In January, the radio program This American Life ran a story by Mike Daisey about working conditions at Foxconn, the China-based company that produces products for a wide range of companies, including Apple. This story has now been retracted.
Daisey claimed to have spoken with Foxconn employees that had been poisoned by n-hexane, or had crippling repetitive-motion injuries. He also claimed to have spoken with underage workers.
His report was retracted by This American Life when research by American Public Media’s radio program Marketplace was able to prove that Daisey had not actually seen most of what he claimed to. As Ira Glass, the host of This American Life pointed out, the radio program is not saying that Foxconn isn’t guilty of some of what Daisey accused it of, but rather that Daisey did not see any proof of his accusations himself.
“In our original broadcast, we fact checked all the things that Daisey said about Apple’s operations in China,” says Glass, “and those parts of his story were true, except for the underage workers, who are rare. We reported that discrepancy in the original show. But with this week’s broadcast, we’re letting the audience know that too many of the details about the people he says he met are in dispute for us to stand by the story. I suspect that many things that Mike Daisey claims to have experienced personally did not actually happen, but listeners can judge for themselves.”
In response, Daisey wrote on his blog, “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.”
However, on Friday he told Ira Glass “It was completely wrong for me to have it on your show and that’s something I deeply regret.” As Daisey pointed out, stories run on This American Life need to follow the strict rules of journalism, while his one-man show uses the much looser standards of a theatrical piece.
Those who would like to listen to a podcast of this week’s This American Life discussing this retraction, they may download or stream it from this program’s website.