"This American Life" Retracts Story On Foxconn Factory That Makes Apple Products

Many listeners of the This American Life radio program were shocked during the broadcast of an excerpt from comedian Mike Daisey’s one-man-show, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” where he visits a Foxconn factory in China that makes Apple products, and encounters tales of terrible conditions and sad life stories of its workers. Turns out that much of that controversial story was just made up, and the show’s host, Ira Glass, is issuing a retraction for the segment, “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory.”

The reaction to the show was immediate, says the statement, as the podcast became the most popular in This American Life history, with 888,000 downloads. Listeners reacted with shock, with one even delivering a petition for better working conditions in the factories that reached over a quarter-million signatures.

The show’s host, Ira Glass, writes on its blog:

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.

The China correspondent for the public radio show Marketplace tracked down the interpreter that Daisey hired when he visited Shenzhen China. The interpreter disputed much of what Daisey has been saying on stage and on our show. On this week’s episode of This American Life, we will devote the entire hour to detailing the errors in “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory.”

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. That doesn’t excuse the fact that we never should’ve put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake.

We’re horrified to have let something like this onto public radio. Many dedicated reporters and editors – our friends and colleagues – have worked for years to build the reputation for accuracy and integrity that the journalism on public radio enjoys. It’s trusted by so many people for good reason. Our program adheres to the same journalistic standards as the other national shows, and in this case, we did not live up to those standards.

A press release with more details about all this is below. We’ll be posting the audio of the program and the transcript on Friday night this week, instead of waiting till Sunday.

For the full news story and transcript on Public Radio International’s reaction, check out the source link below.

Retracting “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory” [This American Life Blog]

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