Defining Words: A 1st Grade Skill is Still Applicable to Adulthood


When reading a news article or listening to a news podcast, how do you decide what to believe? Do you take everything at face value? Do you fact-check? The answer differs for each individual. It also differs based on who is reporting the news. But what happens when something written for artistic purposes is reported as news? The answer: the “Retraction” on This American Life of Mike Daisey’s story on Foxconn.

Art is completely different from journalism and this is where the disconnect between the importance of facts between Daisey and Ira Glass, of TAL, appears. Daisey points out in the “Retraction” that some of his fact juggling was due to his goal for the report to be for a show rather than a news report. In contrast, Glass believes that everything reported should be exactly how the events took place. However, there is a difference between performing a play and making a news report, the importance of facts changes. Plays are based on over-exaggeration whereas journalism relies on the truth being conveyed. While Daisey did mean well with his report, he did report false facts which violates the values of journalism and for this Ira Glass was highly justified in his anger. Because of Daisey’s inaccuracies, This American Life reported a story that was not completely true. Additionally, Glass was lied to when he attempted to fact check the story. It is because of this violation of morals that I understand Glass’ ire.

That Mike Daisey made his play available for anyone to perform or modify it says, to me, that he is attempting to do the right thing. Although his story was not accurate, he did have a goal of making people connect to the story and think about where their products come from and what the real price for those products is. Allowing people to modify his work allows for people to correct some of his inaccurate statements while, hopefully, keeping the main point of the piece: that the working conditions in China are a human-rights issue that requires attention.

So who is the public supposed to believe? What other stories are inaccurate that have caused incredible public uproar? The answers to these questions are difficult to decipher which is a shame because accurate reporting could bring the public together to initiate change. This is why Daisey’s portrayal of his story as 100% factual is a problem, it causes the public to completely discount the topic of human-rights in Chinese factories. The public no longer knows who to believe thus they cease to believe anyone. Is one simply supposed to take Daisey’s story for what it is- a portion personal and a portion conglomeration of other news stories? That is up for the individual and personal definitions of art, journalism, and truth. The important thing is to take away from this debacle is that there is a difference between art and journalism and one must analyze the audience of each in order to decipher fact from fiction. Art does not require the whole truth whereas journalism prides itself upon accuracy. These definitions will cause the truths reported to change, for better or worse. It is up to the audience to decide what to believe and which source they prefer.

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