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Electronics Production | March 20, 2012

Drama gets in the way of truth about Foxconn

Popular radio program “This American Life” retracted a show last week that criticised working conditions at a Foxconn factory in China.
The show, which aired on January 6, excerpted the theatrical show by actor Mike Daisey called "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." 

The revelation may come as a blow to those fighting for better conditions in electronics manufacturing plants. However, producers of the show said that the while parts of Daisey's personal story were fabricated, details about working conditions were factual.

"We did factcheck the story before we put it on the radio," presenter Ira Glass said on the program. "But in factchecking, our main concern was whether the things Mike says about Apple and about its supplier Foxconn, which makes this stuff, were true. That stuff is true. It's been corroborated by independent investigations by other journalists, studies by advocacy groups, and much of it has been corroborated by Apple itself in its own audit reports. But what's not true is what Mike said about his own trip to China."

On Sunday's show, Daisy admitted several fabrications, including a meeting with workers poisoned by n-hexane. Daisy also said guards outside the factory had guns, which was questioned by producers and Daisy's translator who visited the factory with him.

It seems that Daisy, a theatrical actor, did not view his story as journalism, but as a drama, arguing that the embellishments added to the overall emotional truth of the his show.

Foxconn said it did not plan to take legal actions against the radio program.

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