Back in January, I listened to a This American Life podcast called “Mr. Daisy and the Apple Factory” which was based on the monologue The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs by Mr. Mike Daisy, who traveled to China to observe working conditions at the factories which produce Apple products.
On Monday, I downloaded This American Life and while making my rounds for my job, discovered that Mr. Daisy had fabricated many of the events and observations. I found out from TAL themselves.
This American Life issued a retraction.
They did not simply write a one-line retraction, buried deep within their website, as many newspapers are wont to do, should they bother issuing a retraction at all. Instead, they removed the audio of the original podcast (leaving the transcript for reference) and produced a full-length podcast detailing the retraction. That’s right – they devoted their entire program to a retraction.
In my mind, TAL’s retraction is nothing short of heroic.
The producers made no excuses. They reported on the retraction in the most transparent, honest way possible.
They could have simply retracted the story, with a little 30-second note during the next podcast, removed the offending original from the website entirely, and let their wrong disappear.
Yet, they did not do that. They put their mistake front and center. Drew attention to it instead of minimizing it. In fact, they’ve drawn more attention to their error than to the original story.
People hate being wrong so much that they will often concoct wild excuses and rationalizations, rather than admitting they were wrong and then changing so that they can be right. People think being wrong undermines their competency.
It doesn’t. What undermines competency is dismissal, denial, or rationalizations when you’re wrong. Everybody makes mistakes.
Exhibiting your mistakes, brandishing them for the world to see, shouting, “I was wrong, I fixed it!” – That’s integrity.