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This American Life Retracts Episode On Apple Factories In China 326

Posted by Soulskill
from the this-means-we-can-ignore-it-now-right dept.
New submitter Hartree writes "This American Life aired an episode in January about visiting Foxconn's factory in Shenzhen China that supplies Apple with iPhones and iPads. It was the most downloaded of all of its episodes. That show helped prompt Apple to release, for the first time, a list of its suppliers and allow outside audits of working conditions at its suppliers. This American Life has now retracted the episode after finding out that Mike Daisey, whose visit to the factory the show was based on, fabricated portions of the story. This included a number of minor items, but also major ones such as his saying that he personally met underage workers and those poisoned by hexane exposure. To set the record straight, this weekend's episode of This American Life will present how they were mislead into airing a flawed story (PDF)."
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This American Life Retracts Episode On Apple Factories In China

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  • Truth... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by InfiniteZero (587028) on Friday March 16, 2012 @04:10PM (#39382155)

    China bashing is all in vogue these days, since they are supposed to be the next superpower, which doesn't bode well with the current superpower that is the U.S. But realistically, neither side is pure evil, or for that matter, completely innocent. The Chinese are people like you and me, capable of things both good and bad.

    Moral of the story: when deciphering all the spin in the media, truth is always somewhere in the middle.

  • by _xeno_ (155264) on Friday March 16, 2012 @04:11PM (#39382177) Homepage Journal

    It's important to note that the details that were false all involve Daisey personally witnessing events. He didn't, he just learned about them. So some of the specific examples are dramatizations, but all the basic facts of the horrendous working conditions are true. He just didn't personally talk with the effected workers.

    So, yes, This American Life should clarify the story and should admit that they screwed up in claiming that a dramatization was pure fact. But they did, in fact, check out all the basic facts about the working conditions, and everything claimed is based on things that really happened.

    Don't try and take this as evidence that the troubles at Foxconn were fabricated or that Apple was unfairly targeted based on fake stories. They were not.

  • by samkass (174571) on Friday March 16, 2012 @04:20PM (#39382303) Homepage Journal

    It's important to note that the details that were false all involve Daisey personally witnessing events. He didn't, he just learned about them. So some of the specific examples are dramatizations, but all the basic facts of the horrendous working conditions are true. He just didn't personally talk with the effected workers.

    So, yes, This American Life should clarify the story and should admit that they screwed up in claiming that a dramatization was pure fact. But they did, in fact, check out all the basic facts about the working conditions, and everything claimed is based on things that really happened.

    Don't try and take this as evidence that the troubles at Foxconn were fabricated or that Apple was unfairly targeted based on fake stories. They were not.

    Actually, according to the article, some were. No one ever saw armed guards, for example, yet that was a prominent part of his story. Underage workers were also only rumors. And of the facts that were true, they were not nearly so commonplace that a casual trip would find them-- he had to pull together anecdotes across space and time to make it seem like all this stuff was happening casually and consistently. It wasn't.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @04:27PM (#39382401)

    According "an incident like this". Two important things here: singular as in one incident documented and like as in the one person may have been gotten a rash from a hole in protective gear. The thing is I don't know and neither do you, but the lie may be much more than location.

  • Re:Refreshing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 3.1415926535 (243140) on Friday March 16, 2012 @04:40PM (#39382573)

    "At that point, we should've killed the story," says Ira Glass, Executive Producer and Host of This
    American Life. "But other things Daisey told us about Apple's operations in China checked out, and we
    saw no reason to doubt him. We didn't think that he was lying to us and to audiences about the details of his
    story. That was a mistake."

    That sounds like, "We got it wrong," to me.

  • Re:Refreshing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by snowgirl (978879) on Friday March 16, 2012 @04:46PM (#39382641) Journal

    Exactly. To think, that a media outlet would have the balls to admit they were wrong, then explain how they made the mistake. That is rare these days...

    Well, as they note on NPR, the stories checked out, and were real events... it just turns out that Daisey didn't personally witness them.

    It's like getting all worked up over a story that is based on real events, and it's like "good! but remember, it's still fictionalized..." They took a theater act and turned it into a journal piece without any augmentation to ensure that viewers understood that while these events were true, they were being dramatized.

  • Re:This American Lie (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tripleevenfall (1990004) on Friday March 16, 2012 @04:59PM (#39382851)

    I'm starting to wonder if Fox News wasn't created by liberals to provide a convenient "Look at that over there!" out for any discussion.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:08PM (#39383809)

    I seem to know more liberals who watch Fox News the conservatives. The conservatives I know by and large think it is crap and ignore it. The liberals seem to think they need to watch it to see what "the other guy is up to" and the like. They get worked up, like yelling at the screen mad, over it, but watch anyhow.

    I've tried to explain that Fox loves that. They do not care who you are, they care that you watch. Doesn't matter why you watch, if their bullshit gets views, they'll keep it up. So if a bunch of those viewers are liberals who hate it, well guess what? You help it all the same. Viewership it what matters to them.

    Personally I just ignore Fox News. I think it is crap and I wish they would go out of business. Best way to make that happen is to ignore them and never watch.

  • by Raven268 (2597179) on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:30PM (#39384041)

    At the very bottom of the story on the retraction, there is a link to a sourced New York Times story, which is nearly as damning as the retracted one. This is called "burying the lede," and it is biased reporting.

    Reportedly, the TAL correction also confirmed most of what Daisey claimed; he wasn't there, but the stories turn out to be true after all. The TAL broadcast will be available for download on Sunday

    Here's the link to the NYT story:
        http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/business/ieconomy-apples-ipad-and-the-human-costs-for-workers-in-china.html [nytimes.com]

    This is were the TAL correction will be available:
        http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/460/retraction [thisamericanlife.org]

  • Re:This American Lie (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday March 16, 2012 @09:25PM (#39385789) Homepage Journal

    Apple is serious about correcting the problems in the factories and will get it done. Give them time.

    Apple has nothing to lose if the issue gains such prominence that their competition is forced to do the same.

    As much as I enjoy buying from outlets like dealextreme which almost certainly run on slavery (have you seen their prices? ugh. I know I sound like an ad but seriously, there's whippin' behind all that shit) it would be great if they were cut off so we were forced to buy stuff from people who hired people for a fair, living wage, and didn't treat them worse than we're allowed to treat animals in this country.

  • Re:Refreshing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday March 16, 2012 @09:37PM (#39385849) Journal

    I guess the modern way of proving yourself as a respectable organization is to have the balls to own up to those mistakes....

    ...and make an honest effort to correct and/or compensate for them.

    As a grandfather I can attest that it is also the old fashion way, and now that I have you trapped on my lawn I'm going to punish you by giving you my long winded opinion on the matter (while my bath robe flaps about in the breeze just enough to make you uncomfortable).

    Anyone who shows genuine remorse for a mistake (such as stepping on my lawn) gets a +1:respect from me, (in real terms that means I will consider suppressing the flapping of my bathrobe while conversing with them). It's not absolution for irresponsibility or carelessness but it is a very reliable indicator that it was a genuine mistake rather than a mallicious act or an irresponsible attitude. The alternative hit and run behavoiur does nothing but compound the damage of a mistake which is the basic reason hit and run car accidents are so reviled by the public and so harshly punished by the law. OTOH, hit and run journalsism under the guise of "opinion" (eg: Andrew Bolt) seems to be not only tolerated by society, but more handsomely rewarded by it, and it has been that way since the dead sea was feeling a bit off colour.( I danced on the lawn of the "haunted house" when I was a kid, and was a legend at lunchtime for doing it)

    This retraction is as good as journalistic ethics gets. TAL fucked up, and when this was pointed out to them they immediately sought to correct the record, they, like Apple, are victims that played some part in their own "downfall" here. As an Aussie I know virtually nothing about TAL other than the name, in fact I thought it was a 1950's magazine, but whatever/whoever they are, they deserve the upmost respect in this instance for willingly risking their own reputation in an attempt to set the record straight. To do otherwise turns an honest mistake into recklessly causing damage to Apple's reputaion. (Had you walked down the path and knocked on my door I most likely would have retrived your schoolbag from my lawn without a fuss, and consequently my dogs would not be eating your homework right now)

    Of course the reputation of the "showman" who told tall tales about his adventure is in the toilet, and sadly it took his real story on third world working conditions with it. His actions are almost the exact opposite of TAL. He had ample oportunity to set the record straight, but he chose to continue the "showmanship". That choice is the point where he started lying to TAL for the purpose of self-glorification (or self-enrichment) and is therefore the moral vilian in all this. (I suspect you're lying about the schoolbag and just wanted to impress your mates by dancing on my lawn).

    Now get off my lawn and go tell your teacher that a dog ate your homework. If the teacher broadcasts your stroy by giving you detention you'll also get a full 15 minuites of fame, tomorrow, during lunch.

  • Re:This American Lie (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anthony Mouse (1927662) on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:09PM (#39386027)

    You seem to be under the mistaken impression that "real journalists" do not exist on the internet. More and more that is the only place they exist. To some extent they are still employed by newspapers, but newspapers have almost universally begun posting all their stories on the internet.

    I might except that some "real journalism" still happens on radio (mostly NPR), but NPR is also on the internet.

    Also, this:

    most of the "news" [] is just rehashes of news stories done by real journalists.

    I mean what do you think the Associated Press is all about?

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