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This American Life Retracts Episode On Apple Factories In China 326

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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  • Re:Refreshing (Score:5, Informative)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @04:10PM (#39382145)
    I disagree. This American Life is a good show. I've listened to them for years. They are clearly very left-winged journalists (most are I guess) but this show in particular does a very good job of trying to present the other side of topic. In particular I recommend the 2 pieces they did on the financial crisis and how it happened. Their conclusions are startling and some of the best work on the topic I've heard. In fact, it's probably the ONLY journalistic effort I've seen to actually explain the subject in any depth what-so-ever.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @04:12PM (#39382181)

    The page [] about the retracted episode on the site is not linking to the audio of the show like they do for every other episode.

    However, the well-documented trick still works, so if you want to listen to it you can do so here [].

    I think the URL is supposed to be NPR's way of letting you know they're on to you.

  • by oh_my_080980980 ( 773867 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @04:15PM (#39382219)
    "...workers who were poisoned on an iPhone assembly line by a chemical called n-hexane. Apple's audits of its suppliers show that an incident like this occurred in a factory in China, but the factory wasn’t located in Shenzhen, where Daisey visited. Apple's audits of its suppliers show that an incident like this occurred in a factory in China, but the factory wasn’t located in Shenzhen, where Daisey visited."

    So the event happened - workers poisoned by n-hexane - he just didn't visit that factor and that's the big lie? Seriously.

    Read the series of New York Times articles or are those fabricated too.

    Yeah kill the messenger....
  • Not NPR (Score:5, Informative)

    by MushMouth ( 5650 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @04:23PM (#39382343) Homepage

    NPR (National Public Radio) doesn't have anything to do with the production or distribution of This American Life. It is produced independently by WBEZ and distributed by PRI (Public Radio International, a direct competitor to NPR)

  • by _xeno_ ( 155264 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @04:34PM (#39382489) Homepage Journal

    No one ever saw armed guards, for example, yet that was a prominent part of his story.

    The article just says that the translator never saw any armed guards, it never says they weren't there. Again, This American Life claims they did fact check parts like this, and found that they were true. But I can't find anything else that corroborates "armed guards at the gate" without referencing Daisey so I'll concede that point.

    Underage workers were also only rumors.

    And if you read the article, This American Life addressed that in their original story. The found that there were, in fact, underage workers at Foxconn - but they were rare.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @04:34PM (#39382497)

    Except Apple seems to be the only one being targeted. Why? Are conditions magically better in other factories in China? I doubt it.

    Not only that, but Foxconn doesn't just make Apple products - it makes stuff for Dell, HP, etc.

    From the way these stories have been reported, you'd think there was this awful, rundown, slum-like section of the Foxconn factory making the Apple products, while a shiny state-of-the-art part of the factory, staffed by smiling suit-wearing adult Chinese workers, was putting together all the other companies' products.

  • by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @04:49PM (#39382677) Journal

    Underage workers were also only rumors.

    Apple's own audits show (PDF) [] the company has caught underage workers at a handful of its suppliers.

  • Re:This American Lie (Score:5, Informative)

    by Macman408 ( 1308925 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @05:04PM (#39382953)

    As has been noted elsewhere, the program is not from NPR; it's from Chicago Public Media (and is distributed by Public Radio International).

    And as a bonus, who do you think caught the "massive lie"? Surely it was one of the great conservative media outlets, looking for an opportunity to discredit the liberals? No, it was a correspondent from another public radio group, American Public Media.

    No media group is perfect, but one that is willing to publicize their errors, admit to them, and publicly retract a story with major factual errors is far above a media outlet who regularly blurs the line between their opinion shows (that never live up to journalistic standards of truth and fact-checking) and their factual news shows (that often don't live up to journalistic standards either). And I'm not just poking at Fox here; there are outlets on both sides that are awful. Fox is just one of the biggest, worst offenders.

  • by Optic7 ( 688717 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @05:07PM (#39382983)

    Except Apple seems to be the only one being targeted. Why? Are conditions magically better in other factories in China? I doubt it.

    Apple is targeted more than others for two main reasons:

    1. Apple presents itself as a "think different", hip, cool, enlightened company, much more so than any other consumer electronics brand. So this kind of thing contrasts with their public image much more strongly than any other consumer electronics company.

    2. Because of item 1, it's a bigger hypocrisy for Apple than for any other similar company, and thus easier to apply pressure to them in order to bring attention to these conditions.

    3. Apple is now the richest company in the entire history of the world. They can afford to use a bit of their profits to improve worker conditions.

    Conclusion: it's entirely justified to target Apple more than other companies for the same shortcomings.

  • Planet Money (Score:5, Informative)

    by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @05:10PM (#39383035) Homepage

    The TAL pieces on the economy are produced by NPR's Planet Money [] team, which also produce their own short biweekly podcasts and occasionally write for various magazines as well.

    If you liked those TAL pieces, definitely give Planet Money a shot.

  • Re:This American Lie (Score:5, Informative)

    by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @05:14PM (#39383093)

    NPR gets caught publishing a massive lie by an anti-corporation hipster, and you respond by attacking Fox News?

    NPR is publicly apologizing for being wrong. Fox news went to court to defend their right to lie and still call it news. So, yes, that is reasonable given their respective histories. One would have to be naive to hold NPR and Fox as equals. It's certainly not borne out by their viewers. NPR viewers were better informed than the average citizen, while Fox news viewers are significantly less informed than the average, when it came to the Iraq war and the Neocon reasons we were going there. [] Fox pushed us into a war we didn't need.

    And not for nothing, but there's nothing wrong with being anti-corporation. Hipster, yes.

  • Re:This American Lie (Score:5, Informative)

    by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @05:15PM (#39383111)

    I do not see a shred of responsibility on the part of TAL. They were caught with a falsified show segment, based on lies and inadequately vetted, easily discredited, and could ONLY have retracted it and blamed eveyrone else, or forfeited their reputation in presenting anything as either fact-based or journalistic.

    Wow. I hate to see what you think should happen when news stories are actual fabrications, rather than a medium through which someone managed to slip a lie that is subtle and actually quite hard to prove. Seriously, exactly how much fact checking do you expect someone to do when someone presents them with news? The amount that you imply should happen would basically make the initial news story irrelevant, because it would have been completely rebuilt from scratch during the fact checking. Fact checking is the verification of the main points of a story, along with the verification that the main actors in the story do not actively deny what is being described.

    It doesn't mean that every statement gets independently vetted.

    From what I can tell, the story consisted of several interviews, and one of the interviewers decided to lie during the interview. Basic checking wasn't able to conclusively prove certain statements to be lies, so they were presented as is during the broadcast. Furthermore, the parts where basic fact checking did uncover inconsistencies, the interviewee in question was challenged on it, and he persisted.

    All in all, this is some pretty solid reporting. Not to mention that the retraction was done through research they conducted on their own.

    Really, if you think that this is shoddy reporting worthy to be ignored on principle, you are either not reading any news whatsoever anywhere at anytime, or you have some serious blinders on.

  • Re:This American Lie (Score:5, Informative)

    by GaratNW ( 978516 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @05:25PM (#39383247)
    I think the main point, that you clearly missed, is the huge double standard that appears to go around on journalistic integrity.

    Dan Rather - Stepped down after a story, which was true, but had a single letter that was falsified, came to light.

    TLA - publicly and loudly retracts, and does a detailed report on what was inaccurate, to set the record straight. Still gets attacked for showing more integrity than any other news outlet has.. well, done in recent history, not sure about ever.

    Fox "News" - We never see any stories on Slashdot, or the major networks, about Fox retracting a story, despite the fact that they make up a ton of shit. Daily. They went to court to FIGHT for the right to fabricate, FFS. So how is it relevant? How do you think? Insightful? You're a troll, sir.

    It's just as well we don't have major sites, including Slashdot, reporting on every fabrication that Fox puts out. Jesus, we'd never see anything else in our RSS feeds.
  • by witherstaff ( 713820 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @05:27PM (#39383285) Homepage

    Fox news did show that news shows are not legally obligated to tell the truth []. News team showed that Canada and other countries ban Bovine Growth Hormone. Monsanto didn't like that and pressured Fox to keep changing the story before release to the point the new story would have been a lie. Finally the news team quit and filed a whistleblower lawsuit. The whistleblower lawsuit was thrown out because Fox news was not guilty of breaking the law as the FCC has no rules requiring news to be the truth.

  • Re:Not NPR (Score:5, Informative)

    by MushMouth ( 5650 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @05:46PM (#39383565) Homepage

    Yeah I'm a shill, I've been shilling for NPR from slashdot for 15 years.

    That just means that WBEZ broadcasts some shows which were produced by NPR, such as All Things Considered. They pay NPR quite heavily for the right to broadcast NPR produced and/or distributed shows.

    My guess is that your local newspaper prints articles by UPI, AP and Reuters, that makes them an affiliate of these syndicators. However when they want to syndicate their own work, they chose one syndicator who takes care of distributing their content to newspapers around the world. Say your newspapers uses UPI, should I blame the AP when an article written by your newspaper gets it wrong?

  • by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:05PM (#39383777)

    Idiot, that's not FOX news the cable channel but FOX channel 13 in Tampa Florida, a local TV station. You didn't read your own cite or else you're just spreading more lies.

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

    by Anthony Mouse ( 1927662 ) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:06PM (#39384473)

    if you watch the liberal news and then watch FOX you can usually figure the truth is nowhere in the vicinity of either of them.


    TV news is totally useless. The only "news" worth watching on television is The Daily Show, and only then because they serve as such an excellent reminder of why you should never watch any of the other ones.

    Real news comes from the internet.

  • Re:This American Lie (Score:5, Informative)

    by speederaser ( 473477 ) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @01:08AM (#39386939)

    I often get confused when people talk about "liberal" this and "conservative" that. From my non-American perspective, I see so little difference between the two that I can't bring myself to acknowledge that there is a substantive difference.

    American "liberal": authoritarian, pro-abortion rights, some limits on guns, thinks taxes are too low. Wants corporations to fill out paperwork before spewing pollution.

    American "conservative": authoritarian, anti-abortion, no limits on guns ever, can't think of a good reason to tax anybody. Doesn't want corporations to fill out paperwork, period.

    For perspective, the above was filtered through an anti-authoritarian American cynic and a beer or two.


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