Daisey Redacted – In a word, awkward…


Mike Daisey’s second appearance on This American Life was painfully awkward to listen to, with pauses so lengthy that I found myself checking to see if the audio had paused. There is no doubt that while many of the events in Mr. Daisey’s monologue have occurred in sweat shops and factories in China, it quickly became apparent that he himself did not witness them. Looking back, I could have written an equally entertaining and compelling monologue by reading the Wikipedia article entitled “sweat shops”, and perhaps if I had passed the information off as having been gleaned through personal experience, I too could have been risen to Mr. Daisey’s current level of fame.

For me, the most entertaining part of the podcast occurred when Ira Glass brought up A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. Almost everyone knows the story of Frey’s so-called autobiography, later proved to be untrue, and then torn apart by Oprah Winfrey herself. I was amused to learn that Mr. Daisey had previously commented on the scandal, even admitting to fabricating a story himself. As an entertainer, Mr. Daisey cannot be held to the same standard as a journalist. However, when he enters the realm of journalism, acting outside his monologue show, then he must be held to that standard.

However, Mr. Daisey’s actions are not alone in deserving scrutiny. This American Life is a reputable journalistic program, and the idea that they ran a story as potentially divisive as Mr. Daisey’s without checking out his story is laughable. The ease with which they were able to find Mr. Daisey’s translator Kathy makes TAL look sloppy and unprofessional. They didn’t put in the work up front, and frankly, deserve to have it backfire.

Looking back, I cannot believe that I didn’t question Mr. Daisey’s statement regarding the security guards with guns. Guards rarely have guns here in the United States, where we live in a democracy. The idea of guns being allowed in China, where the government doesn’t even allow Google free-reign, is ridiculous. A passing internet search was all that was required to confirm that guns are illegal in China, except in the case of government officials, which the Foxconn guards were certainly not (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firearms_law#China). Perhaps if TAL had done a cursory search themselves, they could have avoided the public embarrassment of running Mike Daisey’s story.

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6 thoughts on “Daisey Redacted – In a word, awkward…

  1. You’re right that This American Life should have been more responsible in airing Mike Daisey’s program, but at least they did the right thing in retracting the story and confronting Daisey about his decisions. It sounds like he’s done this in the past as well, which makes me wonder why TAL wasn’t more meticulous in fact checking Daisey’s story before choosing to air it. Hopefully this whole controversy will cause Mr. Daisey to reevaluate how he writes and works.

  2. I, as well, can not believe that I failed to question Daisey’s gunned security guard claim. Personally I am quite concerned that I was so willing to accept Daisey’s word. It really will make me be more careful the next time I listen to certain stories on the air. I also find it concerning that a reputable news source, such as TAL, failed to check their facts. I expected better from them and hopefully they will learn from their mistakes.

  3. With respect to TAL, I would be interested in hearing how reputable their show is regarded as being in the world of public broadcasting, on the scale of say, NPR to Rush Limbaugh. I cannot imagine NPR running such an poorly researched story- is this completely out of character for TAL, or have they had similar flops in the past?

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  5. Though I feel dumb because I did not actually know about the Frey incidence that was a very interesting part of the retraction. I did not comment on this before but it is amazing that Daisey would have the nerve to comment on that incident when he was basically doing the same thing. That is asking for attention that he most certainly does not need. Very good point about Daisey not being a journalist. Though he isn’t, he definitely acted in the realm of journalism as you said. I totally agree that TAL is responsible for putting this on their radio station. If a well known station does not take the time to fully check out who they are promoting then they are being sloppy and lazy. Somehow they were able to make their apology another program which may mask the flaws of their investigation of Daisey.

  6. Pingback: Third Blog Post- Useful Interruptions « Business, Society, and Government 4

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