Jun 1 2012

Extra! 2012 Letters Vol. 25, No. 6

Craven on Daisey

First, I usually enjoy reading every word of every issue. But, second, the editor’s note on Mike Daisey (Extra!, 5/12) is craven to a fault.

1. Judging Daisey by journalistic standards is like criticizing a left fielder for his tackling ability. The fundamental problem stems from whoever’s decision put him on the wrong field.

2. Daisey is a theatrical person and never represented himself as anything but. Nobody goes to the theater to watch the New York Times, although with the right background music and soft lighting it might be pleasant enough.

3. Theater tells a different kind of truth from journalism, and generally a more valuable truth. That’s my bias showing, but the survival of Sophocles and not the Athens Daily Blat is good character evidence.

4. The larger truths Daisey was trying to tell have not been discredited in any of the coverage I’ve seen. Workers are exploited, regardless of age. Conditions are horrible, in absolute terms. Responding to a wave of suicide jumpers by potting nets around tall buildings is inhuman and morally disgusting. Seriously. Your shying away from the gross ugliness of the Foxconn reality is a sad reflection of the American cultural timidity you typically resist.

5. Yes, you make some good points about the business POV, etc.—but only after you’ve finished abasing yourself. Need-lessly. Serious reflection should lead you to conclude that, whatever his journalistic peccadilloes may have been, Daisey had the story right in all of its important aspects.

6. The behavior of This American Life is a reflection of their own journalistic failure—insofar as they qualify as journalists—which strikes me as more or less dubious, given the largely atmospheric (theatrical!) quality of their product. In my view, the program scapegoated Daisey; and the querulous media largely allowed or abetted that scapegoating. (Personally love that you say that TAL “promptly” offered an apology, when it was two months after broadcast, and more than two months after their fact-checkers failed.)

7. Even the New York Times, according to your example, removed only “a dubious paragraph.” one paragraph. And “dubious,” not wrong.

8. You characterize Daisey’s report as “unreliable.” But the only things you cite are nitpicks of technique and journalistic precision. You don’t even try to challenge the core of the story—most likely because it’s true. So in what way is it “unreliable”? In what way does it lead the listener to a false conclusion? How, if Daisey’s “mistakes” were all corrected, would the listener reach a different conclusion?

9. Your critique of business reporters is more to the point. As journalists—!!—who is more unreliable, Daisey or most of the business press? The business press has been allowing crimes like those in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons for generations.

10. With blood on their hands, no wonder journalists turned so mindlessly on Daisey. Sure beats self-examination. Sure beats explaining why they’d “missed” that story. Sure beats changing ingrained and lucrative behavior. Sure beats being a responsible human being with humane values. No wonder the herd panicked and stampeded. Who would expect otherwise.

11. A hit piece on Daisy might use words against him such as “fabricated,” “exaggerated,” “made up,” “untrustworthy,” “unreliable,” “distortion,” “dishonesty,” “deceits,” and the like. Yes, that was your piece. It’s sad to see you running with the herd. In an unreliable direction, no less.

William Boardman

Woodstock, Vt.

What’s Missing From Sunday Morning?

Regarding Peter Hart’s cover story from your April issue, “Right and Early: Sunday Morning Shows Are GOP TV,” the very thesis of which is that Republicans dominate Sunday morning TV to the exclusion of Democrats, it is frustrating to follow the suggestion implicit in Hart’s argument that simply airing more Democrats would have improved the situation.

Hart’s focus on the two corporate parties that dominate American politics and thought helps reinforce the very confusing idea, crucial to mainstream media’s coverage of all issues, that there is a difference between them. It has been for quite a while now that media’s exclusive coverage of the two corporate parties, constantly comparing and contrasting them with each other to no end, ensures the status quo.

Please give us a reason to believe there is a difference between reading your magazine and watching the bullshit TV shows you write about. You could start by eliminating the conflation you make between Democrats and progressives.

Andrew Lopez

Philadelphia, Pa.

Peter Hart’s article is brilliant, but it screams for a graphic. Please, give us some bar charts or pie charts representing the breakdown by show and by category. Surely someone in the office knows how to make a chart with Excel or a similar program. Pictures, please!!!

Bill Harpin

Orono, Maine

Right Network, Wrong City

In the April 2012 issue of Extra! (page 9), it states that Shelton Green is “a reporter at Houston ABC TV affiliate KVUE.” Mr. Green is indeed a reporter for KVUE—but KVUE is the ABC affiliate in Austin, Texas—and not Houston. The two cities are approximately 170 miles apart.

Tom Brucia

Houston, Texas