This American Life

March 16, 2012 by staff 

This American Life, The weekly public radio program “This American Life” said on Friday that it was retracting a story about Apple’s suppliers in China because of falsehoods in it, exposing tensions between journalism, storytelling and theater.

The story by Mike Daisey, originally broadcast on Jan. 6, was an adaptation of his one-man theatrical show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” which dramatically conveys and condemns the working conditions at Foxconn, a factory in China where Apple products are made. The episode became the most popular podcast in the history of the program, the show said on Friday.

In the staged performance and in the radio excerpt from it, Mr. Daisey describes meeting mistreated Foxconn workers, relying on a translator to carry on the conversation. But in a later interview with Rob Schmitz, a correspondent for another radio program, Marketplace, the interpreter who traveled with Mr. Daisey disputed some of the details of the meetings, suggesting that Mr. Daisey did not witness what he said he did.

The disparities will be explained in detail this weekend on “This American Life,” which will devote its entire hour to the retraction and the explanation.

On the program, Mr. Schmitz says: “What makes this a little complicated is that the things Daisey lied about are things that have actually happened in China: Workers making Apple products have been poisoned by hexane. Apple’s own audits show the company has caught underage workers at a handful of its suppliers. These things are rare, but together, they form an easy-to-understand narrative about Apple.”

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