'This American Life' Retracts Chinese Apple Factory Story by Mike Daisey, Citing Discrepancies

11:35 AM PST 03/16/2012 by Jordan Zakarin
Larry Busacca/Getty Images

A piece on the substandard working conditions at the tech company's manufacturing plant was called into question by an Marketplace reporter.

Following an internal investigation, Ira Glass' public radio storytelling program This American Life has retracted a story that detailed inhumane working conditions at the Apple products manufacturing facility in China run by Foxconn.

The story, which ran Jan. 6, was told by writer and actor Mike Daisey, who said that after a lifetime of worshipping the company's products, he decided to travel to the factory where they were made. There, he says he discovered startling working conditions, which he describes in his one-man show, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. The PRI program ran an excerpt, and is now pulling it over disputed facts.

Photos: Apple Products in TV and Movies

"This American Life has retracted the above story because we learned that many of Mike Daisey's experiences in China were fabricated," This American Life said in a statement on its blog. "We have removed the audio from our site and have left this transcript up only for reference. We produced an entire new episode about the retraction, featuring Marketplace reporter Rob Schmitz, who interviewed Mike’s translator Cathy and discovered discrepancies between her account and Mike’s, and New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg, who has reported extensively on Apple. Ira also re-interviewed Mike Daisey to learn why he misled us."

Daisey fired back on his blog, saying that his monologue was a dramatic rendering of what he learned -- which, despite a liberal use of facts, was represented in spirit in his production.

"I stand by my 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 wrote on his own blog. "It uses a combination of fact, memoir and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity. Certainly, the comprehensive investigations undertaken by The New York Times and a number of labor rights groups to document conditions in electronics manufacturing would seem to bear this out.

"What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism," he continued. "For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic ­-- not a theatrical ­-- enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations. But this is my only regret. I am proud that my work seems to have sparked a growing storm of attention and concern over the often appalling conditions under which many of the high-tech products we love so much are assembled in China."

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