Public radio retracted an episode after learning Mike Daisey "partially fabricated" information
"This American Life" producer Brian Reed says, "In the end, this was our mistake"
Daisey issued a statement about the incident on his personal blog
Acclaimed Public Radio International program “This American Life” has retracted an entire episode about working conditions inside Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturer that builds much of Apple’s most popular hardware, after learning the reporter “partially fabricated” information about his visit to the factories.
In the episode, PRI aired a monologue from reporter Mike Daisey, a self-proclaimed performer whose one-man show, “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” detailed alarming labor practices which he claimed to witness during his time visiting Foxconn.
Among the many facts Daisey fabricated, according to PRI, were the number of Foxconn factories he visited, the number of workers he spoke with, as well a major lie about meeting with a number of workers who claimed to have been poisoned by chemicals used on iPhone assembly lines.
“Daisey lied to me and to “This American Life” producer Brian Reed during the fact checking we did on the story, before it was broadcast,” the show’s host, Ira Glass, wrote in a blog post on Friday. “That doesn’t excuse the fact that we never should’ve put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake.”
The retraction came even as consumers lined up Friday to buy Apple’s latest iPad amid protests over its treatment of workers – protests that did little to dampen sales.
Public debate rages on about working conditions inside of Foxconn’s Chinese factories, which have for years been the subject of reports that employees endure long hours and unsafe working environment.
Wired dug into the subject more than a year ago in a cover story after 17 Foxconn employees committed suicide. More recently, The New York Times reported a series of investigative pieces further detailing the undesirable jobs of Foxconn employees.
In an unprecedented response from the normally stoic Apple, the company responded to the reports publicly by cooperating with the Fair Labor Organization for audits of its entire supply chain. An entire page dedicated to Apple supplier responsibility can now be found on Apple’s website.
Daisey issued a statement about the incident on his personal blog:
“I stand by my work. My show is a theatrical piece whose goal is to create a human connection between our gorgeous devices and the brutal circumstances from which they emerge. It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity.
“Certainly, the comprehensive investigations undertaken by The New York Times and a number of labor rights groups to document conditions in electronics manufacturing would seem to bear this out.”
“What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic – not a theatrical – enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations.”
“But this is my only regret. I am proud that my work seems to have sparked a growing storm of attention and concern over the often appalling conditions under which many of the high-tech products we love so much are assembled in China.”
PRI’s “This American Life” website was bombarded with traffic upon news of the retraction, buckling the site under the torrent of traffic.
Apple, Public Radio International and Daisey did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Wired confirmed that none of Daisey’s U.S. performances of The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs were canceled after news of the retraction, save for one special broadcast: the April 7 show slated for performance at the Chicago Theater, which was originally sponsored by This American Life and Chicago public radio station WBEZ 91.5FM.
Roberto Baldwin and Tim Carmody contributed to this report.