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TAL's Mike Daisey Retraction

Pete Springer/OPB

It’s been anything but a quiet week in public radio.

On Friday, Ira Glass announced that, for the first time, this weekend’s episode of This American Life would be a retraction:

I have difficult news. We’ve learned that Mike Daisey’s story about Apple in China — which we broadcast in January — contained significant fabrications. We’re retracting the story because we can’t vouch for its truth. This is not a story we commissioned. It was an excerpt of Mike Daisey’s acclaimed one-man show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” in which he talks about visiting a factory in China that makes iPhones and other Apple products.

Mike Daisey responded, on his blog, by saying that he stands by his work:

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.

Daisey offered a further response after the TAL retraction hour aired.

Of course, you might have heard Daisey not just on TAL, but on TOL as well. I’ve interviewed Mike Daisey a number of times over the last few years, so I’ve been particularly interested in this story. (Our conversations mostly focused on his 24-hour monologue All the Hours in the Day. You can find them here, here, and here.) But I’m not alone. Many media watchers and practitioners have weighed in over the last few days. For a small taste, here’s James Fallows in The Atlantic and David Carr in the New York Times.

What’s your take on this story? What responsibility does a storyteller like Mike Daisey have? Should different rules apply to theater than to journalism? If so, what are those rules?

journalism mike daisey theater

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OPB | Broadcast: March 20, 2012