Here We Go Again: Foxcon Report Retracted by “This American Life”

March 16, 2012

I was surprised when a friend commented on my last blog, saying it seemed like I was “writing just for writers,” because I spent the post venting about nonfiction writers who twist or alter facts to create a better story. When a fresh fraud broke this week—“This American Life” retracting their Apple factory exposé—I thought about those comments, but I couldn’t help myself. I had to write again.

I get that the writer I referenced in my last post wasn’t a household name, but I was writing more about the issue of truth-telling itself. Shouldn’t truth-telling—whether it’s in a nonfiction book or a newscast or a bank statement—be everyone’s concern?   Shouldn’t we all demand some level of accuracy and integrity?

I realize we live in an age where facts seem fluid—history is constantly rewritten, photographs are endlessly altered, news is spun one way and then the other, depending on whether it’s on NPR, Fox News, or the Colbert Report—but does that mean we shouldn’t care? I’m not talking about taking the story-telling out of nonfiction, or turning nonfiction books into dry list of facts and dates and places—but I refuse to accept that art comes before integrity or that the two can’t coexist.

But what on earth do I know—I’ve never been on “This American Life,” and my book hasn’t been published, much less been reviewed by the New York Times—maybe all I need is a good old-fashioned scandal and my career will take off. And if I can’t get embroiled in one, I’ll just make it up as I go along. . .

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4 Responses to “Here We Go Again: Foxcon Report Retracted by “This American Life””

  1. Kirsti said

    I agree with you–absolutely. It’s not just about writing. In fact, the scandals are more of a symptom of the larger problem.

    My students sometimes like to make the case (usually early on in the freshman memoir ethics class I teach) that we live in a “post genre” society and that a good story is all that matters–that it’s our own fault for having “expectations.”

    For me, it comes down to this: if something is presented as truth, it should be true. If someone came up to you and said “Oh, this thing happened to me; let me tell you about it” and you later found out it didn’t, would you say, “Oh, well–either way, it was a great story?” Or, that court deposition was very exciting, so it didn’t matter to me that he told a few lies.

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