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.
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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. Read more


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. Read more


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. 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.

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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


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. 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. Read more


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.

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