Entries in This American Life (2)


‘This American Life’ Retracts Apple Critic’s Foxconn Tale

Almin Karamehmedovic/ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Public Radio International’s show This American Life announced Friday it will retract one of the most popular episodes in the show’s history after finding numerous falsehoods in a monologue by prominent Apple critic, Mike Daisey.

In 2010, Daisey launched an one-man show called “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.” In it, Daisey, a self-proclaimed Apple fanatic, described a dramatic journey to Shenzhen, China to better understand working conditions at the computer giant’s top manufacturer, Foxconn. While standing outside the factory gates, he claimed to have met several Foxconn workers who described horrific tales of abuse. He said he spoke with a 13-year-old who spent her days cleaning iPhone screens, a group poisoned by toxic cleaning chemicals and a man whose hand was mangled building iPads.

After a 39-minute excerpt of Daisey’s show was featured on This American Life in January, the podcast was downloaded a record 880,000 times. A listener named Mark Shields said he was so moved that he launched a petition drive calling for Apple to build the first “ethical” iPhone. Over 250,000 people signed and protests were planned at Apple stores around the world.

But according to a press release, NPR Marketplace reporter Rob Schmitz tracked down Daisey’s Chinese interpreter, a pivotal character in the monologue, and she said the most dramatic details of Daisey’s story never happened.

Back in January, when This American Life fact-checkers asked Daisey for the interpreter’s contact information, he told them he had no way to reach her.

“At that point, we should’ve killed the story,” said Ira Glass, executive producer and host of This American Life, in a release. “But other things Daisey told us about Apple’s operations in China checked out, and we saw no reason to doubt him. We didn’t think that he was lying to us and to audiences about the details of his story. That was a mistake.”

“I’m not going to say that I didn’t take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard,” Daisey told Glass and Schmitz when they confronted him with their findings. “My mistake, the mistake I truly regret, is that I had it on your show as journalism, and it’s not journalism. It’s theater.”

On his website, Daisey writes, “I stand by my work. My show is a theatrical piece whose goal is to create a human connection between our gorgeous devices and the brutal circumstances from which they emerge. It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity.”

Last month, ABC’s Nightline was allowed unprecedented access into Apple’s Foxconn factories, as the Fair Labor Association conducted the first-ever external audit of working conditions. The results of that audit are expected in coming days.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Is This the Secret Coke Recipe?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- The public radio program This American Life went on the air last weekend claiming to have unearthed the closely guarded secret formula for Coca-Cola.

"I am not kidding," host Ira Glass said at the top of the show, rustling the paper into his microphone. "One of the most famously guarded trade secrets on the planet: I have it right here and I am going to read it to you. I am going to read it to the world."

Glass goes on to spend the first half of his program explaining how he found the recipe, hidden in plain view. His story starts when he stumbled across a column in the Feb. 18, 1979, edition of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Coke's hometown paper. There, "buried" on page 2B was a photograph of a page from an old book of handwritten pharmacists' recipes.

Coca-Cola was invented in the 1880s by John Pemberton, a pharmacist, and was originally sold at drug store soda fountains.

Glass also talked to author Mark Pendergrast, who claims to have found the original Coca-Cola recipe in Coke's archives while researching his 1993 expose, For God, Country & Coca-Cola. The two formulas are remarkably similar, leading Glass to conclude that he had, indeed, uncovered the original recipe.

He had a batch made up at the Jones Soda Co. in Seattle. It didn't taste exactly like the Coke we know today because, in part, at least one ingredient is almost impossible for anyone but Coca Cola to obtain: fluid extract of coca, which are coca leaves that have been stripped of cocaine.

The rest of the recipe includes citric acid, caffeine, sugar, water, lime juice, vanilla, and caramel. A second part of the formula, which had the code name "7X," contains alcohol, orange oil, lemon oil, nutmeg oil, coriander, neroli and cinnamon.

For its part, Coca-Cola is not sweating.

"Many third parties have tried over time to crack our secret formula," spokeswoman Kerry Tressler told ABC News. "Try as they might, there's only one real thing. And that was not it."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio