The Gross National Debt

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Whither the liar?


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This week's episode of This American Life is an hour long apology, expiation and explanation of this episode of the show.
That last comment? Mostly.

In case you missed it, the show at fault is a radio adaption of a monologue by Mike Daisey and his trip to China.

TAL host Ira Glass spends considerable time poking holes in Daisey's story. In the last 3rd of the show, he spends time talking about how reporting in China is done. All through the entire story, he speaks with and references American journalists in China and Mr. Daisey's interpreter.

He finally DOES get around to pointing out that it is China, a country where the government pretty much controls everything. But you have to listen REALLY close to hear that.

I have heard both episodes, Mr. Daisey's original story and the apology story. Having heard both, I say I am more inclined to believe Mr. Daisey than Mr. Glass et al.

Now I must explain why.

Item: I am a journalist. I understand the journalism trade. I know what we do, how we do it and why we do it.

Item: Mike Daisey is not a journalist. He says, up front, he is an entertainer and set out to make a point with his monologue.

Item: The story came from China, a place where the government runs everything. This is actually important enough to merit this second mention.

Item: Reporters in China are monitored by the government and sometimes have minders. This was not reported in the TAL apology episode.

Item: Factory inspections in China are announced to the plant ahead of time. Visits by foreign reporters are also announced ahead of time. This too was not reported in the TAL apology.

So.

Mr. Daisey may indeed have an ax to grind where China and Apple are concerned. At the same time, Mr. Daisey also has no intentions of going back to China. I suspect he'd be denied entry now anyway.


This too is very important.

Foreign journalists in China want to stay there to keep reporting. In public they will probably hotly argue they are not monitored by the government. In private, matters will be different.

The simple fact is: if a foreign journalist does a report from China that makes the government mad enough, that reporter will be on a plane out of the country with a couple of hours of government officials getting the offensive-to-them news story.

So, if foreign journalists wish to stay in China and report, they do have to be careful what is reported. This means you are getting as much of the truth as foreign reporters believe they can supply.
And the truth is told.

It also means, Mike Daisey was not bound to same reporting restrictions as embedded journalists.

As for Mr. Daisey's interpreter's comments in the apology story? She lives in China. Do you really think she's NOT going to toe the official party line in China? She'd like to keep working and stay out of jail.

You can bet Chinese officials have heard the Mike Daisey story and the TAL apology piece. Listen closely to the TAL apology story. Factor in what you also know about China and it's attitude toward a free press. Now what do you believe?

You may believe what you wish. As for me, I'm a part of the journalism community. I know what we do, how we do it and why we do it. I ain't saying you can't trust journalists. I am saying the good journalists do bring you as much of the truth as they (we) can. Sometimes that is every iota of truth. Sometimes, that's only as much truth as we can give you, for many reasons.

As with everything else I've said here, believe what you wish. To paraphrase Lynyrd Skynyrd, I'm just trying to bring the truth to you. I'm bringing you everything I get my hands on.

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