I want to start this blog with a note. I write about honesty, but there is also grace. I spent a large part of my life lying. Lying about my motives and who I really was. I learned the hard way, honesty is the best policy. Corny as it sounds, it does indeed work. So this post isn’t me looking down from the mountain top lecturing the poor fools who can’t make it. It is me shoulder to shoulder, encouraging, desperately trying to say, “Hey look these things can be corrected and we will all be better off for it.” Thanks for reading…be encouraged! With the deepest respect-Stephen Edwards.
I have watched with interest the stories of Greg Smith with his public resignation letter in the New York Times and the retraction of Mike Daisey’s monologue regarding his visit to an Apple factory in Guangzhou, China by Ira Glass on This American Life. Google either one and you can find several hundreds of thousands of sites. All of this attention prompts me to ask two questions; First, why all the attention? Secondly, what have we learned?
Why have these two stories generated such intense scrutiny? The news outlets have poured forth with in-depth reporting of the facts, op-eds of what, why, and how, and rolled out the experts to express their opinions. I have talked with several people personally, as well as electronically and they all have their own view. But why? How did these two stories vault into the public psychic and news cycle so predominantly?
Here is where I add my own humble opinion. The reason for the white hot attention these stories are generating is because they touch on a core value we all possess to some degree. Some of us have it to a heightened degree, while others have it remarkably less, but we all have it. That value is honesty.
There is some spark within each of us that values honesty. When Mr. Smith writes in his NY Times op-ed letter, “…the interests of the client tend to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money.” something inside of us resonates with a loud “Yeah!” Because we all have, at least on some level, had the experience of being treated like a walking dollar sign. I fully understand businesses’ need to make money to survive, but the need to make a profit doesn’t necessitate your company having to rape me for every nickel and dime you can squeeze out of me, then kick me to the curb, and tackle the next victim. I know the words I’m using paint a florid mind picture, but it is simply what it feels like at times. When the cashier tries to entice you to upgrade your account, every single time you are in the store or when visiting your local computer store you are repeatedly taken to higher priced items, even though you have expressed your desire to stay within a certain, much lower, price range.
To my ears Mr. Daisey’s repeated claims that he stayed within the boundaries of truth as recognized by the theatre world, which are different from those acknowledged by the world of journalism, ring hollow. It sounds far too much like an individual caught doing something wrong, but who doesn’t want to stand up and simply say, “I lied.” I have just come from reading his blog and Mr. Daisey has gone on the offensive with Mr. Glass pointing out a number of indiscretions he believes This American Life has participated in regarding their reporting of the Apple factory issues. There are simply too many discrepancies between what Mr. Daisey says and what is truth. One of the most glaring is when he claims his translator’s name isn’t Cathy, but Anna, and her cell phone number has been disconnected and she is unreachable. Then Rob Schmitz, a reporter for Marketplace, who lives in Shanghai, went out out and found her. He found her by Googling Kathy, translator, and Guangzhou. These three words gave him her cell phone number, which he then used to call her and verify she was the actual translator used by Mr. Daisey on 2010 trip to China. It is about honesty.
The second question; “What have we learned?” is much more difficult to answer. The backlash to both stories has already begun. Goldman Sachs sent a news release which basically said, (and I’m paraphrasing here), “What is the problem Mr. Smith? We are here to make money for our investors and that is what we do. They pay us and we produce, that is how it works. We do not apologize for making money, that is our job.” Conveniently ignoring the fact, one is capable of making money without sidelining the interests of the client.
Mr. Daisey claims he stands behind his monologue 100%. He posts on his blog (http://mikedaisey.blogspot.com/), “What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism.” One of the basic tenets of logic is something cannot be both true and not true at the same time. I was raised to believe truth is truth.
What have we learned? I’m not sure, but this is what I have learned. The writer of the book of James in the New Testament has some good advice. He says, “Let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay.” I like that. Although it was composed over a century ago the truth it contains is still as accurate as the day those words were committed to papyrus. Just do it right. Be honest. That way you never have to look over your shoulder and the people reading your words or listening to you speak never have to wonder either.