Marketplace reporter uncovers fabrications in TAL broadcast on Apple factory

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This American Life retracted “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory,” its Jan. 6 broadcast that adapted theater monologist Mike Daisey’s stage play about working conditions in Apple manufacturing plants in China.

“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,” said TAL host and creator Ira Glass, in a statement. “That doesn’t excuse the fact that we never should’ve put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake.”

When adapting Daisey’s play, “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” for broadcast on TAL, producers attempted to confirm key elements of the story, but Daisey refused to provide contact information for the interpreter who helped him research the piece.

“At that point, we should’ve killed the story,” Glass said. “But other things Daisey told us about Apple’s operations in China checked out, and we saw no reason to doubt him. We didn’t think that he was lying to us and to audiences about the details of his story. That was a mistake.”

Rob Schmitz, China correspondent for American Public Media’s Marketplace, independently contacted the interpreter, who disputed details of Daisey’s account. His scoop will run on this evening’s edition of Marketplace. This American Life will devote all of this weekend’s broadcast to the errors in its original show.

Glass and company had put Daisey’s material through a fact-checking process, as Current reported in February.

Daisey stands by his work. “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,” he said in a statement. “It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity.”

“What I do is not journalism,” Daisey said. “The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism.”

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