After ‘This American Life’ Fabrication Revealed, Will TV News Outlets Correct?

By Alex Weprin 

A story on the popular public radio program “This American Life,” about life at the FoxConn factories that make Apple products in China, was partially fabricated, the radio program said today. This week’s edition of “This American Life” looks at what went wrong when the producers decided to move forward with the piece, which was from contributor Mike Daisey.

The piece drew so much attention on public radio, that Daisey started appearing on other outlets in the weeks following, including on CNN and MSNBC (Update: CBS News too), where he repeated some of the claims that have since been debunked:


The new information puts CNN and MSNBC (as well as the New York Times and other outlets) in an awkward situation. Daisey has always characterized himself as a playwright, but he claimed to be doing an act of journalism in traveling to China and talking to workers there. With the news that he lied about much of what he saw, do the networks owe viewers an update or correction?

TV news has always been less forthcoming than newspapers or magazines when it comes to correcting mistakes, but that is not an excuse. Daisey’s report was not breaking news, so the regular reaction that “news is fluid” won’t fly. It would have been possible for reporters at these outlets to look into the claims, but they didn’t.

To be sure, some of the blame belongs to “This American Life,” which has been generally well-respected for its research, but ultimately, this was a failure on multiple levels, from multiple outlets.

Should outlets like CNN and MSNBC run corrections? Let us know in the comments.