May 15, 2012

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.

Labeling Sedaris’ stories appeals to some at NPR, Farhi reports:

“When you have so much questioning of what’s real, fair, subjective and accurate in the news media, it doesn’t help to have [a segment] on a news program that gives no indication that some liberties have been taken,” said Edward Schumacher-Matos, NPR’s ombudsman, its independent in-house critic. “I do think some kind of flag or label or introduction would be appropriate.”

In a fiery blog post, Mike Daisey says the discussion is ridiculous:

First, no-one is upset with Mr. Sedaris’ work. NO ONE. No one is listening to SANTALAND DIARIES and then saying to themselves, “I am now informed about the true nature of Macy’s elf policies from the early nineties, which is good as I am writing a PhD thesis on that very subject.” No one is calling NPR complaining that they were terribly tricked by Mr. Sedaris’ feelings about the pleasures of smoking, or cutlery, or whatever the fuck it is that David is talking about. No one cares what is factually accurate in the details of what his aunt said to him in his childhood, except maybe his family members, and they should be fucking used to it by now.

“This American Life” retracted a Daisey story about Apple’s manufacturing practices after it learned he had fabricated parts of the story. In the post, Daisey calls Farhi “Eric Farhi.” Daisey says his deeds are “not an excuse for media watchdogs to clamp down as though they are protecting the public from stories as though they need their food chewed for them. … Just because you can’t find any more meat on my bones in this matter doesn’t allow you the right to hunt someone else.”

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
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