Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Email to "This American Life"

By Susan Esther Barnes

I've been a big fan of This American Life, known as "TAL," ever since I got my iPhone last year and started listening to its podcasts. They pick a subject each week, and do about an hour of reporting, often looking at the subject from different angles. The show is both entertaining and informative.

This week, for the first time in their history, they had to retract a story. You can hear about the retraction by listening to this week's TAL podcast, available on their website, linked above.

The do such a fantastic job in general, and also did such a classy job with their retration, that I sent the following email to them today:

I just want to thank everyone at This American Life, and Ira Glass in particular, for the great work on this week's retraction of Daisey's Apple story. I'm sure it's been a difficult time for everyone there, and I want to let you know I appreciate all your hard work.

This episode has made me feel even better about listening to, and supporting, TAL. In this era of websites and press departments rushing to get stories into print or on the air as soon as possible, it often feels like fact-checking has become a thing of the past, leaving us simply with "he said/she said" situations. This is a horrible turn of events, making it difficult for anyone to discover the truth.

But listening to all the fact checking TAL did on the original story before it aired gave me great confidence in TAL's fact-checking on stories both past and future. Yes, you didn't follow up on trying to reach the interpreter in this one case, but clearly you did a lot more fact-checking on the other aspects of the story than I believe most news agencies would have these days. I am confident you will do everything in your power to make sure this kind of thing will never happen again.

I only wish other news organizations would follow your lead, and act with the integrity and dedication to finding the truth that you have.

May you continue forward in strength,

Susan Barnes

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