Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This American Life

From WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life, distributed by Public Radio International,
I'm Ira Glass

And I'm coming to you today to say something that I've never had to say on our program.
Two months ago, we broadcast a story that we've come to believe is not true. It's a story
that got a lot of attention. More people downloaded it than any episode we've ever done.
This is Alice Pleasance’s story about visiting Wonderland.

Alice’s friend, Lewis Carroll wrote a book about her adventures there and a variety of movies have been based upon it. We didn't commission this story, we didn't send Alice to Wonderland.
We excerpted the book that has been selling in bookstores around the country.

We did factcheck the story before we put it on the radio. But in factchecking, our main
concern was whether the things Alice says Wonderland were true.
That stuff is true. It’s been corroborated by independent imaginations of children, studies by marijuana advocacy groups, and much of it has been corroborated by hookah-smoking caterpillars.
But what's not true is what Alice said about her own trip to Wonderland.

The most powerful and memorable moments in the story all seem to be fabricated.
At the time that we were factchecking his story we asked Alice for the contact
information for the white rabbit that she followed around Wonderland China.
We wanted to talk to him to confirm that the incidents that Alice described all happened as
she describes them.

And when we asked Alice, she always said that he had no time to talk to us or even say hello or goodbye, that he was always late for some important date.
And because the other things Alice told us – about Mad Hatters and Englishmen – seemed to check
out, we saw no reason to doubt her, and we dropped this. We didn’t try further to reach
the White Rabbit.

That was a mistake.
Some say this was bad journalism, that we don’t even know the meaning of the word journalism. To which we say that, when we use the word “journalism”, it means what we choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

Next week on our program, “Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking Glass”, which is no relation to me, Ira Glass.

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