Fallout of Apple controversy on “This American Life”: Sedaris now under scrutiny

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In the wake of problems with Mike Daisey’s Apple factory stories on This American Life, the work of author David Sedaris on the show “is undergoing new scrutiny,” reports the Washington Post.

“The immediate question,” notes writer Paul Farhi, “is whether Sedaris’s stories are, strictly speaking, true — an important consideration for journalistic organizations such as NPR and programs such as This American Life. A secondary consideration is what, if any, kind of disclosure such programs owe their listeners when broadcasting Sedaris’s brand of humor.”

Ira Glass told the Post that no one at TAL was concerned about Sedaris before the problems with Daisey’s reporting. “We just assumed the audience was sophisticated enough to tell that this guy is making jokes and that there was a different level of journalistic scrutiny that we and they should apply,” he said.

But now, Glass said three responses are being considered: fact-checking each of Sedaris’s segments, informing the audience that the stories contain “exaggerations,” or doing nothing.

Edward Schumacher-Matos, NPR ombudsman, told the newspaper he supports informing the audience. “When you have so much questioning of what’s real, fair, subjective and accurate in the news media, it doesn’t help to have [a segment] on a news program that gives no indication that some liberties have been taken,” he said. “I do think some kind of flag or label or introduction would be appropriate.”

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