Ira Glass tells Redditors: ‘Now we have professional fact checkers for everything’

During an Ask Me Anything on Reddit today, “This American Life”‘s Ira Glass responded to one of several questions posed about the retraction of “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory.”

Reddit user “iobserver” asked:  “The journalistic integrity This American Life presented when it retracted ‘Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory’ is absolutely astounding. Has there been any change in policy since then?”

Glass said the show has since overhauled its fact checking process.

“We used to fact check the way they do on the daily NPR news shows (where I worked before doing this show): editors and reporters consult about questionable facts, rundown stuff in an ad hoc way,” he said. “Now we have professional fact checkers for everything, including the personal essays.”

He then acknowledged that one remaining issue is “what to do about David Sedaris.”

Glass said Sedaris doesn’t claim his stories are true and that “there may be exaggerations for comic effect.” But the audience may not be totally aware of this. So Glass outlined three options for what they can do:

1) assume the audience is smart enough to tell; 2) label his stuff on the air as possibly non-factual (hard to figure out a way to do that which doesn’t kill the fun but there probably is one); 3) fact check him the way the New Yorker does. I honestly don’t know where I stand on this one. When I pose the Q to public radio audiences, at speeches and events, they overwhelmingly vote #1, with a vociferous tiny minority who feel strongly in favor of #2.

Below are some of the other Daisey-related questions posed by Redditors:

Question:

How did the airing and subsequent retraction of Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory change your views on journalism? It seemed like you really took his fabrications to heart; has anything changed in the way you investigate stories?

Question:

What was your initial reaction to learning that Mike Daisey had been lying to you?

Even though he lied, more attention was given to the working conditions in China and from what understand, Apple has been working to improve those conditions after the story aired. Do you feel responsible for that?

Question:

Sorry if this one is awkward but… what was the mood like around the TAL studios after you guys found out the truth about Mike Daisey’s show?

This, from “menomenaa,” was the lengthiest of all the Daisey questions:

So after the Mike Daisey retraction, I had some mixed feelings. I’m glad it happened, but I feel like it was very focused on journalistic mistakes, the morals behind fudging facts when it comes to art, and whether or not we, as listeners, have a right to be mad at Daisey. Towards the end of the episode, the focus was shifted to whether or not, given information provided by Charles Duhigg, people should still “feel bad” using Apple products. The episode seemed very focused on how a lot of people “feel” –you, Daisey, the listeners, even anyone who consumes art. You know who felt left out? The Foxconn workers. It was my understanding that they were still suffering, though maybe not the ways in which Daisey fabricated. You covered this with Duhigg, but it seemed that he was leaning towards it not being that bad once you appraise it without American standards of quality of life. My takeaway was that once it’d been proven that Daisey lied, it was much easier for people to assume all of the suffering was a lie, that everything shocking or saddening about Foxconn could be erased and replaced by the conversation about how much Daisey messed up.

My question: Do you think your retraction should have focused more on the real truths regarding Foxconn so as to not let their situation be forgotten, rather than focusing so heavily on Daisey and you? I can’t help but wonder, given the recent riots, whether with the dismissal of Daisey’s account, Foxconn’s abuse was dismissed as well.

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