Facts from Mike Daisey’s solo show The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, now running at off-Broadway’s Public Theater, are being called into question by public radio program This American Life.
Daisey’s piece sheds light on the dangerous working conditions inside the Chinese factories of Foxconn, which produce items like iPads and iPhones for Apple. A segment of the show was aired on This American Life on January 6. Rob Schmitz, a China correspondent for NPR’s Marketplace, had also reported on the issue and questioned some of Daisey’s information. Schmitz tracked down the woman who served as Daisey's Chinese interpreter during his investigations, and she disputed many of the facts in Daisey’s theater piece.
“Daisey lied to me and to This American Life producer Brian Reed during the fact-checking we did on the story, before it was broadcast,” wrote show host and executive producer Ira Glass in a blog post on thisamericanlife.org. “That doesn't excuse the fact that we never should've put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake.” The show will dedicate its March 17 episode to detailing the errors in Daisey's piece, and Glass will interview Daisey about "why he misled This American Life during the fact-checking process."
Daisey responded on his website. "I stand by my work," he wrote. "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."
The Public Theater, which is currently hosting a return engagement of Daisey’s show through March 18, stood by the monologuist in a statement: "In the theater, our job is to create fictions that reveal truth—that’s what a storyteller does, that’s what a dramatist does. The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs reveals, as Mike’s other monologues have, human truths in story form. In this work, Mike uses a story to frame and lead debate about an important issue in a deeply compelling way. He has illuminated how our actions affect people half-a-world away and, in doing so, has spurred action to address a troubling situation. This is a powerful work of art and exactly the kind of storytelling that The Public Theater has supported, and will continue to support in the future. Mike is an artist, not a journalist. Nevertheless, we wish he had been more precise with us and our audiences about what was and wasn’t his personal experience in the piece."