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Whose Reputation Suffers from the Mike Daisey/’This American Life’ Retraction’?

Even though the weekly public radio program This American Life had to retract its very popular story about Apple’s Foxconn factory, poor working conditions at Foxconn will continue to be an issue the companies have to deal with.

“Our corporate image has been totally ruined,” said Foxconn spokesperson Simon Hsing in a media interview.

According to Reuters, the story forced Apple (and those who love Apple products) to take a closer look at how those products were being made. The fact that many of the things “reported” by Mike Daisey turned out to be untrue only clears the Foxconn name a little bit.

The This American Life story, and the Daisey play “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” on which it was based, contained workers and events that Daisey said he had first-hand knowledge of. But, it turns out many things were fabricated.

The New York Times’ David Carr argues that the reputation of the program is actually in tact. “The story came up bad, they found out about it from someone else, and they amended it with an hourlong retraction that was straightforward and very powerful,” he writes.

We would have to agree. Everyone makes a mistake and This American Life admitted that its failure to do due diligence was an error. They assumed they could take Daisey at his word. So did lots of others. That they announced their mistake and tried to make it right counts.

In that story, Carr confirms that reporting done by The New York Times on this topic was original and accurate.

D.C. crisis pro Eric Dezenhall (Dezenhall Resources) argues in Forbes that this incident will strengthen loyalty to Apple. “The Daisey incident will simply serve to confirm that those who attack Apple are somehow unholy and heretical,” he says, even though the issues with working conditions remain. “Apple is always graded on a curve.”

What also helped, the article says, is the ABC News story about Foxconn that, while not showing the ideal working conditions, didn’t show “pictures of 12-year-olds or explosions.” Does it really need to be that bad for it to be a problem? Let’s hope not. But, as with This American Life, Apple has high brand equity and can withstand this sort of a blow.

That leaves Mike Daisey, who is defending his work.

“If people want to use me as an excuse to return to denialism about the state of our manufacturing, about the shape of our world, they are doing that to themselves,” he’s said. (He’s also said that he’s an artist and not a journalist, but that’s pretty lame.)

Now that the dust is settling, that’s actually what many in the media are saying; this is an actual problem even if Daisey lied.

According to CNET, Daisey got a standing ovation after his final performance of the show.

“We’ve all seen movies that write in the prologue ‘based on actual events,’” the story says. “That’s the kind of reporting Daisey suggests he does.”

[image: Mike Daisey]

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