Tag Archives: New York Times

Mr. Daisey's Lie

-Tamara Feingold

If there’s one thing I love it’s the weekly radio program “This American Life,” which is why when I listened to one of the show’s new podcasts a few months ago with guest Mike Daisey, I was completely engulfed. As a monologist, he performs a theater show called “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” in which he talks about Apple’s factory chain in China and the exploitation of some of its workers.

As I trudged home from school through the pouring rain of Eugene I listened to the episode on my headphones and was completely disturbed by the story of a factory worker whose manufacturing of the iPad left him with a deformed hand and stories of twelve and thirteen-year-old employees. I recommended the episode to my friends, but pushed it to the back of my mind until I listened to a newer hour-long podcast on “This American Life” – Retraction.

As it turns out, Daisey has an honesty problem. He fabricated a significant portion of the details included in the episode, entitled “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory” therefore infuriating host Ira Glass. I was heartbroken and I took my frustration to Twitter (probably not the best place to take one’s frustration), by comparing Daisey to the infamous pseudo-journalist and sociopath liar Stephen Glass.

What I was expecting was a lonely “favorite” by some random college student (which did happen). What I wasn’t expecting: a reply from Mike Daisey himself.

After a snarky reply to my Tweet, he graced me with a link to his personal blog (thanks, but no thanks) and since April 4th Daisey has continued to post pages and pages of equally snarky replies to other people angered by his dishonesty.

Maybe the reason I can’t get Daisey’s dupe out of my mind is that he robbed a tiny piece of my journalistic trust. Daisey was believed by thousands of listeners as to be a presenter of news. Although he claims his stories were compositions of things that he has seen to be common, it is not the job of journalists to make people care.

I wasn’t the only one bothered by the incident; articles popped up on most main news websites. “I’m more concerned about the suggestion that you have to cheat to come up with remarkable journalism that tilts the rink,” wrote David Carr in a New York Times article about the scandal.

Unfortunately, Daisey’s original apologies sounded more like excuses. “Well, I don’t know that I would say in a theatrical context that it isn’t true. I believe that when I perform it in a theatrical context in the theater that when people hear the story in those terms that we have different languages for what the truth means,” he said in the Retraction. Since then, he’s apologized in more responsible terms on his blog.

I don’t know how many different languages of truth Daisey has in mind, but hopefully in the future journalism will be left to journalists and I can resume listening to “This American Life” without having to accept guests as actors.

Photo taken by Sara Krulwich  from the New York Times

Coffee with Karen Karbo

-Elliott Kennedy

“If a subject is really good, it has a sticky factor,” says Karen Karbo, smacking her hands together and wrapping her ring-clad fingers together, making her red beaded bracelet clatter. “You think about it and you can’t stop thinking about it. If you’re really a writer, that’s what you do and who you are.”

The New York Times notable author untangles her fingers to reach for her frothy latte. Vero Espresso House is buzzing with the sounds of clinking mugs and tapping keyboards, but I can still her softly murmur “Mmmm,” with the first sip of steaming coffee.

The California-native first studied journalism at the University of Southern California—but only briefly. One piece of criticism showed her that the fact-based world of news was not well-suited to her writing style.

“I had written something where I described a lady as having a ‘really bad haircut.’ My professor said that was too much editorializing,” says Karbo. “I argued that it wasn’t editorializing and it really was just a bad haircut, but he didn’t go for it.”

After changing her major several more times, Karbo graduated with a double Bachelor’s in English and biology. Drawing heavily on her college years for inspiration, Karbo published her first book in 1990.

Trespassers Welcome Here was inspired by Karbo’s time working in the Russian department at USC. Her second book, The Diamond Lane, hints at personal details, such as her Master’s in film and cinema studies. Karbo’s third book and only memoir, The Stuff of Life, chronicles her relationship with her father during the last few months of his life.

“Reliving [his death] wasn’t a great time,” Karbo says. “If it’s emotionally resonant, our natural instinct is to push it away. But that’s the gold, the meat, the passion.”

Hearing the story of Karbo and her father, I remember something else Karbo had said earlier: Find where you intersect with the story. Abandoning my organized line of questioning and closing my notebook, I asked, “How did you deal with it?” And then I shared my own story.

My father died at the age of 60, killed suddenly by a small glitch in his otherwise healthy heart. Her father died at the age of 75 of lung cancer, brought on by years of chronic smoking. Our stories seemed similar in so many ways, and there in a small college town on an ordinary rainy day, we intersected.

“I wrote,” she says, answering my question.

And for the past eight years, Karbo has been writing up a storm, publishing six books and planning a seventh. The Minerva Clark three-part children’s series was written expressly for her daughter, Fiona. Most recently, Karbo has been writing a “Kick Ass Women” series, which includes biographies about Katherine Hepburn, Georgia O’Keefe, and Coco Chanel.

“I chose these women because of their complete faith in their own instincts,” Karbo says. “There was no self-doubt or second-guessing—not to say there weren’t mistakes. But they never betrayed themselves in hard times.”

My Last Farewell to Newspaper

-Tamara Feingold

Call me old fashioned, but I’m in love with the newspaper. The kind that is actually made out of paper and arrives on your doorstep. There’s something about waking up with a big mug of coffee and skimming over the pages that is addicting. It’s been part of my morning ritual since I was little, and I’ve clung to it in every way possible.

However, when I started college the newspaper wasn’t as exciting anymore because I had to actually pay for it and as I previewed delivery prices my heart sank. $14.80 per week for The New York Times? Deciding it was worth it, I signed up for a Monday through Friday delivery. My first few days were pure bliss, pages and pages of articles about everything from current events to film reviews.

But after a few weeks passed, the honeymoon was over. I didn’t have time to read the newspaper before school and they stacked up on my coffee table. I told myself I’d get to it one day, but the stacks started toppling and sometimes I didn’t even take the papers out of their blue plastic bags. I ended my subscription, and my relationship with newspaper was put on hold.

When I got a NOOK Color for my birthday this year, I realized I could once again have access to my beloved New York Times and I bought an online subscription right away, even though it meant cheating on my past obsession. Although I don’t rip out pages to stick on my wall anymore, being able to read the entire paper while on my breaks at work or in between classes was just too tempting, and it costs a lot less.

My question is, who could possibly continue loving newspaper this long? I thought I was the most dedicated fan, and even I couldn’t keep the relationship going. With constant free access to most online news and portable devices making it simple to read headlines on the go, having a paper dropped off on your doorstep is simply a thing of the past.

As heartbroken as I am, journalism is changing and I have finally said my last goodbye to the newspaper to make room for portable electronics with color touch screens.

Tom Friedman is Power-Mad!

-Jacob O’Gara

“I have been over into the future, and it works!” So squealed Lincoln Steffens in 1921 when he returned to the United States from a sight-seeing junket in the Soviet Union. It’s easy now to dismiss Steffens as a rather crazed and premature newspaperman—after all, the Soviet Union was the realm of cold, bitter starvation for those who were “free” and the gulag for those who weren’t—but at the time, there were a good many in America’s intellectual class who agreed with him. The first nation founded under the principles of Marx and Engels was considered a marvel by the “experts,” a well-oiled machine of organization and efficiency with every cog of society working toward more and more progress, a final stage in the evolutionary development of the state, almost literally, Heaven on Earth.

We’d like to think that our current experts were wiser than the enthusiastic Mr. Steffens and his ilk, but we’d be wrong. The allure of authoritarianism is a potent one that seduces the common and uncommon man alike. We’d all love it if problems could just get fixed, that we could “just do it” as Nike’s slogan demands, but we live in a political system that not only encourages conflicts and a lack of efficiency, but requires it.

 The most vocal admirer of authoritarian tendencies is New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (who, besides being a chubby-faced Borat lookalike, kind of looks like a dour, Eastern European bureaucrat), a dispenser of the most boiling of boilerplate. When it comes to criticizing Friedman’s ham-fisted and nonsensical writing, I readily admit that I stand on the shoulders of giants named Jonah Goldberg and Matt Taibbi (only something like the atrociousness of Friedman’s writing could unite those two). But beyond that, Friedman has a strange fixation on the People’s Republic of China; he gushed about the Chinese government’s ability to ban plastic bags “just like that,” and in his most recent work, implores the United States to be “China for a day.” For the millions of starving, deprived citizens of China, who have had relatives bulldozed into mass graves, I’m sure they wish China could be America for a day.

I can imagine that Tom Friedman is a bit frustrated. Clearly, he yearns to be something more than he is right now. He’s Napoleon in the newsroom, a man who wishes to be a high-powered technocrat who solves any issue that comes up by diktat; instead, he’s a mere columnist for the lowly New York Times. He’s a man who has ambitions far beyond the reach of his means. Thank God.