On the day that Apple begins retail sales of its new iPad, we learned that a major public radio piece about Apple was not what it purported to be.
The week of January 8, KUSP broadcast an episode of This American Life titled “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory.” The program was an adaptation of Mike Daisey’s one-man show, “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.” In the stage show and the radio program, Mike Daisey takes Apple and a major contractor, Foxconn, to task for their labor practices in China.
The TAL episode took off – becoming the most downloaded program in the series’ history, and it brought even more attention to the already accelerating news coverage of Apple contractor business practices in China.
Among the listeners to the radio show was Rob Schmitz, China correspondent for another of our programs, Marketplace. As a reporter based in China, Schmitz has first-hand knowledge of Apple’s operations, and had doubts about some of the specifics in the radio program.
Ultimately, Marketplace and TAL joined forces to better understand what parts of Mike Daisey’s account were verifiable, and what wasn’t. As it turned out, many important details in the story didn’t stand up.
Consequently, TAL has decided to retract the original story in its entirety. Here is Ira Glass’ blog post about the situation.
A segment of tonight’s Marketplace (3:00 and 5:30 PM on KUSP) will report on the story, and next week’s broadcast of This American Life (Sunday 11:00 AM, repeating next Friday at 7:00 PM) will also cover the situation. That program will include an segment with Rob Schmitz; Ira will also be interviewing Mike Daisey.
TAL has always used both straight reporting and fiction to tell their stories, but with bright lines around each. It’s to their credit that they have moved strongly to set the record straight in this situation, and I am eagerly awaiting the upcoming broadcast…