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Monday, March 19, 2012

159

Orrr You Could Just Not Say Anything?

Maybe you're following the This American Life retraction story and maybe you're not, that is none of our business. But if you're not, you might have missed lots of folks on the 'nets reminding us of this amazing gem. Back in 1980, a beautiful lady made up a bunch of stories about where she went to college, how many languages she spoke, and, oh yeah, also completely pulled a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper feature about an 8 year-old heroin addict and his abusive stepfather out of her ass. But that isn't even the best part: the best part is this gnarly and utterly enthralling exposé by The Washington Post's ombudsman following the scandal. People are ca-ray-zay! Clear your schedule for at least the next hour.



159 Comments / Post A Comment

travelmugs

I had a journalism prof who was passed up for the Pulitzer Prize the year Janet Cooke won (he was a runner-up or something). Needless to say, the week we studied her was SCATHING.

Nicole Cliffe

@travelmugs It would make sense to give the award to one of the other nominees if it gets retracted. Like beauty pageants!

Super Nintendo Chalmers

@travelmugs True story: I came across the whole Janet Cooke story when all the Jayson Blair hoopla was going on because often it seemed to me that the WaPo's coverage of the NYT's journalistic scandal was rather...pointed. Even beyond the fact that some of the stories Blair stole from were by junior WaPo reporters.

Turns out that during the Cooke incident the NYT was fairly unrelenting in blasting the WaPo, which is part of the reason they created the ombudsman position, but then the WaPo sort of turned it around and was all "Yo, NYT maybe you should think about one of these people to look after your own house" and the NYT was all: "Nah we're good, high standards of ethics and fact-checking, blah blah blah" so the Blair scandal was like every awesome holiday rolled into one for the WaPo because they got to get their licks in.

Newspapers: hold grudges nerdier and more elaborate than sports team rivalries.

Killerpants

I listened to TAL last night and was impressed by Ira's grace and patience with Daisey while still managing to keep after him. No surprise, it's Ira Glass, but still. I mean, man oh man. I sort of thought Daisey might seem like he was really sorry, but then the bit where he started to say something and then stopped, and Ira pressed him, and he was all "I started to say something there and lost my nerve. That's what you heard there." And then another looong pause, and then he says he sort of wished he'd never allowed the story to go forward on TAL? Yea. That smacked of So Much Forced Fake Drama I wanted to puke. And there were several other moments like that. Hurl.

heb
heb

@Killerpants I don't understand how two people talking could smack of So Much Forced Drama. Was he supposed to edit the pauses out? In a story about honesty in journalism?

foureyedgirl

@Killerpants I think I know what you mean. It wasn't forced drama from TAL, it was Daisey. It seemed like forced contrition to me.

EpWs

@Killerpants I was really impressed with the episode too. Wanted to smack Mike Daisey for a lot of it..."It wasn't journalism, it was theater." Nonsense.

Killerpants

@foureyedgirl @heb Yes, i meant Daisey, not TAL. He came off, to me, to be milking it a little bit.

oboe-d-amore

@heb I think Killerpants means that Daisey sounded like he was purposefully creating drama, rather than that TAL was. Maybe?

oboe-d-amore

@oboe-d-amore Whoops, should've refreshed.

Lily Rowan

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Well, it was theater when he was doing it as theater. It doesn't sound like the TAL staff was at all wishy-washy about the journalistic standards they expected before they aired it -- although they were super-clear from the start about Daisey's not being a journalist. I totally understand what Daisey was doing as a storyteller, but what an ass to just lie when asked to verify it.

EpWs

@Lily Rowan Absolutely. Theater is theater and journalism is journalism, and the standards are different.

stuffisthings

@Lily Rowan Ira also had a good point that when someone stands on stage and tells a totally plausible story while continuously repeating "this actually happened to me! I actually did this!" that the normal person's reaction is to assume that it is true, and not that it was made up because it's happening in a theater. So I don't even really buy the "it's theater" bit even in the theater.

If I told you at a party that I went to China and did X, Y, and Z, and you later found out I didn't at all, you'd probably consider me a liar, not a charming raconteur.

atipofthehat

@oboe-d-amore

"Purposefully creating drama" is his bread and butter, so, yes.

heb
heb

@Killerpants Ahh, yes. This makes sense. We're in full agreement then.

Lily Rowan

@stuffisthings Oh, absolutely. Especially because "these people exist!" is 100% true, and "I met these people!" is 100% false.

SuperGogo

@Killerpants Oof. I thought Oprah and James Frey taught us that these confronting-the-awful-liar shows don't make anybody look good. (Great for ratings though.)

stuffisthings

@Lily Rowan Another aspect nobody's really talked about is what this says about our concept of empathy. Simply knowing that human beings exist who have been poisoned or crippled making our gadgets is not enough to stir us unless they experience a magical personal moment with a White Guy Just Like Us? Daisey was certainly on to something to realize that he needed to include this bit to really make an impact.

Lily Rowan

@stuffisthings Aaaaabsolutely. Because really, all of those people have been in published reports, right? Never underestimate the power of storytelling.

thebestjasmine

@Killerpants And Daisey's newest statement today is all scornful of Ira Glass and the long pauses. If you weren't a fucking lying liar who lied, you wouldn't have sat there thinking about how to lie more, or get away with your lies.

EpWs

@thebestjasmine Seriously? Dude, talk about not having a leg to stand on. Do you have a link to that statement? (Not that I don't believe you, I'd just like to read it.)

thebestjasmine

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Warning, it's the most fucking infuriating and self aggrandizing thing that you've seen since Andrew Breitbart with a Twain misquote and everything.

Decca

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher EDIT - @thebestjasmine posted the link before me. It's horrible reading.

Decca

@thebestjasmine "Especially galling is how many are gleefully eager to dance on my grave expressly so they can return to ignoring everything about the circumstances under which their devices are made."

This may be true for a handful of cases, but from what I've read, the majority of people are having the opposite reaction. Not glee and relief that they can ignore the awful reality of how Apple products are made, but anger that he's effectively undermined the process of us trying to do anything about it.

EpWs

@thebestjasmine @Decca Thanks for the link. That is absolutely infuriating. I would like to punch him.

thebestjasmine

@Decca EXACTLY. Everyone is pissed at him precisely for undermining the important work that others have done. You see how Ira Glass spent the third act of the Retraction episode talking to a New York Times reporter who extensively worked on the Foxconn problems, and who documented his work?

florabora

@thebestjasmine I've only read the first paragraph of Daisey's statement and I actually haven't been able to listen to this last TAL yet, but "and finishing the episode with audio pulled out of context from my performance was masterful."
That is how EVERY episode ends. I haven't listened yet, so maybe this time it wasn't humorous, but of all things to be pissed about (and this guy has very few legs to stand on), that isn't one.

thebestjasmine

@florabora Actually, as you'll see when you listen to the episode, they didn't end the episode in that way that they end everyone, which honestly hit me the hardest. But I mean, if the whole episode is about his performance, and how he lied in his performance, you don't need context to use a part of the audio, especially since the man is not denying that he lied! Only that it was supposedly okay that he lied? Come on.

florabora

@thebestjasmine True! Context is definitely not needed there. I kind of hate everything Daisey said in his statement.

Decca

@thebestjasmine You talking about the Torey Malatia bit? Man oh man that almost gave me shivers!

thebestjasmine

@Decca YES, I know! With everything that came before it, you wouldn't think that that was what made the biggest impact on me of the show, but it totally did.

angermonkey

@stuffisthings This. What really sort of... grosses me out? terrifies me? is that this story happened and Apple started to be all "Transparency this" and "Outside regulators that" which means that either they knew it was PROBABLY true based on the reports coming out of the factory (gross) OR they didn't know enough about what Foxconn was doing to be able to say it wasn't true (EEK.) Like, if Mike Daisey came on the radio and told me my company used slave puppy labor I'd know it was bullshit because I WORK HERE and it's a small company. If he said that I was like "eh... maybe plausible?" That's a problem, and a symptom of some larger corporate citizenship issues.

dj pomegranate

@angermonkey One of the best responses I've read to this whole kerfuffle said, basically, "I'll believe Mike Daisey cares more about the Chinese laborers than about his storytelling career when he stops buying Apple products." Daisey is an Apple fan boy--it would mean something if he stopped buying products until they fixed their factory problem. But since he doesn't, you have to wonder how genuine his concern is...

Lily Rowan

@angermonkey Some of the stuff Daisey lied about actually came from Apple's own audit reports, didn't it? And the rest was from other people's reporting. He was not the first person to make any of this public.

Judith Slutler

@Decca @thebestjasmine Yes, I was legit shocked that they didn't do a Torey Malatia bit.

gigglefest

@Emmanuelle Cunt
Thirded about the very sad/shocking lack of "Torey Malatia" bit.... but I am so confused why Daisey's blog post says that there was one! Was it there on the live version and cut in the podcast? Did Daisey lie about that too? SO CONFUSED. Someone please explain.

Ellie

I didn't finish the original story because I was really irritated by Mike Daisey and now I feel very smug about myself. I haven't had a chance to listen to the retraction episode yet though. I'm pissed off because it's a fucking waste of TWO This American Life episodes which are so expensive and laborious to produce and which I value so dearly!

Bus Driver Stu Benedict

I mean, sure, Apple has made commitments to worker safety and stuff and it should absolutely be held accountable. The fucking pisser of a problem is that basically you can't take your dollars elsewhere.

mascarasnake

@gigglefest I could be wrong, but I think he might be referring to one of the clips from his show? There's a short excerpt where he's talking to his translator, Cathy, and she asks him if he's going to lie about being a businessman in order to get into the factory and he says something like, 'Yes Cathy, I'm going to lie to lots of people.' If I was editing that episode of TAL I wouldn't have been able to resist using it either.

Eva@twitter

I did follow the retraction news, but not far enough to find this story, so thanks! In both cases, I can understand what brings someone to write these engaging stories as personal tales around some general knowledge or related facts, but NOT what then makes them pass it off as journalism (or let others pass it off as journalism far too long without saying anything about it until they get in trouble.)

I work in science communication/publishing, where presenting something as a fact when it's not is pretty much the WORST thing. Unfortunately, the result is often that the writing style suffers so that the facts are clear. It doesn't have to be a trade-off, but facts always come first. (This is also why lots of science news always contains the same phrases "may cause...", "the researchers showed that..." - anything to prevent something from being presented as absolute fact when it might not be, because nothing is ever certain...)

Xanthophyllippa

@Eva@twitter I teach scientific/technical writing and I'm right there with you. Students are all, "Wait, but people won't believe us if we don't say it's definitely true!" and I have to tell them, "People will believe you even less if you say something is true when it isn't." Rrrgh.

sevanetta

@Eva@twitter Jesus, I know! Seriously - it sounds like, in both cases, the writer/presenter had a lot of shocking/interesting/useful information. It's being presented as wanting to tell the BEST story, but really, they just wanted the attention for themselves. There is nothing wrong with writing a factual report (maybe with a number of examples or case studies, if you can't find one central character) OR writing a composite narrative and saying clearly 'this is a composite narrative based on interviews with a range of sources' GEEZ.

Signed, cranky anthropologist

Megasus

Sigh. Should have done the smart thing and wrote a novel, Janet. Maybe you would have won the Pulitzer honestly.

EpWs

@Megan Patterson@facebook "Based on a true story." That's all she needed. But no.

travelmugs

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher It's why I respect Dave Eggers so much for his transparency, on calling "What is the What" and "Zeitoun" non-fiction. Although it was a true story, he didn't feel comfortable using the label for "What is the What" because of the fact that much of the narrative can't be verified, and some conversations were re-created.

Transparency, everyone!

EpWs

I'm only a little ways into the expose, but this?

Attached to the letter was a resume and copies of six stories Cooke had written for The Toledo Blade. One thing caught Bradlee's eye: the resume said Cooke was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Vassar in 1976. Bradlee underlined those statements and sent the clippings and resume to Bob Woodward. On the letter, he scrawled to his secretary that he would see Cooke.

REALLY? All you need to get an interview at a major newspaper is a freaking Phi Beta Kappa at Vassar? Really? I mean, I'm sure (I would hope) that he read her writing samples as well, but it seems like a lot of emphasis is put on her academic career. You would think that if that's what was propelling her through the process, they would at least have checked it once.

Megasus

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Well, it was also 1976 (I think that's the year it said), and you would be surprised at how important networking and being part of organizations and such are for jobs like that.

Nicole Cliffe

@Megan Patterson@facebook What caught me was the weird line about "She was a striking, smartly dressed, articulate black woman, precisely the kind of applicant editors welcome, given the pressures to hire minorities and women." I mean, okay, I'm sure that's true, but way to try to pass the buck and blame The System for your failure to check her credentials and scrutinize the piece.

Emma Peel

@Megan Patterson@facebook Yeah, and that's still the case now, though to a lesser degree. The story gets into this a little, but there was a big (and extremely necessary and overdue) push to diversify newsrooms for both race AND gender at the time. Black + female + seemingly stellar academic credentials pushed so many buttons that people absolutely wanted to believe it.

Obviously that doesn't mean they shouldn't have checked it. I mean, they're journalists, for crying out loud. They wouldn't print in a story that someone was a Vassar phi beta kappa grad without calling the school to check it out.

Edit: I cringed at the "articulate," too... yikes.

atipofthehat

@Nicole Cliffe

Yep. There was no Google, but these WERE reporters. One of whom brought down a president with his fact-checking ways.

EpWs

@Emma Peel @Nicole Cliffe Good points. I guess my issue is that if they're going to hire her because she/her credentials look good on paper (black+female+academics) they probably should have checked up on those credentials.

Emma Peel

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher I'm always amazed by how many people (in positions in all kinds of industries) are outed that they lied on their resume about college stuff. It's the easiest thing to check, but because most people care more about your past work experience, I guess they often don't? Can we Ask a Hiring Manager to weigh in on this or something?

EpWs

@Emma Peel Yes! It takes all of five minutes to call the school's alumni office and ask them to verify. If it's true, fantastic, continue on. If it's false, it's a great indication of their willingness to further falsify things. It should be treated as a litmus test instead of overlooked until after the fact.

atipofthehat

@Nicole Cliffe

"She was a striking, smartly dressed, articulate black woman, precisely the kind..."

BONER

PS
And..."articulate" is an still an insult.

florabora

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Maddening, but not surprising.

OneTooManySpoons

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Oooh! I am not a hiring manager, but I used to work for a company that did background checks FOR hiring managers. For most of the companies we worked for, yeah, the work history was the most important, but we were usually asked to check on their degrees, too.

And you are right that the degree usually is the easiest thing to verify, although these days you can't check things over the phone that often--you need a signed letter of release from the person being checked out, and most schools have their own specific procedures about how they do that stuff, and blah blah. But back in 1976 I doubt this was the case.

EpWs

@OneTooManySpoons You need a signed letter of release? Seriously? Things I learned today. Thanks for the input, interesting!

OneTooManySpoons

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Not always, but more and more often.

That being said, sometimes it's different if you're just looking to confirm or deny something; for example, "So-and-so says she attended your university. Do you have a record of that?" And they might be able to say, "We have no record of her." Because then they're not giving away any of your personal information, just confirming a lack of information. If that makes sense?

I have no idea how journalistic organizations confirm stuff like this, though. I'm sure they have methods that differ from the general employment sector? Because I always feel like they're able to verify a lot of stuff that our company wouldn't be able to.

Xanthophyllippa

@Emma Peel I'm not a hiring manager; I do, however, include a unit in my courses on applying for jobs. Depending on the field, employers will often confirm college degrees, enrollment, etc. by contacting the school's career services office. Where I teach, the career services folks offer a dossier service if students join and pay a (small) one-time filing fee; the students then have to uphold certain ethical/behavioral standards in order to keep their file active. I don't know the full list of standards, but I would be very surprised if it did *not* include representing oneself accurately and honestly. The code of ethics for the main society of my field pronounces against misrepresentation of credentials or expertise, too; that kind of stuff, if egregious, can prompt the licensing board to revoke someone's credentials. It's so unbelievably easy to check someone's credentials that padding, fudging, or lying aren't worth the risk.

Megasus

@OneTooManySpoons Well, I'm personally kind of confused about how that article even went to print, because fact checkers. Every source should have been called and confirmed before it even went to print! But I guess it's also possible that this is the reason why newspapers and magazines do that.

Emma Peel

@Megan Patterson@facebook Generally only big magazines have separate fact checkers. At newspapers reporters are their own and the system pretty much runs on trust. The turnaround time is too small for someone to independently verify a 2400-word story.

When I was a newspaper reporter I thought separate fact checkers sounded like a terrifying luxury.

EpWs

Also, survey time: what do we think is going to happen to Mike Daisey now?
(a) He never works again
(b) He is wildly successful because of the press he's getting from this
(c) He is hired as a fact-checker at Fox
(d) Other

Ophelia

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher B+C+E(writes a memoir)

atipofthehat

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher

Maybe people get it that he's not a reporter?

Or, best outcome, people stop trusting reporters and become activist skeptics!

Ham Snadwich

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher - New monologue on The Moth about the painful experience of being outed as a fabulist.

stuffisthings

@atipofthehat Still fascinated by this idea that reporters are the only people in society obligated not to lie in their public statements?

atipofthehat

@stuffisthings

Ever read any Shakespeare?

Oberon actually stepped down as King of the Fairies 20 years before W. S. has him presiding over the forest glade.

stuffisthings

@atipofthehat There were also no clocks in Caesar's time. I demand a retraction!

atipofthehat

@stuffisthings

Ah, but did you know that Alexander the Great wore a piece of chemically-treated cloth on his wrist that changed colors based on the time of day?

Of course, everyone knows Alexander's Rag Time-band.

Nicole Cliffe

Oooh, and when you're done, don't forget the Vanity Fair piece on Stephen Glass:

http://www.vanityfair.com/magazine/archive/1998/09/bissinger199809

atipofthehat

@Nicole Cliffe

The biggest lie since George Glass

melis

To say nothing of Seymour.

atipofthehat

@melis

"I've got the Conch!"

saythatscool

@atipofthehat And as tip bent over to pick up his glasses, the rock crushed him.

atipofthehat

@saythatscool

CORRECTION: "the rock conked him." Get it? Conch, conk?

Slight Joy
Slight Joy

@Nicole Cliffe I was just coming here to post this! You should all watch the movie (Shattered Glass) partly because it's an entertaining one and also because it's funny to see Anakin Skywalker as a lying wunderkind journalist.

atipofthehat

I like the occasional false story. It reminds me of how INCREDIBLY faked-up the most earnest reporting always, inescapably is—and sometimes the most convincing is actually the worst. Fake completeness! Fake balance! Fake context! Fake understanding! Quotes from whomever happened to answer the phone!

Reading the WSJ or the NYT is always a little like hearing a story from a child who uses "...and then..." a lot.

frigwiggin

@atipofthehat I was just coming down here to say how much I enjoy it sometimes when people just make shit up like this. Not because I enjoy being misled--that's when I feel grumpy and pissy too--but when I only become aware of the falsity after it's already been revealed as an untruth, because then I can enjoy the weird drama of the situation without feeling personally tricked. People lie about bizarre stuff! And we believe it!

stuffisthings

@atipofthehat I totally agree, but I'm not sure that's what this story shows. The talent of real reporters, such as it is, is to use incomplete information, inarticulate quotes, boring and contradictory facts, and unsympathetic interlocutors to weave a powerful and engaging story that manages to make a point. Making things up to fill the gaps in your narrative or milk emotion from your audience is a whole different kettle of fish.

stuffisthings

@atipofthehat Actually, your comment did remind me of this time Paul Theroux came through Turkmenistan while I was in the Peace Corps there and wrote a thoughtful, engaging, and well-argued article for the New Yorker in which every single actual fact about Turkmen culture, politics, and day-to-day life was utterly and often laughably wrong.

He built a whole tower of assertion on a few glancing observations and misunderstood statements by the few people he was able to talk to -- but it sounded shockingly authoritative. I'm sure if I had read it without living there I would've believed every word. It definitely made me a lot more skeptical even of fully fact-checked reportage by big-name writers (and I had worked in journalism before that, so I wasn't naive about the sausage-making aspects of the industry).

atipofthehat

@stuffisthings

I think the very thing you mention—providing a neat professional finish to a story that makes the incoherent appear coherent, the unknowable easier to pretend to know—is in and of itself nearly always a dangerous kind of lie. A reader assumes the reporter knows more, understands more, and that these are indeed facts being presented.

In the runup to the Iraq war, most reporting was on the Judith Miller side of the spectrum and very little on the Knight-Ridder side. I wonder how many people might still be alive, might still have their limbs or their sanity, might not be grieving for the rest of their lives, if not for the preponderance of completely fake reporting in which practically the entire media system was complicit?

I'm sure somewhere, someone is counting.

AND I HOPE THEY'RE WORKING ON A FUCKING THEATER PIECE. Theater rarely kills anyone nowadays.

Nicole Cliffe

@stuffisthings TRUE UNRELATED FACT: Paul Theroux is Justin Theroux's uncle.

atipofthehat

@stuffisthings

Hilarious! My wife has been there—I wish I'd gone.

fullofgrace

none of this would have bothered me if TAL hadn't taken such pains to remake this memoir-ish story as a piece of journalism. i'm no journalist, but isn't it the rule that you have to find two sources for everything you report as fact?

that said, this puts me in the mood to read a ton of Janet Malcolm, with "The Lifespan of a Fact" as a chaser, and to spend endless hours pondering whether the Truth can be truer than true. (I know, I know... I work on documentaries...)

SuperGogo

@stuffisthings Holla, fellow RPCV! I did my time in Georgia. Several of the volunteers in my group were evacuees from the "-stan"s after we went into Afghanistan post 9-11 and the parents of PCVs in adjacent countries pitched a fit and got them to temporarily close shop.

stuffisthings

@atipofthehat Oh I absolutely agree. I just am not sure the Daisey Incident speaks to that necessarily. It's just a different and less sophisticated form of lying.

atipofthehat

@stuffisthings

Yes. But also two incompatible modes that are each laughable by the standards of the other.

stuffisthings

@Nicole Cliffe His son Louis Theroux is also an amazing journalist, who has perfected the "English naif gets Americans to say horrifying things by asking seemingly clueless questions" form of journalism to a high art.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

An older friend of mine, who has been involved many in news-worthy activities over the decades, told me that he has come to realize that the closer he is to the events in a news story, the more he sees the story's inaccuracy.

datalass

@stuffisthings I had a similar experience once. Through a series of events, I happened to be interviewed for a piece that later aired on CBS evening news. I could tell what the producer was looking for, and I went to great lengths NOT to make that particular assertion.

The interview itself was a little ridiculous because it was basically the two of us dancing around this same point.

Him: [Datalass], don't you believe thus and so?
Me: No, I do not believe thus and so.
Him: Since you believe thus and so, don't you such and such?
Me: I do not believe thus and so and, therefore, don't such and such.

You get the drift. So, when I was waiting to see the aired interview, the one thing I was sure of was that there wouldn't be a clip of me saying, "I believe thus and so." And there wasn't. What there WAS: a voiceover saying "[Datalass] believes thus and so." Followed by some clips of me saying some random things that didn't contradict the voiceover.

Verity

@stuffisthings Oh, Louis Theroux. Did you see his documentary about the Westboro Baptist Church? Really disturbing in parts.

southwer

@stuffisthings YES! Louis Theroux is amazing!

Nicole Cliffe

I was just reading "Mugging As A Way Of Life," the 1970 NY Mag piece, and now I'm thinking, waiiiiiit, a minute, is this even SUPPOSED to be real?

http://nymag.com/news/features/50145/

fullofgrace

@Nicole Cliffe agreed!

tortietabbie

"If a just God were looking down, what would he say is the truth?"

"I don't know what you mean," Cooke said.

Ohhhhhhh shitttttttttttttt.

redheaded&crazy

As somebody who has vaguely followed this story, can it be summed up as:

Reports of terrible working conditions/human rights violations come out of Foxconn. Apple, being the associated company with the most cash and cache (???), takes a lot of heat. Responds by setting up a labour rights watch kind of dealio. Reporter goes to check out how bad it really is. Falsifies story that working conditions aren't so bad (???).

I feel like I'm really clueless on this story because why would you even? What motivates somebody to falsify that kind of story? Even from the perspective of just wanting to make good entertainment, wouldn't horrible human rights violations make a "better" "story" (ugh i feel weird/awful writing that) anyway?

I realize it's more likely that I'm missing some crucial aspect of this whole debacle that if I were following the news better/if I just went to google it, it would make more sense. right? maybe?!

Emma Peel

@redheaded&crazy The falsification was making the horrible working conditions MORE horribly dramatic, not mitigating them. He made up a few characters who probably exist somewhere but whom he didn't meet, to make it a better story, basically.

The NYT more or less reported out his one-man show, and wrote some really powerful stuff that's actually true. So yeah, the general idea (we should all think a little harder about the human rights issues that make our shiny iPhones) isn't wrong, but you can't say you talked to 13-year-old girls working in factories when you didn't.

redheaded&crazy

@Emma Peel Ohhhhhhh got it. That makes way more sense (as well as confirms that indeed I have not been following this story very closely). Thanks for setting me straight on that one!

Emma Peel

@redheaded&crazy No worries! This is the best primer on it, I think -- a quick read: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/evanosnos/2012/03/mike-daiseys-mistakes-in-china.html

stuffisthings

@Emma Peel The worst part is how many people will now believe that all allegations of worker abuses in China are made up, thanks to this incident. That's another important aspect of journalistic ethics involved here: you have a responsibility to your sources, especially if they are relatively powerless and in a difficult situation, that is more important than your own self-aggrandizement. (A lesson Nicolas Kristof desperately needs to learn, incidentally.)

It is entirely possible, even likely, that Daisey's decision to lie about his piece on the radio will actually make it tangibly more difficult for actual campaigners and advocacy groups to improve conditions for Chinese workers. So this whole incident is not JUST about writerly navel-gazing and parlor debates over facts vs. art.

OneTooManySpoons

@stuffisthings The worst part is how many people will now believe that all allegations of worker abuses in China are made up, thanks to this incident.

EXACTLY. Even when I first read about this whole thing, I had a fleeting moment of wondering, "wait, so was all this made up, or at least really really exaggerated?" But I read on, and used logic, and looked up a few other things, and confirmed that no it wasn't. But so few people these days bother to go beyond the headline, or the VERY FIRST impression that they get from a few sentences, that I think so many people will come to the snap conclusion that it all isn't true.

The most infuriating thing is that Mike Daisey, in his response that someone posted above, KNOWS THIS but twists this around to make it seem like this is the public's fault, or his critics' fault for exposing him. Because it's not his fault that he made false statements and just undermined the entire cause.

Craftastrophies

@OneTooManySpoons I must say, I avoided the original story because it felt... icky? Manipulative poverty pr0n styles. Like, we already know it's terrible, everything is terrible forever, I own an iPod and it is made out of blood and runs on tears of children. Just like everything else, ever. Ugh, now I've slipped into jaded apathy, but what I really mean is one parts jaded apathy, and one part 'why do you need to know the particulars to care that it's awful?'.

I don't know, now I sound so smug. I just sort of avoid stories that are all hand wringing. I'd prefer to read about how to let Apple know I care about this and might be willing to pay an extra $50 for an iPod that isn't carved from a puppy's heart.

stuffisthings

Ima go ahead and link to this too.

atipofthehat

@stuffisthings

Nice. Thanks!

fullofgrace

@stuffisthings this is the best thing ever for news.

stuffisthings

@stuffisthings I just saw it on abbyjean.tumblr.com which if you're not following, you should.

automaticdoor

@stuffisthings abby is the best!

Esther C. Werdiger

This was always my favorite one of those.

fullofgrace

@Esther C. Werdiger you almost can't blame him for not wanting to go out with those guys.

fullofgrace

also, this is sort of wrong-headed an irritating, but maybe amusing? david sedaris gets fact checked.
http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/american-lie

carpetblogger

Like the Three Cups of Tea fiasco, this was a narrative that people, including Ira Glass I bet, sooooo deeply wanted to believe. It provided pre-digested morsels that helped simplify a complicated topic and people ate.it.up. The reporter based in Shanghai was able to unravel the story pretty easily because he, ostensibly, has something more than a naive grasp of how things work in China.

I wanted to slap both Daisy and Ira Glass.

Super Nintendo Chalmers

@carpetblogger That was also one of the conclusions reached in the WaPo ombudsman's piece on Janet Cooke: part of why these things can work is because they slot perfectly into people's preconceived notions and supply that narrative you talked about.

While I do think Glass and TAL did a good job in saying "we fucked up and this is how" I would have loved it if they'd also dug into the "we fucked up and this is WHY" issue, which is a good deal thornier. I'm not sure that TAL wants to engage with its own culture that way but I think they should. Hopefully someone else will write a detailed examination along those lines although I'm not holding my breath.

saythatscool

@carpetblogger Carpet you're alive! You are missed.

Unaccompanied Lady

@saythatscool Awww. STC, I been here, under a different nom de plume, however.

Unaccompanied Lady

@EddieMcCandry I think that is the most interesting question -- WHY do we believe?

atipofthehat

@EddieMcCandry
@All

This is such an interesting thing to me, and reminds me of how the van Meegeren forgeries of Vermeer looked like really good Vermeers at the time, even to experts, because they embodied all sorts of 1930s technical and stylistic influences that were invisible to people of that moment.

And now they're all such obvious forgeries: WPA post-office-lobby Vermeers.

Donovanesque

@atipofthehat I never heard about those Vermeers...that is fascinating. *off to google*

Decca

I was all ready to give Daisey the benefit of the doubt and I felt really sorry for him, until I heard Ira's interview with him. What an awful, self-serving account of himself Daisey gave in that interview. It didn't seem like he exaggerated the story in order to drive his points home to people, it seemed like he exaggerated in order to make it a more interesting and engaging bit of theatre. Well, fuck that. With all the Kony 2012 bullshit clogging up my internet over the past week, I am sick to death of all this so-called "activism". There are people's lives at sake here, why are we messing around with them?

Alice

@Decca Yes! I keep thinking of Kony 2012 the whole time I've been listening to this. "Well, I'm sorry I lied in the sense that I'm sorry I got caught but the overall truth of the story is more important than the details, despite the fact that the details are incorrect."

bouncy castle

@Decca well you smartypants you here is an article that makes just that parallel! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ari-rabin-havt/this-american-life-mike-daisey_b_1363506.html

Craftastrophies

@Alice I'm totally down with 'this is a fictionalised account, designed to get to the ultimate truth'. Just don't pretend it's not. It's a cop out! Kate Harding on twitter said "A fiction writer's challenge is to tell a story that rings true. A nonfiction writer's is to make the best story out of what happened. Making shit up and calling it nonfiction rejects both challenges. It's about manipulating the audience, not creating art."

That is exactly my problem with it. It's lazy, and it's manipulative - it's about using your audience and projecting onto them, rather than collaborating with them to get at something real. It's smug and gross.

There's also a whole white saviour vibe in both this and the Kony stuff which I find really revolting. Like, trying to make themselves into visionaries, until it becomes about their power to change us poor sheeple, rather than making the world better.

sevanetta

@Craftastrophies YES EXACTLY. There is no need for this 'wah well THIS was the best story'. Either it's true, not true or you wrote it based on some stuff that is true. Whatever you do you SAY WHAT IT IS, otherwise it becomes abundantly clear that you do NOT care so much about the issue you were talking about, but how awesome a story you can get out there to show how awesome YOU are.

redonion

So I actually saw the play last spring. The discussion of the visit to Foxconn is intertwined with the examination of the rise of Apple and society's fascination/obsession with Apple's technologically streamlined and aesthetically appealing products. How we get to the point where normal, everyday, not-rich people buy the newly released product despite the fact that the older model, which they purchased a year and a half earlier, is still in perfect working order, etc. etc. The parts about meeting the factory workers were certainly designed to appeal to the hearts of the crowd, while also declaring "Look how clever and sensitive I am," to the point where I consciously felt manipulated as Daisey massaged his freakishly long pauses and pointed emphases to strike the ideas home. Listening to him on TAL, it really seemed like he was putting on another stage show.

But the other point of the show was more about personal responsibility. About knowing where the shit you buy comes from (kind of ironic, since he lied to us), and to think about whether or not you really need that new thing that is so pretty but where does it come from and who makes it and who are they? While I am left thinking that Mike Daisey's intentions were good but destroyed by the fact that he is a self-serving asshole, I do think he was bringing some good ideas to a larger audience. Also, I did buy my first iPhone several months after I saw this play. But I did then buy my MacBook used.

Super Nintendo Chalmers

@redonion I saw the show as well after seeing Daisey's previous show: The Last Cargo Cult and I do think he has good things to say about conscious consumerism in both pieces. Like the NYT reporter said in the third part of the This American Life piece: it's a good idea to think about whose life you might be making worse to enjoy products like these.

QtheQuidnunc

Actually, my favorite part of this whole thing is this little bit from her wikipedia page. Full disclosure, I haven't fact-checked this but choose to believe it's true:

"The story engendered much sympathy among readers, including Marion Barry, then mayor of Washington, D.C. He and other city officials organized an all-out police search for the boy, which was unsuccessful and led to claims that the story was fraudulent. Barry, responding to public pressure, lied and claimed that Jimmy was known to the city and receiving treatment; he was announced dead shortly after."

QtheQuidnunc

@QtheQuidnunc Alas, tis not true.

Bolero

"...she bought a bottle of champaign, called her mother and watched "Dallas" in her motel room."

This is exactly what I would do after winning A Major Award.

But seriously, this is fascinating.

fullofgrace

@Bolero I want to know where she is today!

Super Nintendo Chalmers

@fullofgrace The last article she was interviewed for (in 1996) said she was "earning a meagre living as a sales clerk in a Kalamazoo, Mich., store"

fullofgrace

@EddieMcCandry that is all kinds of sad. though i did google after i posted and learned that the 96 article was sold for $1.6m to some major studio, so...

chickaboom

@fullofgrace I want to know where she is today too! wikipedia has nothing! But also, ugh, dear ombudsman, champagne is how you spell champagne... #thatguy

Super Nintendo Chalmers

@chickaboom @fullofgrace I was able to dig this up. So maybe in Toledo or Ann Arbor still! Maybe!

miwome

@fullofgrace Right?! I could dig on a reality show about HER. She can take the Celebrity Apprentice time slot or whatever.

Craftastrophies

@chickaboom It made me read it in Zap Branaghan's voice. 'Care for some... sham-pag-ne?'

isavedlatin

@chickaboom "Please note that the below articles are transcriptions from Lexis-Nexis and contain typos." Ahem, did you not print them out in preparation for Thursday's class??

chickaboom

@isavedlatin You've got me! Ahh, and there I could have gone saving Paper from its demise and everything :(

laurel

I have so many freakin' tabs open right now.

Verity

@laurel Me too. It's slightly overwhelming.

stuffisthings

Anyway, this is why I have an Android phone, which I can only assume was artisanally crafted by highly paid skilled workmen in Sweden like every other non-Apple manufactured product I own. Right?

Gwdihw

This was incredibly interesting--thank you!

skyslang

Ok. I read the Jimmy's World story and I have to ask...who in the world believed this was real? It reads like an Onion article! Did people just want to believe the absolute worst about "the ghetto"? Is that why they swallowed this obviously fabricated piece? It's astounding that the Pulitzer committee didn't question the story at all.

amandadayle

@skyslang I agree! Native Washingtonian here. Calling my mom and dad tonight to ask about all this and their reactions to it in 1980. Namely, did it even ring true? Were people's (mis)conceptions and fears about "the ghetto" so great that this article was easy to believe and digest? Were things so bad that this could be believed?

Those first few sentences just made me cringe and racism-facepalm. It really read like a white man's caricature of a young black man, and even more ridiculous as a white man's caricature of an eight-year old black boy.

EpWs

@skyslang I thought the same thing! It comes off as absolutely ridiculous. I wonder if the Pulitzer was given to it more because of the reaction to the piece than the piece itself.

Emma Peel

@amandadayle It's actually a young black woman's invention of a young black boy, which makes it... more interesting, I guess.

Super Nintendo Chalmers

@amandadayle I grew up very very close to DC and have lived here for years and I totally agree about it seeming fakey fake faaaake now. Of course I can't tell how much of that is the whole 20/20 hindsight thing and how much of it is the way Janet Cooke obviously tapped into this well of cultural anxiety surrounding drugs and race and city living generally. White flight was still very much a Thing in the 80s and crack was an enormous problem (cf. The Mayor for Life) and anyone who would go into these parts of the city with these terrible reputations could come out with what basically amounted to travelers' tales about what they'd seen. I mean Bernhard Goetz freaking shot that kid on the NYC subway in 1984 and was lauded as a hero in some circles.

While the article itself seems rather dated, the ombudsman's piece remains one of my favorite ever bits of journalism. It's this amazing cross between a detective story and a gossip column.

dj pomegranate

@skyslang Totally agree. I read it and then double checked it to make sure that was actually the piece we were all talking about! Because it reads like fiction to me...

miss olsen

@EddieMcCandry Another native Washingtonian here, chiming in on a different note. That ombudsman's piece is brilliant work and reading it made me mourn for the Post of former days. "The Post is one of the very few great enterprises in journalism." I wish that were still true.

Emma Peel

@miss olsen Yeah, if they knew then that "The Washington Post has 493 employes on its news staff" is the part that would make someone gasp in shock/sadness 30 years later...

EDIT: Apparently the staff is still about the same size, which I almost don't believe.

Super Nintendo Chalmers

@Emma Peel Hey The Washington Times has more employees than that! We are able to count snakes and rats as employees, right?

sevanetta

@EddieMcCandry I know, it's so hard to believe that people just believed this was true. I know I was :told: it was fake before I read it, but I'm sure I would have thought the quotes were a little too pat if I hadn't. I suppose Cooke just had a lot of credibility.

Poubelle

All this made me think of was a play I saw years ago that was based on the Janet Cooke scandal. Though sadly, mostly what I remember is that my friend would not shut up after about how skinny the actress playing the made-up girl was (the play changed it so the fake story was about a teen girl, not a little boy).

I hope this scandal doesn't get a play written about it decades from now because theatre about fake theatre seems annoyingly meta in a way that theatre about fake newspaper journalism doesn't.

Xanthophyllippa

Oh, spiffing. Now in addition to my lecture on "don't copy other people's shit and pass it off as your own work," I apparently have to add a lecture on "don't totally make up shit and pass it off as true" to my course. Wonderful.

sevanetta

Ughhhh ok I really want to read that report, but it is hurting my eyes with the way it's formatted... too much space!

wee_ramekin

You guys, Mike Daisey and I went to the same school.

Bus Driver Stu Benedict

@lil_kin Suuure, I believe you...

forensicRN

Damn..talk about an over active imagination (Cooke, that is). When I first started reading, I kind of felt..ummm...how can you find his tiny veins? But I'm a suspicious person usually.

upthehilldownthehill

This! I listened to the original story at least twice, and the retracted follow-up story twice. The original story really grabbed me, as I work in China industry research and some of the stuff is accurate, and the story is extremely effecting. But some things about Daisey's story jumped out at me at the beginning--the claims of underage workers the broad claim of everything being made in Shenzhen (there be factories ALL OVER China, although Shenzhen is a hubbub), a peasant carrying around a copy of any gov't issued blacklist, that they would be able to read--but the ideas seemed overall correct and plausible. Also, the ipad is available in China! Maybe you have to buy it through "creative means" (I still haven't bothered to walk into an Apple store here, so I don't really know, but a while ago they weren't available and now I think they are), but it's out there. Trust me when I say that the Chinese are using Apple products in the throngs now, even if they have to pay premium for the privilege.

From the original story, I agreed with Nicholas Kristof's opinion on the matter. Daisey's version of the story is clearly from an American perspective, and I think he was trying to pull in some of the same threads as the Nike child labour scandal of the 90's. Factory workers at Foxconn generally LIVE at Foxconn, and are at least old enough to leave home. Most 13 year olds in China wouldn't be able to do that, although I do believe poverty-line children in China are no doubt more hardened individuals. And while there are young children working in China--beggars, vendors, kids helping out at family restaurants etc.--the "high paying" factory jobs are being snatched away by the 18 - 50 age group leaving the village to help subsidize the children/grandparents.

Still, I can understand why Mike Daisey would create a "story" this way--it simply isn't as affecting to use statistics and anecdotes, real face-to-face encounters speak volumes--but he should have known what he was getting into. Journalism does not equal Storytime.

Sad thing is, this story will probably blow over, and Foxconn will be no big deal again in a few months. After the initial suicides, the story got swallowed up pretty quickly. People committing suicide by ceremoniously jumping off the towers--that is something to comment on, even if the statistics are in line w/ the general suicide rate. =\

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