Journalistic integrity still alive and well

Nathan Grote, IV Leader Managing Editor

These days it’s hard to tell where the line is between news and entertainment.
As commercial news outlets must compete with reality shows and football games for our attention, so many employ the use of drama and theatrics to get viewers to tune in, sometimes compromising the value of the information that the audience gets.
On top of that, many news and entertainment conglomerates have vested interests in which way public opinion on certain matters is oriented, and have a tendency to slant their content to lead audiences along a particular train of thought.
Along with “news” programs, we’ve got legions of commentators and talking heads masquerading as journalists, muddying the waters of truth and accurate, vetted information, which is the foundation and purpose of real journalism.
A journalist’s job is to present factual information and let the audience decide for themselves, plain and simple.  It is not the journalist’s job to convince an audience of anything; in fact, that is to be purposely avoided.
Journalists present; entertainers and activists force and impose.
I bring all this up because I was reminded recently, as I am periodically, that journalistic integrity is alive and well among the perversion.
In January 2012, the NPR program “This American Life” aired a story about Apple in China.  The presenter, actor/writer Mike Daisy, told the story of his time in China visiting the Foxconn plant and the Chinese factory personnel that work there.  The Foxconn plant is where Apple manufactures iPhones and iPads, and was in the news a few years ago after a string of employee suicides.
In the January broadcast, Daisy told of the mangled and poisoned workers that he met, about the workers’ appalling living conditions, and many other shocking things.  The story was emotional, sad, and disturbing.  What it was not, though, was true.
This month, it came out that a lot of what Daisy saw and told about was completely false.  And so on March 16, “This American Life” dedicated the entire broadcast to retracting the story and making clear all the parts of Daisy’s story that were untrue.
Although the producers of the show slipped up and aired a story that contained false information, it was very satisfying to hear them come out right away, admit their mistake, and take the time to set things right.  Here is an excerpt of the show’s host, Ira Glass, speaking during the introduction of the March 16 broadcast:
“I am not happy to have to come to you and tell you that something that we presented on the radio as factual is not factual.  All of us in public radio stand together, and I have friends and colleagues on lots of other shows who, like us at ‘This American Life,’ work hard to do accurate, independent reporting week-in, week-out.
“I and my coworkers here at ‘This American Life,’ we are not happy to have done anything to hurt the reputation of the journalism that happens on this radio station every day.  So we want to be completely transparent about what we got wrong and what we now believe is the truth.”
Even though “This American Life’s” producers were grossly misled by Mike Daisy, they did make a mistake.  Instead of shifting the blame or denying any guilt, however, they admitted their fault and set things right in an honorable display of journalistic integrity.
It is ultimately up to each one of us to discern what we hear as true or false, but any source that is willing to go to such lengths to maintain its standards of honesty is well worth our attention.