By Erik Wemple
In its news story on the retraction issued by “This American Life” over its factually challenged excerpt of a Mike Daisey monologue on Apple manufacturing facilities, the New York Times writes:
The retraction is an embarrassing episode for “This American Life,” a beloved product of WBEZ, a radio station in Chicago, that is distributed nationwide by Public Radio International.
No one will take issue with that assessment. Any time a news outlet issues a retraction, there’s embarrassment involved.
If it’s an embarrassment, though, why do I find my trust in the program growing as I read through its press release and the blog post by Ira Glass, the host and executive producer of “This American Life”? What those pieces offer is an apparent full-body disclosure of the many inaccuracies in the Daisey excerpt that “This American Life” put before the public. The press release confesses errors minor and major; Glass accuses Daisey of lying to the program but doesn’t offer it as an excuse for the franchise.
This week, the entire broadcast of “This American Life” will deal with correcting the Daisey “story.”
“This American Life” gets no credit for its corrective hygiene if it was forced into it. The program’s press release notes that Rob Schmitz, the China correspondent for “Marketplace” (a production of American Public Media), had early concerns about the factual integrity of the Daisey excerpt. So a key question is whether “This American Life” acted dismissively or defensively toward Schmitz’s hunches.
No, says Schmitz. Speaking via phone from China, Schmi