Seek the truth and report it. That’s the core of journalism.
But the truth needs to be checked — fact checked. And when you don’t….. well, just ask the folks at This American Life.
Last January, This American Life aired a program called “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory.” It featured the story of actor Mike Daisey who traveled to China to see, first hand, work conditions for employees at Foxconn, a manufacturer of components for Apple computers.
Two months later, TAL aired an hour-long retraction of that story. In short, TAL failed to fully check Daisey’s account of what he claimed he saw in China. As part of the retraction, they pinpointed Daisey’s fabrications and apologized.
To be clear, Daisey’s assertions about the conditions at the plant are accurate. His personal story wasn’t. And that, in turn, calls into question the veracity of everything he said.
It also raises the question: What is fact checking?
On this edition of HowSound, no story. Instead, I speak with long-time journalist John Dinges. John teaches at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism where he’s the head of the radio department. John also worked at NPR for many years serving as Deputy Foreign Editor and the Managing Editor for News. Let’s just say John knows his way around fact checking.
For more reading on the subject of fact checking, John recommends The Elements of Journalism by Kovach and Rosenstiel.
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And, I’ve cobbled together several articles and programs about the TAL/Daisey dust-up. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it should flesh out the details of what happened.
- Brian Lehrer Show
- On the Media
- National Public Radio
- Poynter Institute
- Another from Poynter
- Nieman Labs
- The Atlantic Monthly
- New Republic
- And this from Science 2.0. It’s slightly off topic but still enlightening.
Study up. There’s a test on Monday.