Home > Uncategorized > THIS AMERICAN LIFE – RETRACTION?

THIS AMERICAN LIFE – RETRACTION?

Before even starting this report I’d note that I originally did not hear the “Daisy and the Apple Factory” podcast as following the link provided in class did not take me to that podcast but simply to the homepage where I mistakenly reported on the podcast that was featured there. So, having missed the original podcast I went to the archives to see about listening to the “Daisy and the Apple Factory” podcast only to find it is the only single episode there which could not be played or downloaded. There was a transcript there, but really, who goes to a podcast to read it? As someone entirely familiar with battling issues where the truth has been misrepresented or outright covered up, I felt this was somewhat suspicious. I mean, obviously with internet resources being what they are, I’m sure in time you’ll be able to come up with the original podcast, but, you know…

Anyway… I did listen to the TAL Retraction podcast (which incidentally, also could not be downloaded) and, well… I personally didn’t think that highly of the This American Life podcasts in the first place; sure I found some topics and portions of the stories amusing and all, and they do have their own distinctive style which is kinda cool, but they’re just another form of traditional journalism, so I didn’t find the fact one of their stories (the story they’ve more or less built their bank on) was a fabrication to be all that shocking. Long, long ago I read a statement that was a revelation in how I viewed journalism as well as a great deal of things… it read something like, “The principal behind journalism and the principal behind extortion is exactly the same… that if you hit an individual hard enough, they can be made to give up money.” That was the basic concept behind Mike Daisy’s story as well as This American Life’s podcast of “Daisy and the Apple Factory” and it’s really no different with this “TAL Retraction” podcast. Making money is really the only thing that counts with nearly everyone today with $$$ trumping the “truth” almost every single time.

Where credibility and reputation equal $$$ of course This American Life is going to spend a few minutes on how they didn’t check their sources followed by the better part of an hour on what hits their listeners the hardest… how a supposedly reputable person (Mike Daisy) associated with a famous story lied in that story and in turn, lied to them. As Rob Schmidt had pointed out… it seemed pretty strange the story depicted China factory workers making only $20/day to be kicking back at “Starbucks” to chat over a cup of coffee, and that was what got him to wondering about the whole thing. I mean, most people might not make that connection but you would probably expect an actual journalist concerned with the truth to make such a connection in their “Fact Checking,” wouldn’t you? Yet This American Life states they basically only checked statistical and geographical information in their “Fact Checking” process on this story. There was a huge impact made some time back regarding a photo of a Chinese toddler chained to a pole while his parent worked because it isn’t at all realistic to expect the average Chinese citizen to be able to afford childcare, yet, TAL didn’t find the reporting of these same Chinese citizens chatting it up at expensive coffee shops to be suspicious in the least.  It seems pretty obvious to me that nobody, and I mean NOBODY involved in this entire story (except Rob Schmidt), cared about how truthful they were in the performance of their duties where such a “Hard Hitting” story was involved.

I don’t mean to make this out like This American Life are just the absolute “Bad Guys” in this whole situation because, in reality, the way this whole thing went is simply “The Way Of The World.” Money concerns come before all other concerns in virtually all areas of life, even more so in business. Conditions in China are so horrible it’s not hard for any journalist somewhat familiar with how things work in China to exploit those conditions for their own personal gain. I mean… personally, I’d done a substantial amount of research on “Globalization” relating to a paper I’d wrote in a previous class from which I was under the impression in most of these Chinese “sweatshops” it’s common place to find 12 to 14 year olds working 16 hour days for 12 cents an hour, which is even worse than it was made out to be in this pod cast. It was in the news long before this how criticism of China’s government by its citizenry or violation of China’s “1 Child” laws and the like can easily land a Chinese citizen in a work camp where they’ll find themselves tissue typed so their organs can be sold on the black market. Reportedly, in some cases, if some really wealthy person is willing to pay enough they can actually have organs extracted from living work camp inmates… I mean, they were living up until the organs were extracted, that is. (There’s an image relating to this story above)  With such conditions, yeah, I can see where it wouldn’t be too terribly difficult to believe pretty much anything you hear relating to horrible conditions in China, but does that really relieve journalists from checking their facts? Apparently it does… because, as I said… such is the way of the world.

When Obama reported he was fulfilling his promise to “Bring Our Troops Home” from Iraq the world of popular journalism just ate it up with all the talk of troops returning to the US, but they failed to look into the big picture, to check the facts, which were that as these troops were “being brought home,” transport after transport after transport of US troops were simultaneously landing just across the Iraqi border in Jordan. So in the context that was reported, did Obama really “Bring Our US Troops Home?”

Out here in regular life and in virtually any profession it’s pretty much the same story as all the above. Any professional individuals having achieved any status of any sort make serious mistakes, mistakes that make them look bad or cause some form of harm to someone (which might affect their $$$), they’re just going to lie about it and nobody, especially their fellow “professionals,” will ever check into the actual facts. If somehow the facts do make their way out into the light of day… oh… well, it was a mistake, sure they did wrong, but, there was some other outside factor that caused it. Anything to relieve those of status from responsibility for any serious mistake they make… and that’s pretty much how it’s always been…

Look in your bible… “The good that I want to do, this I do not do; but the evil that I do not want to do, this I go on doing. So if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin, that lives within me.” (Romans 7: 15-20) Something like that. Like I said… It’s simply the way of the world, always has been.

Report on the “TAL Retraction” podcast? Well That’s about it. Act 1, Act 2, Act 3… excuses, justifications, rationalizations. I mean, what else could there be? But, as for me personally, I’d have found it far more respectable if they’d just made a press release and posted a short statement on their site simply stating that, “Yes, we screwed up, we were lied to and failed to check our facts… I’m really sorry we’ve screwed up like this and we will be making some changes in the way we do things to hopefully ensure this never happens again.” Instead… the first headline I saw relating to this read, “We Were Duped,” or something of that nature, and there’s a 1 hour podcast basically “pointing the finger.”

There may have been a little more to it… admittedly… by the time I got to Act 3 I was pretty much through listening so I don’t remember much from that. Something about how the workers themselves were reported to have wanted all the excessive overtime instead of being forced into it. Well… yeah… low income people here in the US tend to try to get all the overtime they can get as well, so they can buy all the privileges our government is willing to sell to them; therefore,  it may not be able to be said that they didn’t willingly ask for the overtime. However, in reality it’s just economic slavery, so how much “choice” is really involved there? There was something about some Apple factory having had 2 explosions due to a poor working environment only 7 months apart. Another little part relating reports that “threatening” conditions were supposedly rare in these Chinese sweatshops. Yada, Yada, Yada… whatever… like I said, I was done listening to all the propaganda at this point.

After the way this whole deal was handled… I’ll not likely go out of my way to listen to any This American Life pod casts, that’s for sure.

Comments were posted to the following Blogs of this assignment:

Jeff’s Blog at: http://jeffduckgrant.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/jeffs-tal-retraction-assignment/#comment-36

Ashley’s Blog at: http://digitalmediacmst216.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/retraction/#comment-20

Kelly’s Blog at: http://kmcarpenter.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/response-to-retraction/#comment-56

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  1. April 1, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    The thing is that This American Life usually does for a story is the investigation or has a journalist come along with the person to tell the story. Granted I understand that This American Life is not everyone’s cup of tea, but a lot of people listen and trust this show including me. It maybe a bit naive of me to think this way, but this is not the first time in journalism that there have been made up stories. Stephen Glass was a journalist at The New Republic (a highly respected news magazine) during the 90’s. Glass (not related to Ira Glass) was caught for making up entire or parts of stories that were published. I do agree with This American Life not checking everything and that is something that is disappointing. However, I don’t believe it was their intentions. People can sometimes… just be duped. Journalists are human, meaning they can not only make mistakes but also lie as well.

  2. kstatemediablog
    April 2, 2012 at 2:26 am

    Brad, I really enjoy your writing style, it is interesting to bring other sources in to classify your thoughts about the retraction.

  3. September 5, 2014 at 12:59 am

    Thiis web site really has aall the information and facts I wanted about this
    subject and didn’t know who to ask.

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