journalism, celebrity profiles, Dubious Achievements, short and long fiction. The process was often a total drag—by
    the time the factcheckers got a manuscript, it had already been worked and worked by
    editor and writer, numerous revisions, and now here’s the deadline, and
    the art, and the layout, and then suddenly, all
    stop for the nit-picking factchecker. Those writers most seasoned (and most
    “famous,” so presumably most likely to be cranky about being
    second-guessed) were without exception the most gracious about being caught in
    error (or potential legal vulnerability) and having the opportunity to fix the
    problem, in their own style and words. Those writers earliest in their careers
    were often the most insulted, even angry. They didn’t see the process as one in
    which their work (or the magazine’s reputation) would be enhanced;  they
    saw it as a reproach. I was around long enough to see that attitude change, as
    those writers became better reporters, better essayists, with stronger work
    based in stronger voices, style, points of view and yes, facts. My own
    published work since then, including magazine reporting, first-person essays
    and seven memoir collaborations, is informed daily by “is this true?”
    Working on my own memoir now, I must balance what’s true vs. what’s memory or
    opinion, and if a fact can’t stand, it’s fixed or it’s out. That doesn’t feel
    like oppression or compromise; it feels like ethics, even when it pisses me
    off. Nothing Daisey does as a performer or essayist would’ve suffered if he’d
    had his facts right. He still could’ve inveighed against injustice, been a
    powerful performer and witness for what he experienced, and kept his opinion intact, in his own words. It still would have been a great story and performance. But
    by weighting his ego over truth, he undercut his own creative work, and he dinged TAL as well. Nobody wins this, Apple workers in China least of all. It’s
    just too bad.
     

  • Anonymous

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    There
    is nothing in this that isn’t regrettable (not the least of which is Daisey’s
    “what I do isn’t journalism” which is an unfortunate echo of Rush
    Limbaugh, Entertainer).  I was a factchecker for Money and Esquire
    magazines for nine years, and the chief of Esquire’s editorial research
    department for four of those years, pre-internet. We factchecked
    everything: fashion copy, photographer credits, essays, recipes, columnists,
    investigative journalism, fiction. The process was often a total drag—by
    the time the factcheckers got a manuscript, it had been worked and worked by
    editor and writer, five, maybe six revisions, and now here’s the deadline, and
    the art, and the layout, maybe even cover story p.r., and then suddenly, all
    stop for the nit-picking factchecker. Those writers most seasoned (and most
    “famous,” so presumably most likely to be cranky about being
    second guessed) were without exception the most gracious about being caught in
    error (or potential legal vulnerability) and having the opportunity to fix the
    problem, in their own style and words. Those writers earliest in their careers
    were often the most insulted, even angry. They didn’t see the process as one in
    which their work (or the magazine’s reputation) would be enhanced;  they
    saw it as a reproach. I was around long enough to see that attitude change, as
    those writers became better reporters, better essayists, with stronger work
    based in stronger voices, style, points of view and yes, facts. My own
    published work since then, including magazine reporting, first-person essays
    and seven memoir collaborations, is informed daily by “is this true?”
    Working on my own memoir now, I struggle for balance between what’s true vs. what’s memory or
    opinion, and if a fact can’t stand, it’s fixed or it’s out. That doesn’t feel
    like oppression or compromise; it feels like ethics, even when it pisses me
    off. Nothing Daisey does as a performer or essayist would’ve suffered if he’d
    had his facts right. He still could’ve inveighed against injustice, been a
    powerful performer and witness for what he experienced, and kept his opinion
    intact, in his own powerful words. It still would have been a great story. But
    by weighting his ego over truth, he undercut creative work, and he dinged TAL’s
    reputation as well. Nobody wins this, Apple workers in China least of all. It’s
    just too bad. 

  • http://www.CraigSilverman.ca CraigSilverman

    Correct, It was in the retraction show. I was referring to the fact that it wasn’t aired along with all the other lies in the first TAL broadcast.

  • Andy Lee

    > Mike Daisey’s worst lie never made it to air, or into his monologue.

    I could swear the “I totally get that” email was read on the retraction episode of TAL. No?

  • http://twitter.com/BarneyMcCoy Barney McCoy

     I have to disagree with you Nate.
    Speaking off the record is more than an agreement. It goes to the heart of the trustworthiness, transparency and credibility of the journalist and the organization they represent when working with all sources. 
    Why not report the facts and say they came from an AIG source who didn’t want to be identified?
    In this story I’m interested in knowing WHY Dromer asked not to be identified. Don’t know if that question was asked.
     Here’s a question for you- What do you think of Channa Joffe-Walt injecting her opinion into this narrative in her report?-  “Okay, anyway, Dromer just proceeded to tell me in, I have to say, the most snooty way possible, obviously the subsidiary was regulated by the
    French regulator.” 
     Or a comment on the TAL website saying Joffe-Walt’s  “story about AIG in episode 382 is particularly great.”

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Poynter for your in-depth investigation of Mr. Daisey’s lies.

    And for reserving the word “lying” to refer to a performer’s one-man show.

    I’m so glad you didn’t waste it on unimportant things like the
    lead-up to the Iraq war or the financial industry’s shenanigans
    (especially as revealed in Greg Smith’s resignation letter).

    After all, the important take-away from the Greg Smith piece is that
    the directors at Goldman Sachs called their clients “muppets”.

    BTW, This American Life, in response to criticism in the past, has
    said that what it does is storytelling, not journalism. So, they are
    closer to performing than journalism. I am not sure why Mr. Glass
    changed tack in this instance.

    Thank you also for putting more effort into covering Mike Daise’s
    transgressions than the Apple’s. Thank you for not mentioning that other
    investigators have found myriad problems at Foxconn.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01

  • Anonymous

     Speaking off the record is an agreement between two people, not something in force when simply demanded by one side. I don’t find evidence of Ms. Joffa-Wait agreeing anywhere. Ms. Dromer should have made sure there was an agreement before sharing any information.

  • http://twitter.com/BarneyMcCoy Barney McCoy

     Carlton? Is that your real name? Is there a last name attached? Are you a journalist? Why do you make personal attacks in anonymity?

    I describe “This American Life” as a lucrative program based on what Daniel Ash told AOL’s DailyFinance last year. Ash is vice president for strategic communications at Chicago
    Public Media, the producer of TAL. Ash told DailyFinance:
    “For two years, during the recent recession, TAL
    surplus (net earnings) did cover other operating losses at WBEZ. (The Chicago public radio station).
      Ira Glass earned $159,371 in 2010, according to the Form 990 filed by Chicago Public Radio with the IRS last year. I call that a lucrative income.
    As for your assertion that “Given that this is public radio, the notion of “financially lucrative” is pretty laughable,” I offer this:
    “Fresh Air, Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Car Talk are among the shows that return “a margin to our organization,” NPR says in a statement to DailyFinance.
     
    You are correct about TAL’s production and distribution. Thanks for the correction.
     
    Now, come out from hiding. For the sake of your own credibility please tell us your real name.

    Bernard McCoy

  • Anonymous

    “Fake but accurate” redux.

  • http://twitter.com/BarneyMcCoy Barney McCoy

    Touche. Here’s my point. PR folks sometimes speak on background, asking that their comments remain off the record. Such was the case with Ms. Dromer. If TAL wasn’t going to abide by that request, it should have said so. It didn’t. That raises a question of journalistic ethics and oversight.   
             

  • Anonymous

    You know, you pretty much blow your credibility with your very first sentence, when you call TAL a “financially lucrative NPR program”. First off, how exactly do you define “financially lucrative” and exactly is it that you know this? Given that this is public radio, the notion of “financially lucrative” is pretty laughable, so I suspect the source of this “fact” is your nether regions, and is simply thrown out there in hopes of rhetorically putting your thumb on the scales.

    Secondly, TAL is *not* an NPR program: it’s produced by Chicago Public Radio and distributed by American Public Media. This certainly shows your careful attention to detail.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    TAL is not an NPR program.
    Any “Deputy Director of Communication” who throws out such spin while demanding “off the record” should have been quoted, not just summarized.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    TAL is not an NPR program.
    Any “Deputy Director of Communication” who throws out such spin while demanding “off the record” should have been quoted, not just summarized.

  • http://twitter.com/BarneyMcCoy Barney McCoy

    “This American Life,” a financially lucrative NPR program, should not brand itself a journalism program because it doesn’t practice journalism. In the Daisey case it was poor fact checking.

    Another case that concerned me involved the ethics of a “This American Life” program my sister was quoted in (my disclosure) in 2009.

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/sites/default/files/382_transcript.pdf

    My concern was over a demand by AIG Deputy Director of Communications Corinne Dromer that was featured in the program. Dromer told TAL reporter Chana Joffe-Walt that said she wanted her comments to Joffe-Walt be kept off the record.

    Page six of the transcript goes like this:
    ===================
    Chana Joffe-Walt: Next, I called London. I called other places where AIG had big
    offices: Japan, China. I called France. AIG financial products had a subsidiary in
    France.
    Corinne Dromer: I am Corinne Dromer, I am the Deputy Director of
    Communication.
    Chana Joffe-Walt: And Dromer, do I spell it…
    Corinne Dromer: D-R-O-M-E-R…
    Chana Joffe-Walt: Great. Okay.
    Corinne Dromer: I’m speaking off the record only.
    Chana Joffe-Walt: Oh, remember, I just asked if I could record our
    conversation.
    Corinne Dromer: You can record of course, but it’s really off the record.
    Chana Joffe-Walt: Okay, anyway, Dromer just proceeded to tell me in, I have to
    say, the most snooty way possible, obviously the subsidiary was regulated by the
    French regulator, but the subsidiary didn’t mess up the global economy. Financial
    products did. And Financial Products is a U.S. company. France not responsible
    for American mess-ups.
    =====================

    Dromer was clear in her desire to be quoted ONLY off the record. TAL quoted her on the record anyway, an apparent breech of journalistic ethics. When TAL reporter Joffe-Walt  added her own comment about Dromer’s reply (“the most snooty possible”) it raises another question of objectivity.    

    Who from TAL vetted this?

    When journalistic lapses like these happen more than once, it is fair to ask what standards “This American Life” has in place to assure transparency, proper ethical conduct and accountability.  
     
    Regards,
    Bernard McCoy

  • http://twitter.com/BarneyMcCoy Barney McCoy

    “This American Life,” a financially lucrative NPR program, should not brand itself a journalism program because it doesn’t practice journalism. In the Daisey case it was poor fact checking.

    Another case that concerned me involved the ethics of a “This American Life” program my sister was quoted in (my disclosure) in 2009.

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/sites/default/files/382_transcript.pdf

    My concern was over a demand by AIG Deputy Director of Communications Corinne Dromer that was featured in the program. Dromer told TAL reporter Chana Joffe-Walt that said she wanted her comments to Joffe-Walt be kept off the record.

    Page six of the transcript goes like this:
    ===================
    Chana Joffe-Walt: Next, I called London. I called other places where AIG had big
    offices: Japan, China. I called France. AIG financial products had a subsidiary in
    France.
    Corinne Dromer: I am Corinne Dromer, I am the Deputy Director of
    Communication.
    Chana Joffe-Walt: And Dromer, do I spell it…
    Corinne Dromer: D-R-O-M-E-R…
    Chana Joffe-Walt: Great. Okay.
    Corinne Dromer: I’m speaking off the record only.
    Chana Joffe-Walt: Oh, remember, I just asked if I could record our
    conversation.
    Corinne Dromer: You can record of course, but it’s really off the record.
    Chana Joffe-Walt: Okay, anyway, Dromer just proceeded to tell me in, I have to
    say, the most snooty way possible, obviously the subsidiary was regulated by the
    French regulator, but the subsidiary didn’t mess up the global economy. Financial
    products did. And Financial Products is a U.S. company. France not responsible
    for American mess-ups.
    =====================

    Dromer was clear in her desire to be quoted ONLY off the record. TAL quoted her on the record anyway, an apparent breech of journalistic ethics. When TAL reporter Joffe-Walt  added her own comment about Dromer’s reply (“the most snooty possible”) it raises another question of objectivity.    

    Who from TAL vetted this?

    When journalistic lapses like these happen more than once, it is fair to ask what standards “This American Life” has in place to assure transparency, proper ethical conduct and accountability.  
     
    Regards,
    Bernard McCoy

  • Anonymous

    From
    page 61 of his downloadable monologue: “The monologue…has been
    performed over 200 times…Over 75,000 people have been in attendance
    around the world.” 

    Has anyone done the math on this i.e. looked at the capacities of the theaters where he’s performed and determined whether this is even POSSIBLE? (That’s 375 people per show.) Capacity at the Public: 199.

  • Anonymous

    From
    page 61 of his downloadable monologue: “The monologue…has been
    performed over 200 times…Over 75,000 people have been in attendance
    around the world.” 

    Has anyone done the math on this i.e. looked at the capacities of the theaters where he’s performed and determined whether this is even POSSIBLE? (That’s 375 people per show.) Capacity at the Public: 199.

  • http://twitter.com/erg79 Evan G.

    Thanks for this piece. I’m also hoping for more airing out of what their fact-checking process was. I kept listening to “Retraction” hoping to hear this. Though it’s clear that Ira Glass and TAL has owned up to their mistake, I didn’t think there was much discussion of how they made that mistake to begin with, and what they will do to correct it. 

    As someone who has listened to TAL since its early days, it’s become obvious that within the past few years they have begun to fancy themselves as a serious journalistic operation as well as a storytelling one. It seems like the shift took place with “The Giant Pool of Money” episode from 2008, and others since then. I think it’s important for them to discuss how they’ve begun to operate differently since then, and what guidance or models they’ve had, if any, when doing more serious journalism. 

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    Matthew, I think this is precisely one of the unexplored issues we hope to surface today. When does “This American Life” mean to adhere to journalistic standards and how can listeners know (assuming they care)? And, if they don’t typically adhere to those standards, do they share within their working team an understanding of what those standards are & what processes they hope will support them (e.g. fact-checking)? If they’re discussing this fresh every time, they’re more likely to stumble into trouble than if they agree ahead of time and create structure around those standards. –Julie

  • http://twitter.com/ProducerMatthew Matthew Keys

     I don’t disagree that this particular program was meant to be more “journalistic” than others, but to say This American Life, overall, is a program that adheres to journalistic standards just isn’t so. If that’s the way they intend to present themselves, it doesn’t come across in some of their shows, which are clearly more radio theater than journalism. I mentioned one example in my original post — it’s not the only one out there.

  • http://www.CraigSilverman.ca CraigSilverman

    The folks at TAL seem pretty clear that they consider it a journalistic program. That was how they spoke about their work on the retraction show, and in the press release. So it appears to be the standard they hold at least some of the show to, and the standard they expected for this particular piece. I agree they often broadcast other kinds of stories that don’t fit within the strict definition of journalism. But it does seem very clear they expected the Daisey episode to meet journalistic standards.

  • http://twitter.com/ProducerMatthew Matthew Keys

    “This is the puzzling piece of this incident: ‘This American Life’ is one
    of the great journalistic storytelling institutions in the world.”

    This American Life is certainly a good storytelling program, but should it be regarded as journalism?

    Take, for example, the 2004 episode “Spies Like Us,” in which a fictitious radio broadcast is aired from a Canadian program called ‘Wiretap.’ The radio broadcast is meant to sound like an interview with a guest who recently stumbled upon a channel on his television set that allows him to peer into the lobby of a building — a sort of rolling reality show.

    Although it was based on true events, the radio interview was staged (the transcript has Ira Glass telling his audience at the end of the act that the program they’d just heard was fictitious — different from what was said

    ‘This American Life’ is a great storytelling program. It engaged us, it entertains us, and it gets us to think. What separates a storytelling program from journalism, however, is this: Journalists write hoping for a reaction. That’s not always the case with storytelling.

    When you try to pass off a story as truth, though, you should correct it when you find holes in your story. That’s what Ira did here — he corrected a mistake. He didn’t do it in the name of journalism, and that wasn’t his intention, as long-time listeners of the show like myself will be quick to recognize. He did it in the interest of being honest with his listeners — separating fact from fiction in his storytelling.

  • http://twitter.com/EverywhereTrip Gary Arndt

    “My message, my monologue, and this cause are more important than the basic facts.”

    I do not understand this. If the message is built on lies, how can it be more important than the facts? What is the message exactly if it is built on lies?

    I can think of any number of “monologues” where people create stories about how Barak Obama is a muslim or how 9/11 was a plot by the Bush administration.  In each case, the advocates their various positions could use the same excuse. 

    What it amounts to is the assertion that the belief in the facts are more important than the facts. The fact that people gave him a standing ovation and that there are people out there who still support what he did, fills me with dread for our future. 

  • http://kollagenintensivantiagingcreamreview.posterous.com/kollagen-intensiv-anti-aging-cream-review-doe Kollagen Intensiv

    “white flight” meaning it was the white folks who created the suburbs so
    they could have “good schools” for their kids (remember, this was in
    the 1950s…. meaning they kinda wanted the people of color to stay
    downtown).