Articles about "Mike Daisey"


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Employment tumbles again at newspapers, and First Look’s plans shift

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 (OK, maybe not exactly 10) media stories.

  1. The newspaper business lost 1,300 employees last year: “The overall revenue figure, as measured by the Newspaper Association of America, was down 2.6 percent in 2013, close to an even match with the percentage of news job cuts for the year,” Rick Edmonds writes. (Poynter) | One small bright spot: Minority employment was up, after years of stagnating. (Poynter)
  2. An update on First Look Media: “We have definitely rethought some of our original ideas and plans,” Pierre Omidyar writes. (First Look Media) | Jay Rosen: “For First Look the way to a large user base isn’t ‘one big flagship website’ or an ‘everything you need to know’ news app to go up against, say, the Guardian or npr.org.” (PressThink) | Mathew Ingram: “More than anything else, what Omidyar is describing sounds like a real-time journalism lab, one that will test out different ways of interacting with readers around a topic — albeit a lab that happens to have a quarter of a billion dollars behind it.” (Gigaom)
  3. Margot Adler, R.I.P.: The NPR reporter died at 68. She “helped shape a lot we would call the NPR sound today – human, curious, conversational,” David Folkenflik says in his report. (NPR) | Adler “said that being a Wiccan priestess and an NPR reporter ended up working out ‘pretty fine,’ but there were times where she felt discriminated against.” (WNPR)
  4. The New York Times will use online panels as part of its polling: “This is a very big deal in the survey world,” Pew Research Center director of survey research Scott Keeter says. (Pew)
  5. Paper runs wrong photo: The New Zealand Herald ran a photo of dead “Jackass” star Ryan Dunn in a story about Staff Sgt. Guy Boyland, an Israeli soldier who died in Gaza. (L.A. Times) | Editor Shayne Currie: “I would like to reiterate how seriously we are taking this error and apologise again.” (The New Zealand Herald)
  6. Stephen A. Smith apologized for remarks about domestic violence: ESPN says, “As his apology demonstrates, he recognizes his mistakes and has a deeper appreciation of our company values.” (@richarddeitsch) | Tom Ley: “Horseshit Apology.” (Deadspin) | Richard Sandomir: “If he is not suspended, it suggests that we need to understand ESPN’s discipline handbook. How offensive need someone be to earn a week or more off? (NYT)
  7. More sports media: Washington Times Editor John Solomon says the paper’s content partnership with the Washington Redskins will be transparent: “You’ll know what the Washington Times did, and you’ll know what comes from the Redskins.” (The Washington Post) | Washington, D.C., station WJFK-FM ran a promo for newly promoted host Chad Dukes that featured him calling a rival host a “fag.” It removed the promo after Dave McKenna wrote about it. (Deadspin)
  8. Not everyone reads on a tablet: News sites have to somehow go “mobile first” without “underserving the 9-to-5 audience that’ll probably be looking at a big screen for some years to come.” (Nieman) | Sam Kirkland wondered a similar wonder a while back: “Do mobile-friendly redesigns run the risk of frustrating desktop users?” (Poynter)
  9. Ira Glass finds Shakespeare unemotional: Tim Carmody: “Will bespectacled literary nerds have to choose between Chicago’s adopted son Ira and our old friend Stratford Billy?” (Kottke.org) | Alyssa Rosenberg: Our “contemporary conversation about Shakespeare would be a lot more interesting if, rather than using the Bard’s name as a synonym for unimpeachable greatness, we could talk about what works of Shakespeare we like best, which do not resonate with us and why.” (The Washington Post) | DRAMATIC TWIST INVADES ROUNDUP ITEM: As it happens, in October, Mike Daisey plans to perform a series of monologues about why Shakespeare’s work matters. “I mean, it would be a little odd in any event,” Daisey writes, “but of all the people to have made it a little uproar…” (Mike Daisey’s Facebook page) | Related: Glass is a total gearhead. (Gizmodo)
  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Fareed Zakaria will be a contributing editor with Atlantic Media starting in September. Zakaria will remain the host of “Fareed Zakaria GPS” and continue to write for The Washington Post. (Poynter) | Bob Cusack has been named editor in chief of The Hill. Formerly, he was managing editor there. He will replace Hugo Gurdon, who will be editorial director at the Washington Examiner. News editor Ian Swanson will succeed Cusack as managing editor and lobbying editor Dustin Weaver will replace Swanson as news editor. Scott Wong, Politico reporter and author of The Huddle, will be joining The Hill covering congressional Republicans. Diana Marrero, a former national account executive for The Washington Post, will be director of content partnerships at The Hill. Shannan Bowen, formerly an audience development manager at Atlantic Media Strategies, will be director of audience engagement at The Hill. (The Hill) | Jon Auerbach is executive producer at CNN’s Reliable Sources. Previously, he was a supervising producer at “John King, USA.” (TV Newser) | Shana Hale has been named creative director at Better Homes and Gardens. She had been art director there. (shanahale.com) | Malika Touré has joined Ad Age as a reporter. Formerly, she was an intern at Creativity. (Ad Age) | Job of the day: The Seattle Times is hiring a Microsoft reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org.

Suggestions? Corrections? Would like me to send you this roundup each morning? Please email me: abeaujon@poynter.org. Read more

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Why journalists should listen to Mike Daisey’s thoughts on journalism

Last month in Portland, Ore., the monologuist Mike Daisey presented a one-off show called “Journalism.” A confessed fabulist winging out his thoughts on the profession he debased by lying in a “This American Life” story? It was a bit rich for several reviewers.

Daisey offered little depth or insight beyond a few soundbites,” Rebecca Jacobson wrote in a review of the show in Willamette Week. The work “suffered from a tone of persistent self-serving,” Ramona DeNies wrote in Portland Monthly. “What he was there to accomplish, though, seemed unclear even to Mike Daisey,” Winston Ross wrote in The Daily Beast.

I didn’t see “Journalism” the show, but I think Mike Daisey’s thoughts on journalism the profession are worth hearing out. Not only is the guy an avid consumer of media news, but he’s got a lot of experience with journalists, who’ve written about him and interviewed him before and after his scandal. Too few journalists see their work through the eyes of others or have to answer questions about it.

Daisey and I have been communicating occasionally since last July, when he objected to a post I wrote. We’ve tweeted and emailed since, and in April he invited my wife and me to a performance of his monologue “American Utopias” in Washington, D.C. I had a blast (as did my wife, who is a professional fact-checker). The Friday before last, Daisey and I spoke on the phone for an hour about “Journalism.” Read more

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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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Rob Schmitz says revival of Mike Daisey show is ‘a little disturbing’

Pando Daily | The Washington Post | Washington City Paper | DCist | Mike Daisey
Why is Mike Daisey remounting “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” the play that was the basis for his famously retracted “This American Life” episode about the manufacture of Apple devices? “Marketplace” reporter Rob Schmitz, who busted Daisey for fabricating details, characters and events in the episode, expresses some astonishment to Hamish McKenzie that Daisey returned the show to Washington, D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

Schmitz allows that Daisey “raised awareness about working conditions in China,” but that’s about as generous as it gets:

“I wouldn’t listen to a theatre performer who doesn’t speak the language and has proven that he has a penchant for lying,” says Schmitz, who leans forward when he talks about Daisey.

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Mike Daisey: Perhaps tech writers ‘aren’t actually journalists either?’

Mike Daisey | KQED | The New York Times | AllThingsD
Mike Daisey, back with more media criticism, casts a steely eye at AllThingsD’s D10 (or is that DX?) conference, currently teching it up in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Daisey thought AllThingsD’s co-executive editors Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg fumbled a chance to ask Apple CEO Tim Cook tough questions:

Kara and Walt—do you really think you asked hard questions tonight? Goodness, you got Cook to admit…that Ping was a failure! That’s amazing. If only you had another hour, so you could get him to tell us who he liked best on Dawson’s Creek and what kind of ice cream is best: vanilla or cookies and cream.

While giving great play to his own failings vis-a-vis factual reporting, Daisey turns his fire on tech writers.

Perhaps instead they are “journalists”, in quotes, as almost every writer for technology outlets must feel like: hemmed between the corporations who make the devices, the PR teams, and all the forces that exist in our marketplace. Maybe they arrive at a place where they have an outlandish conference that feels like an industry kissing party because that’s precisely what it is.

A Twitter spat, inevitably, followed, and here is the the inevitable Storify document. Read more

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Ira Glass says ‘This American Life’ should fact-check David Sedaris stories

Mike Daisey | The Washington Post
“This American Life” is considering fact-checking David Sedaris’ work for the program, Paul Farhi reports:

In an interview, [host Ira] Glass said no one at his program was concerned about Sedaris before the [Mike] Daisey episode. “We just assumed the audience was sophisticated enough to tell that this guy is making jokes and that there was a different level of journalistic scrutiny that we and they should apply,” he said.

But the Daisey debacle has brought about a reassessment. Glass said three responses are under discussion: fact-checking each of Sedaris’s stories to ensure their accuracy, labeling them to alert the audience that the stories contain “exaggerations” or doing nothing.

At the moment, Glass said, he thinks the best course is to check Sedaris’s facts to the extent that stories involving memories and long-ago conversations can be checked. The New Yorker magazine subjects Sedaris’s work to its rigorous fact-checking regime before it publishes his stories.

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Philadelphia magazine’s research editor, Annie Monjar, on the backlash against Mike Daisey and the importance of fact checking:

What we can take away from this episode is that even today, in 2012, readers still want stories that draw power from honesty and temperance. We can rest a little easier knowing that even as the industry around us buckles, the oft-toed line between truth and speculation does, in fact, still exist, and that someone out there is still taking the time to draw it.

Philadelphia magazine

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Mike Daisey, “Lifespan of a Fact” use journalism as a sales strategy

“Important if true.”

Newspapers used to employ that phrase in headlines as a way to communicate to readers the unconfirmed nature of the information they were about to read.

In truth, it was also something of a sales pitch: Read this story!

That old headline, which is still occasionally used for effect, came to mind as I thought about the connections between the Mike Daisey “This American Life” fiasco and the fact-challenged elements of the new book “The Lifespan of a Fact.

These two fictionalized works go further than that old headline. They eliminate the conditional “if,” which acknowledges uncertainty, and declare instead: “Important because true.”

Yeah, a much better — though inaccurate — sales pitch. That’s exactly the point.

Daisey claimed his monologue was factual and based on personal experience. That’s how he sold it to “This American Life” and a lot of radio listeners and media who wrote about him and the issue after the broadcast.

“The Lifespan of a Fact” has been sold to consumers and reviewers as a book that recounts “seven years of arguments, negotiations, and revisions” that took place between an author, John D’Agata, and his fact checker, Jim Fingal.

Though no sales numbers have been released publicly, The Atlantic wrote that the book “has managed one of those periodic book release PR juggernauts that writers privately fantasize about.”

Both works were wrapped in the cloak of accuracy and journalistic rigor to make them more attractive and affecting — to sell them and to gain attention.

News organizations, of course, do this all the time. So do others. It’s now common to see companies and governments create products that look like journalism, be they fake news websites selling supplements, or manufactured news reports created by a PR firm to help the government look good.

Journalism non-fiction can be a pretty effective sales and marketing strategy. Until it isn’t.

The cloak comes off

When both works were revealed to be not as factual as pitched, it didn’t take long to shrug off the cloak of accuracy.

The authors and performer retreated behind claims that they aren’t journalists, that they reject labels such as non-fiction, and that their work still speaks to a larger truth, even if the basic facts don’t.

Let’s first be clear about one important point: official materials for both works label them as non-fiction. Here’s part of the playbill for a recent run of Daisey’ monologue, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. (emphasis mine):

“This is a work of nonfiction,” it declares.

Important because it’s true.

On a related note, a representative for the publisher of “Lifespan” told me in an email that the book’s back cover classifies it as “Literature/Essays” as a way to signal to readers that it’s not non-fiction. Fingal said the same in an email.

“I’m not really comfortable putting a label on what the book is, since part of the point of the book is to challenge these … categories and what they mean for reader expectations,” he wrote. “The back of the book describes it as ‘literature/essay’ which seems close enough / in the spirit of what the book is intended to be.”

But then you look at the copyright page and the Library of Congress cataloging information tells librarians and booksellers a different story (emphasis mine):

The Library of Congress Cataloging-in-publication Data facilitates “book processing for libraries and book dealers.”

That means the book is likely to end up in the nonfiction section of bookstores and libraries. It’s what happened at the New York Public Library, for example. The book is shelved in the non-fiction collection. The Boston Public Library does the same, putting it in a section that also contains “Poetry For Dummies” and a biography of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis that focuses on her work as an editor.

Lessons for journalists

The takeaway for journalists from the Daisey incident is to be very careful when attempting to bring a work or person that comes from outside of journalism into the journalistic framework. Regarding “The Lifespan of a Fact,” the lesson is to not treat marketing materials as factual documents.

Of all people it’s Fingal, the fact checker and co-author of “Lifespan,” who makes a good point about the perils of bringing a work from one tradition to another: This is from his essay about the Daisey retraction published yesterday by Vice:

When a work that operates by one set of rules – the conventions of monologists or memoirists – is catapulted into another realm – that of fact-based journalism – the author must be prepared for an audience he may have never imagined when he wrote the work to begin with.

True. The organization bringing the author into the world of journalism must also realize that it is their job to adapt the work, to be clear about standards and practices and, ultimately, to be responsible for the accuracy of the work. “This American Life” seemed to understand their role, but they failed to execute.

Fingal’s piece for Vice ends with him posing interesting questions about audience expectations, and how artists and others should address them:

What if Daisey was right that people going to the theater – or to a comedy show – should engage with the work they see differently than the articles they read in the newspaper? Do we owe it to the artist to learn a little more about their intentions beforehand? How should the artist best cater to the audience? Does an artist need to provide a disclaimer before each performance?

I’d argue that both Daisey and “Lifespan” provided disclaimers in the above materials, and that both disclaimers are false or at the very least confusing.

Which I think was pretty much the idea: it served the sales pitch. Read more

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The unanswered questions about ‘This American Life’ and journalism

It’s rare for a program to dedicate an entire episode to retracting a previous episode and to issue a press release explaining why. “This American Life” has put time and resources into retracting “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory.”

But just as the vetting process for the episode didn’t manage to reveal the true story of Mike Daisey’s trip to China, the retraction itself leaves many unanswered questions. The show dissects Daisey’s lies, but says little about the editorial process at “This American Life.”

Ira Glass admitted that airing the initial Daisey program was “a screwup” and that they “should’ve killed” it when Daisey didn’t provide a way to reach his translator. Glass explained that a producer spent days talking to Daisey via phone and email, “spoke with 13 people who are knowledgeable about Apple or about electronics manufacturing in China,” and read related reports.

What we don’t know is how any of that compares to the vetting for other “This American Life” episodes. Does the show have a rigorous fact-checking system like that of The New Yorker, which sent the Church of Scientology 971 questions for a story last year? Or is it more like the honor system, in which producers assume that a contributor is being honest unless something doesn’t add up? Judging by Glass’ description on the show, the answer is somewhere in the middle.

What remains unanswered

Here are the questions we’d like “This American Life” to answer:

  • What specifically is the fact-checking process at “This American Life”? Does this apply to all stories? If not, which ones?
  • As this show was being produced, did the staff have an opportunity to raise concerns about the reliability of Daisey’s account? Would their input have mattered?
  • Besides the decision to go forward without hearing from the translator, has the staff found other specific failings in its editorial process?
  • Who specifically decided that this story was fit to air?
  • In light of the translator’s account, has the staff considered why they discounted the opinions of their sources who doubted Daisey’s contention that Foxconn employs underage workers?
  • Did the staff consider whether there was another way to air this story without relying solely on Daisey’s account?
  • Will the show change its vetting procedures as a result of this incident?
  • Will staff be hesitant to bring performers and others into journalistic stories in the future? Will they handle those situations differently?
  • Are listeners to understand that all of the stories on “This American Life” should be viewed as literal truth-telling, up to the standards of journalism?

“This American Life” isn’t ready to answer these questions right now.

We emailed to ask if Glass would discuss the show’s editorial process, but office manager Emily Condon said the show isn’t doing interviews, in part because of the deluge of requests and because a couple of producers who worked on the show are traveling. “We feel that the show we ran this weekend addresses the issues at play in depth,” she said in an email.

Fictional journalism/journalistic fiction

“This American Life” is such a fascinating and revealing show because it’s not like anything else. A few years ago, blown away by its deconstruction of the subprime mortgage crisis, Steve Myers explained why the show is so compelling: “ ‘This American Life’ has developed a way to tell stories that sound fictional, but are narrated by interesting people you can’t help believing.”

That episode won Peabody, duPont-Columbia and George Polk awards, and it’s not the only one with such laurels. Just last month Glass won a Polk award for the episode “Very Tough Love,” about the severe punishments meted out by a drug court in Georgia.

On the other hand, the show has a long history of airing personal narratives that don’t seem to be particularly journalistic.

The staff of “This American Life” seems to relish staking out that middle ground:

We think of the show as journalism. One of the people who helped start the program, Paul Tough, says that what we’re doing is applying the tools of journalism to everyday lives, personal lives. Which is true. It’s also true that the journalism we do tends to use a lot of the techniques of fiction: scenes and characters and narrative threads.

Meanwhile, the fiction we have on the show functions like journalism: it’s fiction that describes what it’s like to be here, now, in America. What we like are stories that are both funny and sad. Personal and sort of epic at the same time.

This dual sensibility is a big reason that “This American Life” has legions of fans. The challenge, though, is how the show sets expectations for listeners who may hear an in-depth exploration of the perfect break-up song one hour and a critical examination of patent trolls the next.

Glass got at a similar issue in the retraction episode when he asked Daisey if he would start telling people that his monologue was a work of fiction with some true elements. When Daisey argued that the theater audience has a mushier conception of truth-telling, Glass responded, “People take it as literal truth. I thought that the story was literally true seeing it in the theater. [Producer Brian Reed], who’s seen other shows of yours, thought all of them were true.” Last weekend, Daisey amended his show as a result of the retraction.

People may have the same questions about what they hear on “This American Life.” In a comment on a Poynter story about the Daisey retraction, Reuters deputy social media editor Matthew Keys asked, “This American Life is certainly a good storytelling program, but should it be regarded as journalism?”

In the original Daisey episode, Glass did call it journalism, describing Daisey as an “amateur reporter” who used “investigative techniques” that few reporters would use. But “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. … We have gone through his script and fact-checked everything that was checkable.”

Again in “Retraction,” Glass emphasized the show’s journalistic standards:

I was a reporter and a producer for the big daily news shows before I started this program, and we follow the same rules of reporting here that I followed there. We vet and we check our stories and when we present something to you as true, it’s because we believe in its factual accuracy.

And yet now we listen differently to a few stories broadcast years ago on “This American Life” that perhaps are too good to be true. One describes a terrible experience with a FedEx shipment. Another brings you behind the scenes of Mount Vernon’s highly selective field worker internship, complete with wry jokes about slavery.

In another, a man tells some incredible stories about what it was like to work as a telephone psychic. The man says one caller told him that her father had beaten her with a bicycle chain when his pro football team failed to score. Now her husband was having sex with another woman. In the next room. While she was on the phone with the psychic.

The person who brought those stories to “This American Life”? He was a journalist: Stephen Glass. Read more

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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. Read more

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