Questionable Journalism


After listening to The Retraction, I feel relieved knowing now that what most of what Mike Daisy said was untrue and exaggerated.  Last week when I first heard the podcast, I was very upset and infuriated by the situation that Daisy described. But now looking back, I should have definitely questioned his credibility on my own before believing every word he said.  It actually makes me feel dumb that I questioned myself last week as to why I had never heard of the specific horrific conditions in China that Daisy described rather than questioning his credibility. But now it is perfectly clear to me and everyone else why this was unknown before Daisy’s performance.  And speaking of performance—I think that this is a key word that really says something about the story that Daisy told. As TAL points out, Daisy is not a journalist. That should have been TAL’s first sign when broadcasting this story that maybe everything Daisy was saying was not entirely true. He was performing, which often entails fabrication and exaggeration. Yes, TAL should have practiced good journalism methods and checked his sources, but Daisy should not have gone as far as to make this story willingly available to the public without thinking about the consequences.

I was really bothered by the way Daisy handled the confrontation on his fabrications of the original story. First of all, he would take long pauses (almost as if he just wanted to move on to the next question), shuffled around the questions, and never actually admitted to lying or exaggerating. Who does that?! I feel like the long pause after each question really says it all – that he knows it was wrong. If he had admitted to what he would have done, I would have had some respect for him. But the fact that he “beat around the bush” for every single question is just rude and unprofessional. Daisy can try to continue to defend himself in the sense that he was trying to make a statement and make an impact with his show, but I think that he would have been just as successful if he actually told the truth and found a way to make the facts into a performance rather than exaggerating the details. Because really, who is going to believe Mike Daisy now?

One exaggeration that really stood out to me was about Daisy’s encounter with child labor. When I heard Daisy’s initial performance, I really did not think twice about these encounters because in the past, I have heard about such conditions existing in China. And honestly, I was actually surprised that this was a fabrication. TAL countered Daisy’s claim of his experience with the child labor situation by reporting that it is uncommon for Apple to have any problems with child labor, and this shocked me. Since we were prompted with the question, “Can you fact check the fact checkers?”  I decided to explore this a little bit more to see what Apple’s involvement with child labor really entails. The Huffington Post published an article about children found working in the Foxconn iPhone factory, and this was posted on January 17, 2012 (clearly after Daisy’s performance). The article goes on to describe how Apple has claimed since 2007 that they have a “zero tolerance policy for underage labor” (along the lines of TAL’s claim).  So, the fact that there are still unanswered questions about Apple’s involvement with child labor hinders TAL’s credibility (in my opinion) in regards to the “truth” that they claimed to have discovered from Daisy’s fabrications.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/01/17/children-found-working-in-iphone-foxconn-factory_n_1209953.html

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5 responses to “Questionable Journalism

  1. Reading your post, I laughed at the similar reactions we had to Mike Daisey’s response on the retraction. I found his long pauses, elusive answers, and lack of apology to be extremely obnoxious and infuriating. The man was caught lying and still had the audacity to try and justify most of his fabbrications or exaggerations. I also liked your point about still putting some of the blame on This American Life, as they knew they were listening to a performers’ story and should have been more diligent on the fact checking. When they could not get information about Cathy from Mike Daisey, that should have been a big flashing light! While both are to blame, it saddens me that this occured, since a lot of what Mike Daisey said did have some merit or occur in other factories abroad. I think that the impact and point he was trying to make was valid, however the way he went about it was wrong.

  2. I completely agree with your feelings of anger towards Daisey and how you are relieved that most of Daisey’s remarks are exaggerated or false. However, you should not feel dumb for never having heard of cruel treatment in Chinese factories. Inhuman labor conditions, although exaggerated in this specific story, are still a very real concern and most certainly not made up. Although Daisey falsified his information in some instances, the information regarding Apple and Foxconn are still honest; they are potential players in cruel working conditions in Chinese factories. They are making promises of reform but we cannot be sure these promises are being kept. His episode on TAL was definitely questionable journalism, however, he was able to publicize this issue and the public took notice. In all, I do agree that Daisey lied, and that we all should have questioned his credibility.

  3. I agree with both of your points that the issue he was trying to publicize was valid. I just was initially so shocked by how many facts that he exaggerated and then let alone wouldn’t even admit them after being caught. Granted, TAL could be exaggerating some of the facts that they claimed they checked (since they weren’t the best at questioning Daisy’s credibility in the first place), but it is still not an excuse for Daisy to act so unprofessional during The Retraction when he was questioned. And I’m glad you both agree!

  4. I agree with “alexisb53”, horrible labor conditions are everywhere in Chinese factories. We are even hearing about the ones making legal goods, what about the ones making illegal goods?. My biggest problem with Mr. Daisy’s exaggerations is that now we are focused on Mr. Daisy when the attention should be on these factory conditions and how they can be changed.

  5. Like you and Meghan, I too was struck by Mr. Daisey’s long pauses and seemingly empty responses to the questions he was being asked. If you are going to share a false story, you should at least be prepared to address concerns and accusations being thrown at you. I agree that you should not feel dumb for feeling deceived; I think we all were. While we now know that Daisey falsified much of his story, we certainly had no reason to believe he was when listening to the initial podcast.

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